8. PJ Brown: A little tough to pick PJ (Collier) Brown Jr over Leon Powe, given that Powe had more minutes, more production and more rebounds per rebound opportunity than just about anyone in the league, but the Celts plucked PJ from semi-retirement for his possible value come playoff time. His work in Game Seven in the 2nd Round versus the Cavs alone made his acquisition worthwhile. He called that left-wing 15 fter the “biggest shot of my career”. The Celts also were interested in him for his high character value. The winner of numerous sportsmanship and community service awards throughout his NBA career, pretty much assured that PJ, big as he is, posed no threat to rock the boat. He’s the consummate pro: knew his role (rebound, score a little, defend a lot), steadily improved stats and skills throughout his career. What I like best about him? That sweet short stroke on his perimeter shot. No extra motion. (You want to eliminate motion on your jumper: everything calm and in sync.) That’s why he’s an outstanding free throw shooter (at 6’11”). Short stroke. Easy to locate and repeat the proper release point over and over again. Not much can go wrong. That’s why he so confidently nailed that shot versus Cleveland. PJ Brown, in my book, is a certified authentic NBA hero.
9. Leon Powe: Everybody knows the story of Leon Powe by now. It’s one to remember when the tendency to stereotype NBA players comes around. The really tough times as a kid, the painful losses, the willingness to work hard, the will to survive. Here’s a guy we can all root for. What might get overlooked when we see the drive and determination is the talent that Leon Powe brings to the basketball court. Top five in his high school class nationally. Monster years early on at Cal in the tough Pac-10. Hobbled by multiple knee surgeries, he’s overcome that too and made himself into a legit NBA defender, rebounder and scorer. A hyper opportunistic, starving-for-the-ball and what-hard-work-can-accomplish type rebounder, Powe had the fourth highest Offensive Rebound Rate. Throw in his demolition of The Lakers in Game Two and you’ve got the perfect fit for a team on a roll to a storybook season. Leon Powe may be on the threshold of a big-time NBA career. And who could possibly be more deserving?
10. “Big Baby” Davis: Hard to know what the Celts thought they’d be getting when they got Davis from Seattle with Ray Allen. 35th picks often don’t make the roster. He’d made a “big” name for himself during LSU’s Final Four run in 2006. Even NTL players at our camps, grown men and women were asking that they be referred to as “Big Baby”. He had charisma and he had game. But he was one stocky dude. They had to see if he could get in shape and if that getting in shape would translate to enough stamina to compete. Vertically he was undersized, horizontally, no. Some stocky dudes use that well (Charles Barkley: “a fat guy who can play like the wind” – college recruiter upon seeing Barkley for the first time), but quick feet and good hands have to be part of the equation. In addition to taking up space (a “huge” advantage) for rebounding, a good feel for passing and finding open players, he seemed to be willing to work hard and learn. He survived rumors of a demotion to the NBDL and impressed with his early play. He looked a keeper. One of the Celts defining victories this season, one which helped silence doubters and bolstered their own confidence was their win at Detroit, Jan 5th. A classic regular season game, one which carried heavy post-season implications. Davis was immense finishing deftly around the hoop, often with his left hand, the recipient of great interior passing from KG and Pierce, especially. He didn’t get much run in the playoffs, mostly because of PJ’s experience and Powe’s emergence. I don’t think the staff lost confidence in him at all; there just weren’t enough minutes. I saw him play and frustrate Tim Duncan at The Garden in February, so the staff knew he could play good minutes against anyone. Could the Celts have won without him? Yeah, probably, but it has been much more fun with him and it will be interesting to see how huge he, I mean, how he progresses.