"He had a great year," Agent Mark Bartelstein said. "He happens to be restricted. We are determining what will be our best options for his long-term interests.”The Boston Celtics were said to be one possible suitor for Bell, but not after they signed guards Eddie House and Jackie Manuel.
Retaining Bell is a key for the Bucks because as encouraging as the offseason retooling has been, they need Bell’s valuable minutes at both guard positions coming off the bench. Management knows this, and I’m confident Bell will remain in Milwaukee as a result.
Another quote from Bartelstein:
"He's proven he's a terrific player in this league. Worst case, he's one of the best third guards in the NBA. And he certainly has not shown he can't be a starter."Naturally, agents have more than a little bias when it comes to the players they represent. But is there some truth to Bartelstein’s remarks? While Bell only really arrived last season, he has played admirably the last two years and is still on the way up. Without getting into the starter-material part of the comment, and limiting it to Eastern Conference third guards, let’s briefly consider a few other intriguing backup guards heading into the 2007-08 campaign.
Last year with the Toronto Raptors, Jose Calderon truly stepped up, teaming with T.J. Ford to form an excellent two-headed point guard attack that the team rode to a division title. Just 25 years old and still improving, Calderon is easily one of the top third guards in the league, and one of the few in the conference I’d clearly pick over Bell.
Veteran Washington Wizards guard Antonio Daniels hasn’t quite lived up to his fourth overall selection in the 1997 draft but is a heady performer who routinely ranks among the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. In fact, he had the best ratio in the NBA last season. Also, watch for rookie teammate Nick Young to earn minutes and contribute sooner rather than later.
The Indiana Pacers have a couple of able backups in Marquis Daniels and Fond du Lac native Travis Diener, but Bell is superior to both as things stand.
The Miami Heat recently signed guard Smush Parker, a comparable player to Bell. I’d give Bell the edge.
Others up-and-coming types worth keeping an eye on this year include New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson, Philadelphia 76ers guard Louis Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson, Chicago Bulls guard Thabo Sefolosha, and New Jersey Nets guard Marcus Williams.
I’m not going to tackle the entire league in this discussion, as my player rankings will give more light to this debate. And it didn’t take this little roster-crunching exercise to know that Bell is a real piece of the Bucks’ puzzle. But it does show that even agents possess, at least occassionally, the ability to refrain from complete hyperbole when describing their clients. More importantly it reaffirms the importance of Bell staying in Milwaukee.