NBA Preview - Boston Celtics
If I had to choose one team in the NBA that intrigues me the most, it would be the Boston Celtics. Boston nearly knocked the Heat out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals last season and have done a very good job at improving their team. They had one of the smarter and more underrated offseasons and they are ready to separate themselves from the rest of the East (not counting the Heat).
The Celtics had to deal with a seemingly pivotal blow to the depth, talent, and morale of their team when Ray Allen took his talents to South Beach. Not only did they lose their former All-Star 3-point marksman, but he also joined their biggest competition. It seemed as though Boston was content with moving on and acknowledging that their championship window had closed. They were mired through a mediocre season much of last season and trade talks ran rampant. Rajon Rondo was rumored to be on his way out and often times had issues with head coach Doc Rivers. Kevin Garnett being brought back was in question and even the team captain, Paul Pierce was rumored to be on the trading block. Instead, Danny Ainge has decided to go all in and they are ready for one last run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The smartest move this team made was holding on to Rajon Rondo. He’s one of the best pure point guards in the NBA and is a triple-double waiting to happen when his feet hit the hardwood. His attitude is suspect, at the very least, but Ray Allen is gone (the guy he was said to have the most conflict with) and the combination of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee are in.
Terry joins this team and continues his career as a stellar sixth man and will ironically enough, compete with the man he replaced (Ray Allen) for Sixth Man of the Year. While Terry will get the minutes once manned by Allen and make the most noise, Courtney Lee gets the starting job. Lee, who is shipping up to Boston after a sign and trade with Houston, will need to be a steady performer to help make the C’s forget Ray Ray. Lee had several teams pining for his services, but decided to take less money to play in The Garden.
Boston’s chemistry is one of their biggest strengths. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are two future Hall of Fame players and the emotional leaders while Rajon Rondo facilitates everything. The three of them are far from capable of doing it on their own, though. Their deep bench will have to carry them more often than not. Avery Bradley was the man who usurped Ray Allen's minutes and spot in the starting lineup last year as he completes the new "big 3" of shooting guards on the team's roster. He's attempting to return from late season shoulder surgery and the recovery is still a work in progress. Brandon Bass is a coach like Doc Rivers' dream. He provides a ton of hustle and doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make a positive impact.
Remember Jeff Green? He was the guy Boston brought in after they traded Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder and missed all of last season after heart surgery. He’s back practicing and could become a very solid core member of this playoff team.
I can't say enough about the draft the Celtics had. They stole Jared Sullinger, someone who was considered a possible lottery pick, with the 21st selection. Injury concerns are certainly there, but he's someone I expect to see in the Rookie/Sophomore game during the All-Star break. Fab Melo was an impact player during his time at Syracuse and biggest issue was staying on the team due to academic reasons. Luckily for him, there are no final exams in the NBA. He's the prototypical "raw" big man, but could definitely emerge as the team's best reserve center. They’ll need someone to fill in for Bass and Garnett in the paint, both of whom are undersized at the center position. It's not like it’ll be difficult to compete with Darko Milicic.
There’s a ton of questions with the Boston Celtics this season and only time will tell if they made the right choice with this roster. I admire what Danny Ainge has done with the team and like the confidence. Instead of resting on their laurels, they became proactive and improved their depth, which was vital for an aging team. Doc Rivers is a perennial Coach of the Year candidate and if anyone can bring a team together, it's him. I have him pegged as the best coach in the NBA. Just like the Heat are a lock for the top seed, I believe the Celtics are a lock for the 2nd seed.
Season Outlook: The Celtics will establish themselves as the Heat’s only true competition in the Conference and will win 50-55 games, cumulating in a rematch with Miami for the Eastern Conference crown.
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