Season Preview: Boston Celtics

» October 1, 2009 11:08 AM | By xphoenix87

Boston Celtics

Coach: Doc Rivers
2007-08 Record: 62-20
Pythagorean Record for 07-08: 61-21
Offensive Rating: 110.5 (5th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 102.3(2nd)
Possessions per 48: 90.4 (18th)
Four Factors:

eFG%

TOV%

RB%

FT/FGA

Offensive 52.8 (2nd) .150 (29th) .279 (7th) .251 (7th)
Defensive 47.0 (3rd) .140 (9th) .756 (3rd) .253 (23rd)

Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie) Click to Enlarge

I’m not sure adding Rasheed Wallace is going to help this team all that much. For all his talent, he’s never been a great offensive player, and in recent years has basically turned exclusively a jump shooter. 89% of his shot attempts last year were jumpers, which is pretty ridiculous for a power forward. His defense is still good, though age is taking a bit of a toll on that, but he’s not a particularly good rebounder. All in all, he’ll offer a bit of a different look, but I’m not sure he’s much of an improvement over Leon Powe as a backup big man.

I always forget just how consistently excellent Paul Pierce has been over the last few years. He’s not a mega-star on the order of LeBron or Chris Paul, but he’s one of the most well rounded forwards in the league, maybe of all time. He can score from anywhere on the court, rebounds, distributes and in recent years has really become a standout defensive player. The good news for Celtics fans is that his game isn’t overly dependent on explosive athleticism, so he’s likely to stay at this level for at least a few more years, barring injury (and you best hope he doesn’t get injured, ‘cause his backups are Tony Allen and Marquis Daniels. Ugh).

On the other hand, I think we’ll see a significant decline from Ray Allen this year. Yes, he’ll still be a great spot-up shooter, but more and more, that’s becoming all that he is. He looked visibly exhausted during the Orlando series, and as good as he was last season, at thirty-four I can’t see it holding up, and I think we’re going to see a marked decline from him.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how the Celtics paid $2.5 mil a year to Glen Davis and let Leon Powe go to the Cavs for the veteran’s minimum. I know Powe will be injured for part of the season, and Davis played well in the playoffs, but Powe is just a much better player. Davis is riding the strength of a few well timed mid-range jumpers in the playoffs, but he was decidedly below average during the regular season.

I’m worried about a lot of things with the Celtics this season, but the Rajon Rondo situation isn’t one of them. Stuff was said over the summer, feelings were hurt, but it’s not going to affect his play. Rondo is young, but he’s got enough vets around him to keep him level, and he’s got so much potential to grow into. He needs to improve his jumpshot, and he still turns the ball over too much, but everything else is there for him to be an elite player. He’s an elite defender, an elite rebounder (for his position), he’s a very good finisher around the rim, and his court vision made a big jump last year. A consistent jumper is the only thing holding him back from being a perennial all-star at this point, and just how much he improves could very well determine the outcome of Boston’s season.

X-Factor: Kevin Garnett’s Knee – Nothing is as important for the Celtics this season as the health of KG. If he’s fully healthy, they can contend. If he’s not, they can’t. It’s that easy. The margin for error in Boston is much smaller than it was two years ago when they won the title, and anything less than Garnett at 100%, anchoring that defense, isn’t going to be enough. That’s why Doc Rivers saying KG hadn’t gotten back to playing full-court basketball a few weeks ago makes me wary. They can live without him for the beginning of the season, but he has to be healthy by the end. When he’s healthy, he’s the most versatile defender in the league, runs a great pick and roll with Rondo, is a mismatch for basically everyone, and lifts the whole team to a different level. When he’s not healthy, Boston is simply “pretty good”.

Overview

Honestly, I don’t get the idea that Boston is the favorite in the East, and I’ve seen a lot of people voice that opinion. Yes, Rondo is much better than he was a couple years ago, and KG will be back, but that view overlooks a lot of things that have changed since this team won the title. The bench is weaker, the Big Three are older, KG is coming off an injury, and the competition is much stronger. Is this team still a title contender? Absolutely, but there’s also a lot of questions with this roster. On the plus side, I don’t think there’s a more intense team in the league than Boston. They play all-out, and they aren’t scared of making the occasional mistake if it means that they’re putting pressure on their opponents. They turned the ball over a ton, and gave up a lot of free throws to their opponents, but that aggressiveness allowed them to dominate basically every other facet of the game. There’s something to be said for playing with constant intensity, and that’s a lot of what KG brings to this team. We’ll just have to see if the Celtics’ old legs can hold up to that.

3rd in the East – The Big Three

BallerBlogger contributing writer ‘xphoenix87′ is a college student who dreams of one day writing about sports for a living. Since that’s not gonna happen, he’ll do this instead.


