Hey everyone. This preview is part of a coordinated effort by Jeff Clark of Celtics blog.com every year to connect the NBA blogging community and get a chance to see what the die hards have to say about their teams. Today is Celtic day. Other Celtic previews are linked at the bottom. Enjoy.
Team Name: Boston Celtics
Last Year’s Record: 62-20
Key Losses: Leon Powe
Key Additions: Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels
1) What significant moves were made in the offseason?
Getting Rasheed Wallace right out of the free agent gate was the big one. Right after last year’s playoff exit, the Big Three and the Celtic Brain trust got together to decide what was needed most for this season. They all agreed that getting Wallace was number one. Done.
The moody, cantankerous on court tech machine also happens to play some outstanding basketball. Maybe not the player he was a few years ago, Sheed can still play the game at a very high level. Along with his friend and new teammate, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed is one of the toughest competitors in the game. Knowing that the Celtics have Wallace coming off the bench this season and available to start at PF or C in case of injury, takes a load of stress off Doc Rivers and the team. The acquisition was huge. The Celtics now have a top interior defender and shot blocker, who can score from anywhere on the floor.
Next was getting some support for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Grant Hill returned to the Suns and interest in Jamario Moon went unrequited when Moon signed with Cleveland. Enter Marquis Daniels, in a surprise move. Doc and Danny have admired his game for a while. His versatility will allow him to bring the ball up, and spell both Ray and Paul. His herky jerky mid range game is a perfect fit. If he can effectively guard Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo and the likes for about 10-12 minutes a game, a major playoff concern will be solved.
Re-signing Glen Davis gives them serious depth in the frontlines and adding Shelden Williams was a prudent, but solid defensive addition. 58th pick Lester Hudson has a contract and a chance to make the team at guard.
After sending tremors through Celtic Nation early in the summer by offering Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo on the NBA Shopping Channel, Danny Ainge found the bids wanting and kept the starting five in tact for year three of the Garnett Era. Rondo has returned stronger and determined. He appears ready to start raising his contract value…. game by game.
2) What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Lord have mercy. There are a lot. It is an explosive combination of talent, confidence, experience chemistry, defense, offense, balance and depth. Other than that, they ‘got’ nothing. This team’s job is to stay hungry, focused and motivated through the long year. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett all got the championship monkey off their backs two years ago. They are so good that they won’t have to try too hard to beat many teams. Keeping the edge and having everyone meshing by playoff time is the challenge.
It is clear that they are pulling out all the stops when Kevin Garnett says that this team ‘could be ‘one of the greatest….ever’. They will be looking for a special place in history…one game at a time.
Defense trumps all and the Green Machine will be right at the top again with a healthy KG and now Wallace as first off the bench. They have a proven system and the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year back in Garnett. Kendrick Perkins has worked hard to become one of the league’s top defensive centers. His growth with KG injured was eye opening. Rajon Rondo has a special build, intelligence, ultra quickness, cleverness, and superstar competitiveness to be a special defender. Pierce’s anticipation, tenaciousness, quick hands and footwork means trouble for even Kobe and LeBron.
The Celtics were:
1) first in three point shooting FG%
2) first in FG% difference
2) first in FG% allowed (tied)
3) the second best FG%
4) second best in rebounds allowed
5) second best in rebounding advantage
6) second best in assists differential
7) third best in points allowed
They have one of the most efficient offenses, they rebound the missed shots, they pass the ball, and they disrupt you from passing it.
With Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, they have two of the very best, cold blooded, last minute shooters in the game today. Most teams would be lucky to have one.
Wallace, House, Scalabrine, Daniels, and Davis can each play two different positions. A healthy Tony Allen adds depth. With Wallace, Daniels and Davis, depending on his growth, the Celtics first eight are equal to or better than any team in the NBA.
That Doc Rivers is the coach of a team with gonads the size of watermelons, and Marlon Brando egos is a strength. The ‘sacrifice self to team goals’ concept will be in good hands, as a down to earth, open and perceptive Rivers guides this talented, testosterone laden line-up towards another title. That this will be his most challenging year is a given. Nothing less than a title is the goal.
3) What are the team’s weaknesses?
See strengths. A team with this much talent, competitiveness, egos, and intensity may work against itself from time to time. There may not be enough competition throughout the season to challenge this team. Rondo is still growing. He will have to prove his outside shot. Davis is still growing in all areas. Other than that, there are few.
To get specific, a James Posey type defensive specialist small forward may be needed, unless Daniels answers the call. If something else pops up during the season, they can most likely correct it. Back up point guard may be an issue that needs attention as the year goes on, but I’m okay with Daniels right now.
As the saying goes, ‘it is not the years, it’s the mileage’. I don’t think that will be a problem this season. All that game experience will still be an advantage this season with a more solid bench.
4) What are the goals for this team?
That is easy. Another NBA title.
To get that, Doc and the team must be sure to get to game # 82 healthy. The players will, of course, play all out. But Doc must watch the minutes. Integrating Wallace and Daniels and finding the best combos against certain teams and in different situations should happen in the first half of the year.
Keeping the ‘team first’ attitude for players this talented is no easy job. Keeping an 82 game commitment to defense isn’t either. Remember how Denver and Atlanta were going to become top defensive teams before last season started?
Developing a new offensive wrinkle or two to get Ray Allen and Eddie House open wouldn’t hurt. Just having KG back drawing defensive attention while adding Wallace and Daniels will help, as well.
5) Seismograph Season Watch: Looking for ripples and earthquakes
a) Injuries. They are always the game changer, for any team. They lurk below the surface of any predictions. If the Lakers, Spurs, Cavaliers, or Magic lose their top player for the playoffs, they are toast, the Rockets playoff run notwithstanding.
b) Relative improvement. Call it the Theory of Relativity. Which of the other top four teams improves the most, compared to the others, will influence the chances of a title. If the Magic get the new players to meld and play defense, they will be a factor. McDyess and Jefferson to the Spurs is big. They look as formidable as the Lakers with their acquisitions. The Cavs now have Shaq, Moon, and Parker. How can that be bad? Let the melding process begin.
c) Home court advantage. In the east, the race for home court advantage will take on more importance than normal with the Cavs and Magic getting stronger on paper. The top team in the east will only have to face one of the other top two teams in the playoffs. It will have more significance.
d) In season trades and FA acquisitions. The Celtics put the finishing touches on their title with P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell the year before. Rafer Alston was a critical pick up for Orlando last season. Who might be available this year and who might those players help? Could Raja Bell become a mid season Celtic? How about Jerry Stackhouse, Carlos Arroyo, or Wally Szczerbiak? Would a failed season in Memphis make Iverson available half way through? How about a bad year in Milwaukee seeing Hakim Warrick or Kurt Thomas shopped?
For the Celtics, it would have to be Rondo’s continued development. He is a starter. In fact, he is an all star in the making. To a lesser extent, Glen Davis. A reliable Rondo jump shot and improved leadership, Davis adding a move or two with improved defense and rebounding influences the Celtic season is very good ways.
Eye of the Tiger and Eye on The Prize will get this team where it wants to go.
I can’t think of a more talented and intense group of competitors than Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace and Kendrick Perkins. That is a scary combined mindset to be dealing with, if you are the opposing team.
Predicted record: 64-18