The 15th Man: Making a Case

With the preseason winding down, there is really only one question mark left for the Boston Celtics: the man who will own the final roster spot.

First, let me tell you why you should care. Despite the apparent depth the Celtics possess this season, it doesn’t come without a few questions marks. Will the injury prone pair of O’Neal’s at center stay healthy? Ditto for Marquis Daniels, whose season was largely derailed by a thumb injury in his first year in green, and Delonte West, who has battled back spasms thus far in the preseason. And who is to say that we won’t see the return of the erratic Nate Robinson that we saw last year (he’s been very good, but he put up a woeful shooting night the other day)?

So there is a chance that whichever player gets the right to sit on the end of the Celtics bench actually might end up being more than a glorified-Brian Scalabrine this season. I’ve gone over some of the negatives in recapping the preseason games, but what I want to do now is state the case as for why each player deserves to be on this team. With apologies to Mario West, I’m going to stick with Von Wafer and Stephane Lasme here.

Von Wafer

Von Wafer rediscovered his shot the last two games and injected life back into his flailing chances of making this Celtics’ roster.

If there is anything that is going to keep him around, you would think it is that ability to hit from beyond the arc. Every team needs shooters, and he can offer that here. With Delonte West sure to miss at least 10 games, the Celtics might need someone who can play at off guard early in the year.

Of course, Wafer doesn’t offer the defensive ability that West can bring. But the Celtics know his limitations, and he can do more than just shoot. He has shown the ability to drive the lane as well, when he is aggressive at least. He isn’t going to create a ton of offense, but he has shown the ability to hit the open jumper. Think of him as offering a potential Eddie House-like impact.

Stephane Lasme

Lasme isn’t going to open up a lot of eyes via a box score (though he already had a jaw-dropping dunk in the preaseason). But he is a high-energy player who can clearly play NBA-level defense and bring a little bit of everything to the table.

To be fair, the Celtics are a team that lay their identity on defense. If Lasme were to get minutes, he wouldn’t have to make a major offensive impact. That is good because he doesn’t possess much of an offensive game; he is athletic enough to get the the hole, but he isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking he can regularly hit a jumper.

Still, the Celtics might need an extra forward. Right now Marquis Daniels is the primary backup to Paul Pierce, and ideally Pierce won’t be playing major minutes in every game. As good as Daniels has been this preseason, we all saw what happened to him last year. If he were to go down this year, the Celtics would have to go very small with their second unit, or play Ray Allen or Pierce significant minutes.

Neither player is going to get regular minutes, and whoever gets this spot will be playing in the case of an emergency. But in that case, it would be nice to have someone available. That is really what this choice comes down to: where do the Celtics think they are going to end up needing more depth? Do they go with the immediate obvious hole that West’s suspension will leave come next week, or do they make sure they are covered up front?