Boston Celtics Team Preview 2010-2011
Key additions: Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte West and Von Wafer (free-agency); Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody (Draft); Semih Erden (brought over from Europe)
Key subtractions: Rasheed Wallace (retirement); Tony Allen and Shelden Williams (free-agency)
The 2009-10 Boston Celtics were a tale of two seasons: Picked by many as one of the favorites coming into the regular season, the Celtics instead played most of their 82 game schedule with the enthusiasm of Eddy Curry. Causing endless amounts of frustration to their fans, they sleep-walked their way to an extremely disappointing 50 wins, losing several games to bad teams at home and arguing with officials the whole way through.
Picked as a trendy early round upset by some of the same people who predicted bigger things pre-season, the Celtics didn’t so much flip the switch, they ripped the whole thing off. Waking out of hibernation, the Green re-ignited their famous levels of intensity and execution to roll through Miami, Cleveland and Orlando in relatively simple fashion before falling in seven hard-fought games to the Lakers.
Sensing that something more was needed to overtake the Forum Blue and Gold, Celtics GM Danny Ainge made several changes to the roster over the summer, brining in seven new players in all. When you consider the lack of relative flexibility the Celtics had with their salary cap, Ainge’s off-season haul was quite impressive: He re-upped Ray Allen and Paul Pierce without breaking the bank or the team’s long-term goals. Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels were brought back to anchor the bench. He secured two solid options to replace the injured Kendrick Perkins with the O’Neal twins at a very cost-efficient price. He filled big needs in the backcourt with West and Wafer. And he did all of this with armed with just a mere mid-level exception. Maybe the Celtics’ off-season wasn’t as flashy as say Chicago or Miami, but it was still impressive in its own right.
The Celtics’ familiar starting five will have a different look to it with Kendrick Perkins out until around February with an ACL tear. In his place will be the O’Neal twins, who were brought in by the team to hold the fort down on the block until Perk’s return. Once back and presumably healthy, they’ll slide back into reserve roles to give the Celts one of the biggest and deepest frontcourt rotations in the League. Both Shaq and Jermaine are past their primes and shouldn’t be counted on for huge production, but when you consider the Celtics’ roster and salary cap situation, the two were signed at bargain prices. Add bruiser Glen Davis to the mix and Boston’s monopoly on size in the Eastern Conference could prove to be a valuable trump card against their Floridian rivals.
In the backcourt, Rajon Rondo’s development into an elite point-guard during the Playoffs was the key reason the team flew by Miami, Cleveland and Orlando. Maintaining his top-notch status will be critical if old-timers Allen and Pierce experience an expected dip in minutes and production. Nate Robinson, who showed real flashes late in the post-season, will be relied upon to provide points in bunches off the bench, while the versatile West can handle both guard positions. Daniels, who had an injury riddled campaign last year, is still a player the team feels can contribute. With no other options to backup Pierce at the small forward position, Daniels will be an important piece of the Celtics’ deep bench.
The Celtics’ Achilles heel remains health. A lot of guys have played a lot of games and a major injury to anybody inside the Allen-Garnett-Pierce trio would be catastrophic. Rebounding, the Celtics ugly nemesis last year, could prove to be even more problematic with Perkins in street clothes for a while. And then there’s the departure of Tom Thibedeau, the guy who masterminded the Celtics’ dominant lockdown defense for the last three years, to consider as well. The team has the personnel and the experience to continue their defensive dominance, but it wouldn’t be a shock if they took a slight step back in that department.
The Big Three are rickety and parts of their bench are downright old, but if you’re an Eastern Conference team dreaming of a Finals matchup with the Lakers, you’d do well not to run into the Green come May. Expecting 50-55 wins is probably best for a group that will likely go through the motions in the regular season before showing up gangbusters in the Playoffs.
Predicted Record: 52-30 (2009-10 Record: 50-32, 4th in the East)
NUM PLAYER POS HT FROM
20 Ray Allen G 6-5 Connecticut
0 Avery Bradley G 6-2 Texas R
8 Marquis Daniels G 6-6 Auburn
11 Glen Davis F 6-9 Louisiana State
86 Semih Erden C 7-0 Turkey R
5 Kevin Garnett F 6-11 Farragut Academy HS (IL)
55 Luke Harangody F 6-8 Notre Dame R
7 Jermaine O'Neal C 6-11 Eau Claire HS (WI)
36 Shaquille O'Neal C 7-1 Louisiana State
43 Kendrick Perkins C 6-10 Clifton J. Ozen HS (TX)
34 Paul Pierce (C) F 6-7 Kansas
4 Nate Robinson G 5-9 Washington
9 Rajon Rondo G 6-1 Kentucky
12 Von Wafer G 6-5 Florida State
13 Delonte West G 6-3 St. Joseph's (PA)
Jon Pastuszek also writes at NiuBBall.com a site dedicated to providing in-depth coverage and analysis of all things basketball and China.