The Boston Celtics have been a formidable team since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett teamed with Paul Pierce in the summer of 2007. Allen will shoot three-pointers from a new area code and Boston’s biggest rival, the Miami Heat. So how does Boston deal with this? When you have Doc Rivers, it really doesn’t matter.
I have advocated for Rivers, saying he is the best coach in the league and has been for years. I mean no disrespect to other coaches like Gregg Popovich, George Karl, or the retired Phil Jackson, but Rivers knows how to deal with every situation imaginable. He manages his team better than any other coach in the league. He knows when and what buttons to press, at precisely the right time. With a bench consisting of Mickael Pietrus, Greg Stiemsma, Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling, he took the Heat to the brink of elimination; twice before losing Games 6 and 7. He preaches tough defense and the personnel surrounding Garnett, Pierce, and the former Allen, paired with Rajon Rondo, all knew their role on the team.
With a lot of questions surrounding the Celtics this coming season, Rivers will have to do his best coaching job to get the Celtics back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Despite losing Allen, I think it was good for Celtics. They signed Jason Terry, a man who is extremely comfortable coming off the bench (unlike Allen). Terry will add a much-needed scoring punch off the bench for the Celtics. His experience and “team” play will help the Celtics.
Not only did the Celtics add Terry through free agency, they also signed swingman and tough defender Courtney Lee. They drafted Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger, two players who I think will help the Celts inside. Finally, they get Jeff Green back (hopefully) after he had to sit out last season with a heart condition. If Avery Bradley can come back healthy from his late postseason should injury, Boston will be a deep team and extremely dangerous.
Let’s breakdown each position:
Point guard(s) – Rajon Rondo: I love Rondo. I have for a long time. I just wish he would really put time into improving his jump shot. He is one of the quickest players we have the league and is a tremendous defender. He can get to the rack with relative ease and can finish in a variety of ways. I would rate him as one of the five best point guards in the league, ahead of Derrick Rose, because of what he does or can do: score, rebound, pass and defend. He is a leader, even though he has attitude at times, I would take him on my team any day.
Keyon Dooling will back him up.
Position Grade: A-
Shooting guard(s) – I am not sure if Bradley will be completely healthy after I found out that he had surgery on both shoulders this offseason. Plus, I have no inside information on how well he is recovering, so I am going to say that Courtney Lee starts the season at shooting guard.
I like what Lee brings to the table. He brings toughness, three-point shooting ability (40.1% last year) and is an upgrade defensively from Allen. He brings some more youth to an “older” Celtics team that drafted a lot of youth in this year’s draft. But he is very experienced after being a role player in his first four seasons in the NBA. He played very well in the NBA Finals for the Orlando Magic in his rookie season despite limited playing time. His role will probably to guard the opposing team’s best off-guard and Boston fans should be excited because this boy can defend.
As we all know, Jason “Jet” Terry will be coming off the bench as the 6th man of this team. He is instant offense and provides a spark that Boston lacked when Bradley when down last year.
Boston also has Dionte Christmas.
Position Grade: B
Small forward(s) – Paul Pierce: I don’t think Pierce is thinking about retirement any time soon. The soon-to-be 35-year old Pierce averaged 19.4 points per game last season, but struggled in the playoffs due to some knee issues. Hopefully, with a full offseason, he will return to his old form. His slow and methodical game has people my age hatin’ on him, but I love watching him play. It’s clear that he isn’t as athletic as he once was; of course age and injuries have something to do with it, but to see him score on players who are 10x more athletic than he is, is unbelievable. His mid-range jumper is on point and the three-point shooting isn’t too bad either. Boston will lean on him come playoff time. I hope he answers the door when the bell rings.
2012 draft pick Kris Joseph will back him up.
Position Grade: B
Power forward(s) – Brandon Bass: I am almost positive that Bass will start at power forward for the Celts when they tip-off against the Heat on opening night. Unless rookie Jared Sullinger becomes a monster in the next two and a half months, it will be Bass in the starting five. He is a little under-sized for the position (listed at 6’8 but might be 6’7) but he is quietly athletic for how thick he is (250 pounds). He is extremely strong and a tough rebounder. He has a effective baseline jump shot and it’s equally as effective from the wing. He is another one of those players that knows his role and he does it well.
If healthy, Jeff Green will back him up. If not, 2012 draft pick Jared Sullinger will back him up and Chris Wilcox will back-up Sullinger.
Position Grade: B-
Center(s) – Kevin Garnett: When Rivers moved Garnett to center, he became a different player. He had a monster postseason run, averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds per game throughout the playoffs. He looked reenergized, like the old Garnett I used to see when he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves. OK, let’s not go back that far. How about his first season as a Celtic? OK, that’s better. Garnett re-signed for three more years and nearly $35 mil, so management still thinks he has something left in his tank. I am interested to see how Garnett comes into the season after having a shorter offseason as oppose to last year’s with the extended lockout. He is the defensive vocal point on this team and has been since he arrived in ’07. Age should only affect his mobility on defense. His offense has always consisted of him picking-and-popping, knocking down wing and elbow jumpers and baseline post-ups, fading over both shoulders. If Boston wants to make a return to the ECF, Garnett will have to be healthy.
2012 draft pick Fab Melo and free agent signee Jason Collins will back him up.
Position Grade: B
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Rajon Rondo
G: Courtney Lee
F: Paul Pierce
F: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett
Starting Lineup Grade: B+
G: Keyon Dooling
G: Jason Terry
F: Jared Sullinger/Jeff Green
C: Fab Melo/Jason Collins
Bench Grade: C+
Coaching Grade: A (Doc Rivers)
I am predicting that the Boston Celtics, despite an improved Atlantic Division, will win the division and will be the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.