Saturday, October 13, 2007

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics season preview

Projected starting line-up
G Rajon Rondo
G Ray Allen
F Paul Pierce
F Kevin Garnett
C Kendrick Perkins

James Posey
Eddie House

Last year
The youth movement was on in Boston, as the young and inexperience Celtics team proved that having potential is one thing, winning basketball games is another. Could things have been different if Paul Pierce didn't miss half the season to injuries? Maybe, but since Boston's record when Paul went down was 10-14, I somehow doubt this team was going to do anything meaningful, with or without Pierce. Now of course, if Pierce was on the court, then they could have avoided the embarrassing 3-29 stretch they had when Pierce went down. But what else do you expect from a line-up of Sebastian Telfair, Tony Allen, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green and Al Jefferson? The reality is that youth and potential is nice, and it might pay off in the future, but then again it just might not. And it was certainly not paying off last season. If Boston did keep the same team, only now with a healthy Pierce and one more year of experience for everyone, could we really expect anything different from them? Do you really want to keep a team that MIGHT be good in 4 or 5 years, but will most defiently not make the playoffs until then? In fact, for all the youth and potential that Boston tried to aquire, the only player to step up was Al Jefferson. Let me give a positive and a negative to Jefferson here....the positive is that he became the main guy on the team when Peirce was out, and a consistent inside threat and a double double player. The experience with that role, and the confidence from being successful with that role, will help the big guy for the immediate future. The negative is, and I have said it before, when you are the best player on a shitty team, how good are you really? Is Dallas REALLY going to give 100% effort against you when they know that they don't NEED to give 100% effort against you to win? Does Detroit really care if your main guy on a basement team gets 20 and 10? They show that they rather stay at home or in the hotel even when they are playing 500 level teams! They care that much when the team is losing 18 games in a row? Jefferson stepped up and played well, but if the competition decides to step up also, is it guarateed that Jefferson can handle it? I guess my point to all this is simple, based on what we saw last season, Boston needed a change.

Off Season
Traded Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and Al Jefferson for Kevin Garnett
Traded Delonte West, 5th pick Jeff Green and Wally Szczerbiak for Ray Allen and a 2nd round pick.
Signed Eddie House
Signed Scott Pollard
Signed James Posey

No matter which way you look at the big trades, the Celtics went from a lottery team to a playoff team this summer. When we examine the Ray Allen trade...Wally world was a waste of space, 5th round pick Jeff Green would only make the team younger which they didn't need, and Delonte West or all-star Jesus Shuttlesworth?Hmmmm. Sure Delonte West and Jeff Green might be more then solid players in the future, but they were not going to be that on last years youth version of the Celtics. As for the mother of all trades...Telfair is Telfair, which is to say that he is Minnesota's problem now. Ryan Gomes is Ryan Gomes, which is to say that he is a 2nd round draft pick who has had some decent games (to be fair, one decent game did see him getting a triple-double). Theo Ratliff has a huge contract ending this season, which is to say that during the press conference in Minnesota, I half expected them to put the Timberwolves jersey on a piece of paper instead of Ratliff. Gerald Green can jump out of the arena, but couldn't step up when Peirce and Wally world were injuried last year (10.4 PPG, 2.6 boards and 1 assist. View Al Jefferson's numbers for an example of someone who did step up). And of course, Al Jefferson. Al Jefferson is nice, and could get even better. But he is not a former league MVP who is still in his prime, simple as that. So with these trades, the Celtics needed to find some cheap players to fill up the roster. In comes House, Pollard and Posey. With the limitations from a money perspective, they didn't do as bad as I thought they would with filling in the roster.

Next season
Let's forget about long term, and how the Celtics screwed themselves over in 3 or 4 years. What I care about is now. How good are they going to be in 2007-2008. And in my opinion, it will all depend on injuries. Ray Allen is not in the best of shape with his ankles, I don't even know what was going on with Pierce last year and his elbow, and Kevin Garnett is due an injury as he has played major minutes in his career and yet to miss any substantal time. And if any of the big three miss any time this year, then this team will drop considerably in the rankings. While the additions they made in the off-season, especially with Posey, were better then expected, they are still a extremly weak team from 5-12. And that includes two starters in Rajon Rondo and Perkins. Rondo has potential, but he clearly has weaknesses in his game that will be picked apart by the opposing team looking for ways to win dealing with the big 3. And the way to win when dealing with 3 superstars, is to attack the weaker players. Rondo is a nice player, but he will be tested daily in big game situations. Perkins is Perkins, they need to start a center which is where he comes into play. Garnett, Allen and Pierce though have enough talent to have more then a chance at winning the east. They also have what some other big 3's are missing (like Washington) which is that one of the players (Garnett) is an inside force force to go with the preimeter play. Will the change from youth to experience cost the Celtics later on? Perhaps, but as for next year, they have jumped over many teams in the east and can safely be considered a favorite to win the conference IF the big 3 stay heathy all year. That is though a big IF.

What to look for
1) Does back up matter - House can shoot a ball, and Posey has a ring, but this is not a deep team.
2) Injury proof? - If one of the big three goes down, it will be trouble.
3) Need time to gel - If any three all-stars didn't need to much time, it's these three.

They will kill the weak but might struggle against the strong. They will make the playoffs, but winning the Atlantic and getting home court in round one will depend on if the big three play more then 70 games each and not running out of steam at the end. Garnett/Allen/Pierce are all going to have to log minutes threw out the season in order for this team to have success. Will they have enough in the tank at the end?

Between 47 and 51 wins this season with a 5th place finish in the East

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