12 Responses to “Season Preview: Boston Celtics”

  1. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Good preview.

    A few thoughts:

    * Rasheed Wallace is a huge upgrade over Leon Powe. He didn’t have the emotional edge to play at a high level last season. Consequently, he gave almost no effort on both sides of the ball. Look for him to play with renewed energy this season.

    * Last season, Ray Allen improved his shooting percentage from the field, from 3-point range and the foul line. He looked exhausted versus Orlando because he logged major minutes against the Bulls. Remember, there were a record seven overtimes in that series.

    Health is always the X-factor, but if the Celtics can remain relatively injury-free, and if Doc Rivers can limit Allen, Pierce, Wallace, and Garnett’s minutes during the regular season, I like the Celtics to come out of the East.

  2. Erick Says:

    The reason why I think Sheed will a boon is the fact that he’s coming off the bench. He’s basically going to be this season’s P.J. Brown. He has the defensive goods to provide long defense should Garnett or Perkins get in foul trouble, and he’s always played harder when things are easy than when things are hard. Going against backups should invigorate him to dominate defensively.

    On offense, he’s another shooter, and if you defend him with a small player, he can post.

    I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out of Allen and it never does.

    Plus, Marquis Daniels is the best backup wing the Celtics have had since Posey left (not saying too much, but he’s an upgrade over Tony Allen). I think they need a defensive stopper but I like them over Cleveland and Orlando.

  3. Erick Says:

    By the way, very nice preview too.

  4. xphoenix87 Says:

    - Sheed hasn’t had a good offensive season since 05-06. He doesn’t bang inside, rebound well, or draw many fouls (and he never has, it’s not a matter of motivation), and he’s 35 this year. Powe was a guy who finished everything inside, drew a ton of fouls, and rebounded at a high level. Sheed is a better shooter, but the Celtics weren’t really lacking in that area. Davis and KG are both quality mid-range shooters, it’s not like Sheed is going to help them space the floor much more. Other than name recognition and aching knees, Sheed doesn’t really bring that much to the table.

    - Allen also had the lowest usage rate of his career, despite KG being off the floor for almost 30 games. I’m not saying that he didn’t have a great season, he did, but more likely than not he’s going to return to earth some. He’s played over 1000 games in his career, that’s going to have an effect.

    I just don’t think we can assume that KG is going to come back and this team is going to be as good as they were two years ago. There’s too much uncertainty. 2 years is a big difference when most of the principal guys on your team are on the wrong side of 30

  5. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    X:

    Dismiss this team at your peril. Last season they won 62 games, even though KG missed the final two months, and took the Magic to seven games in the conference semifinals.

    Sheed is a better defender than Powe, and he gives Boston an added dimension versus the Cavaliers and Magic. Wallace has the size, quickness, and versatility to defend Rashard Lewis. Plus he’s been very effective against Dwight Howard.

    The Celtics are deeper than they were two years ago, and Rajon Rondo will more than make up for any potential slippage from the Big 3. Mark my words: Rondo is going to have a monster season.

    It’s going to be very difficult for teams to double off Rondo when the Celtics have three guys standing behind the 3-point line, and KG setting picks at top of the key.

  6. Tsunami Says:

    Nice preview, good comments.

    My $0.02:

    “Rajon Rondo will more than make up for any potential slippage from the Big 3. Mark my words: Rondo is going to have a monster season.” (is that a Mark Price pun?)

    As Ray Ray and PP get older, they rely more on jumpers and less on penetration. Their previously dynamic scorers are going to be more 1 dimensional on offense. In the past, they have beaten good defensive teams with textbook ball handling. That won’t change. They will win a lot of games, and the garden will be fired up. I just don’t see the matchup problems that they will create against the Magic or the Cavs. Rondo eats poor defenses alive with his athleticism, but he won’t be playing against Derek Rose in the conf finals if they even make it that far.

    “For the life of me, I cannot understand how the Celtics paid $2.5 mil a year to Glen Davis and let Leon Powe go to the Cavs for the veteran’s minimum. I know Powe will be injured for part of the season, and Davis played well in the playoffs, but Powe is just a much better player.”

    I remember the day it was reported that Leon Powe would miss the rest of the season. I immediately called up some friends and told them that there was zero chance the Celtics could beat the Cavs in a 7 game series. Not after the KG injury, after the Powe injury. He was THAT dominant against the Cavs. The fact that the Cavs never have to guard Leon Powe again is huge enough, but they signed him to the league minimum. Probably the second least talked about NBA story of the offseason (first being Rashard Lewis testing + for testosterone)

    “Sheed is a better defender than Powe, and he gives Boston an added dimension versus the Cavaliers and Magic. Wallace has the size, quickness, and versatility to defend Rashard Lewis. Plus he’s been very effective against Dwight Howard.”

