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NBA Preview: Boston Celtics


Record:  44-38, 5th in Atlantic Division, 15th in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:

Don't care.  Doesn't matter.

Significant Additions:  
Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Eddie House, Scot Pollard, James Posey, Dahntay Jones, Glen Davis (R), Gabe Pruitt (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Al Jefferson, Wally Szczerbiak, Gerald Green, Delonte West, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff

Key Players

PG:  Rajon Rondo, Eddie House
SG:   Ray Allen, Tony Allen
SF:  Paul Pierce, James Posey
PF:  Kevin Garnett, Leon Powe, Glen Davis
C:  Kendrick Perkins, Scot Pollard

Comments:  For the first time ever I have completely skipped last year's statistical summary for a preview.  One look at the player movement list should tell you why.  I can't remember a team that has so completely re-made itself in one off-season.

You can see why the league is abuzz about this team.  Their top three players are all archetypes for their positions.  Kevin Garnett didn't grab huge headlines playing in Minnesota but he has been at a consistent MVP level for years.  There's no better athletic power forward in the league.  He scores, runs, and rebounds like he's from another planet.  There's no accurate comparison between him and anybody else in the league.  He is in his own category.  Ray Allen is dangerous the moment he steps on the court.  He releases the long ball quicker and purer than anybody I've ever seen.  And he needs about a quarter inch of space to do it.  Paul Pierce is a great slasher/scorer and when he's drawing fouls he's as dangerous as anybody in the league.  You'd shake your head in amazement at any of these guys, let alone three together.  There's hasn't been a bigger Big Three since the Lakers and Celtics of the 80's.  Rosie O'Donnell wrestling Donald Trump in a cage match couldn't add any more entertainment value to this sideshow.

As you might expect with the kind of turnover Boston has had the rest of the lineup is cobbled together.  They are said to be pretty high on Rajon Rondo but he needs more game experience before I become a believer.  Then again whatever point guard the Celtics throw out there isn't going to touch the ball much, so who cares.  Kendrick Perkins is a rebounder with a little bit of shot blocking thrown in.  Big Baby Davis might be able to rebound a little too but he's probably going to have trouble scoring.  Scot Pollard hasn't played well in a while.  In a nutshell everyone outside of the Terrible Trio is either very young or has been cast off by multiple teams before they ended up here.

So here are the things I worry about:

--Even though I've found Paul Pierce's defense acceptable when he puts in the effort, in general I don't like the defense at any of the small positions.  There's going to be a lot of strain on the frontcourt with this team.  Also will these guys get back in transition?  I could easily see them giving up a ton of points even with all the firepower.

--I don't see any real inside scoring here.  Garnett can post but he's always been more comfortable ranging from 8-20 feet, often facing up and driving for a pull-up jumper.  His natural game is actually closer to Pierce's than it is to a true post player.  Minnesota used to try and force him to play down low but he didn't seem to like it.  The Celtics may very well spread the floor and just let their guys slice and dice but without some buckets at the basket it's pretty hard to score big.  Maybe they just plan to fast break everywhere but these guys seem a little old for that.

--Paul Pierce is used to having the ball in the fourth quarter.  Ray Allen is used to having the ball in the fourth quarter.  Kevin Garnett has been criticized for not taking charge enough down the stretch but let's face it, Minnesota fed him for every critical possession anyway. How's that going to work out?  There's a possibility that all three form a natural chemistry and this works like a charm.  There's also a possibility that it blows up in their face and everybody's frustrated and loses a little off of their gaudy scoring averages.

--Speaking of...Kevin Garnett scores 22.4 per game.  Ray Allen scores 26.4.  Pierce averages 25.  Even if all three maintain that level of production that's still only 73.8 ppg by my count.  And that's on about 57 shots per game between them.  The average NBA team takes around 80 shots per game.  That means to average 100 they need 26 points on 23 shots from the rest of the team.  That works out to over 50% shooting with a couple three pointers thrown in.  Anyone see that supporting cast shooting that well, especially when they're not touching the ball much?

Despite my hand-wringing it's almost impossible to envision this team being anything short of very good.  They should be strong offensively, strong rebounders, and excellent in taking care of the ball.  Their defense will determine whether they're just good or a real contender.  Until we see more I'd have to say that while they're a lock for the playoffs there are too many questions to consider them a real favorite to come out of the East.  We should know a little more by the All-Star break and a lot more as we watch their stretch run.

--Dave (