Nearly everyone likes Ryan Gomes. He’s smart, gritty, humble – and good. Similar to Shane Battier, Gomes is a player who does all the little things well. We often hear any team in the league would want Gomes because of this. But I must admit – I hated watching Ryan this past year. His situation typifies Doc not utilizing the talents of his players.
To understand this year's Gomes, we have to look at his rookie year. He was drafted 50th overall in the ’05 draft, meaning that most of us had low hopes for him – I personally figured he’d be slightly better than Justin Reed, and that was all. Till February of ’06 he hardly played, never logging more than twenty minutes in a game. He never reached double figures in either points or rebounds, or came anywhere close most of the time.
With the C’s running out of bodies, Gomes finally got his “big chance” on February 10. He responded mightily, averaging 14 ppg and 9.3 rebs the rest of February. Now, it can be debated whether Doc should have noticed Gomes was one of his better players earlier, but we’ll give him a mulligan – this stuff happens. Rick Carlisle did the same thing with Tayshaun Prince his rookie year. Anyway, it was exhilarating to see Ryan Gomes break out – Pierce’s sublime season and Gomes’ grand entrance were the two best stories for the Celtics in ’05-’06 (if you don’t include the stellar play of Dan Dickau.)
The greatness of Gomes his rookie year was his knack to outquick larger power forwards and centers. Whether it was in rebounding or creating a shot, Gomes' superior speed and intelligence made him an extremely effective power forward the latter part of the season. His game was finesse and strength, the same as it had been collegiately, but what was rather shocking was how nicely it translated to the pros. Gomes’ size was not a distinct limitation, and he was still able to work within twelve feet of the basket almost exclusively. He could no longer dominate like at Providence, but was a supremely capable pro.
Gomes seemed the perfect undersized power forward for the Celtics. To watch him put back a rebound sandwiched between two bigger guys never ceased to entertain, and he did it all the time. His innate ability to get the right angles and spacing were a huge reason why the Celtics didn’t look like shit in late winter ’06. He was probably the most likable player on the roster.
Then ’06-’07 arrived. There had been talk since Gomes’ arrival in the league that he needed to significantly upgrade his outside shot. Although he disproved this theory with his successful rookie season, everybody was still talking about it. Gomes apparently heard the murmurs. From the beginning of the exhibition season he was taking jumpers from 15-18 feet. This was a terrible idea.
Turning Gomes into a jump shooter completely destroys his effectiveness. Gomes thrives on activity, by pounding on the inside he is able to get subtle but substantial angles to rebound or get off a good shot. To consistently have him seventeen feet away from the basket to spot up is…completely nuts. How Doc Rivers could not see this totally confounded me throughout the year. People talked about Ryan’s jump shooting, but they never talked about at what expense he was paying for it. Doc severely worsened the situation by experimenting with Gomes at small forward, therefore insuring that Ryan would be nowhere near the paint.
Because there are very few, if any, set plays for Gomes, it had to be mainly his own volition to shoot jumpers. But that does not mean he is solely to blame. If Rivers had used common sense he would have realized that at worst Gomes was the second best big man he had. And big men with inside skills should play on the inside. They don’t belong masquerading as small forwards. Gomes also had a much harder time defending quick forwards as opposed to big men. So by allowing Ryan to be a perimeter player Doc shot himself in the foot (again.)
A big reason why the Celtics only won 23 games was because Gomes was just a passive cog in the machine this past year. His numbers were similar, but he was a completely different player. Players like Gomes cannot be judged by statistics, they can be judged by how well their team performs as a whole when they are on the court. Being so far out of his element, Gomes floundered, showing sometimes glimpses of brilliance mixed in with far too much perimeter mediocrity. It reached an absurd finale when Gomes became a three point shooter at the end of the year. He is such a bright player hopefully he can figure it out, and maybe he will even develop a decent outside game, but for what it’s worth: Ryan, don’t listen to what snooty scouts say - you’re a power forward, play like one, you’re good at it.