    He has not been effective against Anderson Varejao for a long time. See: ECF 2007. He’s a good pickup, but again, a one dimensional offensive player at this stage of his career. Last year he absolutely blew. I would chalk up part of it to the Pistons being such a mess, but let’s remember, it was a contract year for him. Everyone was saying before last year he was really going to bring it because it was a contract year.

    McDyess never gave up in the playoffs last year. Sheed was atrocious.

  7. Tsunami Says:

    “It’s going to be very difficult for teams to double off Rondo when the Celtics have three guys standing behind the 3-point line, and KG setting picks at top of the key.”

    Let’s not forget we’re talking about Rajon Rondo. He still hasn’t shown he can consistently hit a deep jumper. I know he can fill up the stats sheet – he’s been my fantasy PG 2 years in a row. But the offense is going to have to run through him lest PP be completely worn down again in mid may. And teams can definitely go under those picks on Rondo-Unlike Mo Williams and Jameer Nelson. The Rondo pick and roll won’t be that effective.

    “Dismiss this team at your peril. Last season they won 62 games, even though KG missed the final two months, and took the Magic to seven games in the conference semifinals.”

    Am I the only one that feels like the Magic only brought it against the Cavs? They looked pretty lackluster against Philly until game 6, poor against the C’s until game 6, and after the first half of the ECF game 1, they put on a clinic. (until the finals…sigh) I don’t think the Celtics can hang with the Magic.

    “Plus, Marquis Daniels is the best backup wing the Celtics have had since Posey left (not saying too much, but he’s an upgrade over Tony Allen). I think they need a defensive stopper but I like them over Cleveland and Orlando.”

    Daniels was a nice addition. He will fit in their system well.

    I’m surprised that many people actually like Boston over Cleveland and Orlando. Both teams, imo, improved their rosters from LAST season when I believe they were both ALREADY better than the Celtics – Even with a healthy KG.

  8. Tsunami Says:

    Correction: I said:
    “In the past, they have beaten good defensive teams with textbook ball handling. ”

    I meant textbook ball MOVEMENT.

  9. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami:

    Leon Powe is a good player. I checked his splits at B-R.com, and you’re right, he has a history of big games versus the Cavaliers. I think it’s a mistake, though, to extrapolate his numbers to a 36 or 40 minute average or cite his PER rating. He’s a scrappy dude, but he’s limited defensively, and he’s foul prone.

    Rasheed became a one-dimensional scorer by choice. He never respected Flip Saunders or Michael Curry. Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett will command his respect. I think the guy has a lot left in the tank. Like Tim Duncan, Rasheed’s game has never been predicated on athleticism.

    He still has the skill set to do some serious damage on the block. And he can still stroke the longball.

    As for Rondo, all indications are that he’s shooting the ball well in training camp. If he adds a 15-20 jumper, he’ll be indefensible. Outside shot or not, you can’t defend a Rondo-KG, or Rondo-Sheed pick-and-roll with two players. So where is the help going to come from? Who are you going to leave? Ray? Pierce? I don’t think so.

    The Cavaliers struggled to defend Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis last season. Pairing Rasheed with KG will pose many of the same mismatch problems. Who is Shaq going to defend? Varejao may have had his moments against Rasheed, but he’s never been able to defend Garnett.

    I agree that Cleveland probably would have defeated a healthy Celtics team in last year’s playoffs. But only because the Celtics had zero depth. Marbury and Moore gave them next to nothing off the bench. Sheed, Daniels, Baby, House, and Shelden Williams are quality reserves. And Kendrick Perkins (the best low-post on-ball defender in the league, in my opinion) will be improved.

  10. JR Says:

    You might be shortchanging the Celtics some. You say Sheed plays good defense and hits the 3. Yes, it would be nice to see him on the block more, but I think the defense he adds far outweighs this aspect. Also, Ray Allen improved last year over the previous yr. I’m not predicting a decline this yr (He played too many minutes during the Chicago series. Thats why he was burned out vs orlando
    -JR

    http://www.celticslife.com

  11. Tsunami Says:

    You like Perk more than Duncan/Howard/Okakor in the low post?

  12. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Yes, I think Perkins is a better low-post, on-ball defender than Duncan and Howard. I don’t think Okafor belongs in this conversation. Duncan and Howard are great help defenders, but they can be backed down. Perkins is a rock. He’s like a 6-10 Chuck Hayes. He’s a good shot-blocker, and he has a monster wingspan (7-4).

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