Rob Nelson of Boston Celtics Report was kind enough to provide Court Crusades with his expert analysis on the Boston Celtics mid-way through the 2010-11 season. For this article and anything Celtics, check out Nelson’s Boston Report.
The Boston Celtics came into the season with many people putting them third on the East’s depth chart. Miami and Orlando were the clear favorites to overtake the aging Celtics. However, half a season in the Celtics have put the league on notice that the road to the Finals in the East will go through Boston.
Boston has earned their 37-11 record by trouncing through teams above .500 with a 17-5 record. To put that into perspective, here are some other top teams’ records against the teams with winning records: Miami is 9-12, Orlando is 8-14, Lakers are 9-9, Bulls are 10-9 and the Thunder sits at a record of 14-13. Only the Spurs and Mavericks are on par with Boston.
The Celtics have also had to deal with the some serious injuries this season: Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Jermaine O’Neal, and Shaq have all missed some chunks of playing time. How many teams could survive those types of injuries and still be the top seed in a Conference that has improved this season?
Rajon Rondo- A
Rondo is the engine that makes this offense roll. Rondo’ s role on this team is to keep everyone in the offense involved and the ball moving. The fact Boston is leading the NBA in assists with Rondo leading the league shows he is doing his job. Those that have watched the games Rondo sat with injury, know how crucial he is to getting his aging greats easy looks.
Rondo also has an improved jump shot. Armed with that jump shot, speed, and great moves to the hoop, he is shooting a tremendous 51.5 percent from the floor.
He has also been a tremendous defender. He knows the defense and knows when to jump the passing lanes and when to double. The result is Rondo is averaging 2.5 steals a game. Rondo knows when to chip in on the glass as well with 4.5 rebounds per game.
Perkins is just returning from his injury. However, in the few games that he has played Perkins is quickly returning to form. Perkins brings a tough inside defensive presence and is the rebounder the team needs to improve the rebounding that has been hurt with the injuries to KG, Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq. Look for the Beast to factor huge in Boston’s second half and playoff time.
Ray has rebounded nicely from a season to forget last year. Ray has been a machine all season providing Boston with the long range shooter to stretch the floor. The amazing ageless wonder that is Ray Allen is burying about three long range bombs a game and is shooting almost 46 percent from beyond the arc. It is no wonder that Ray will probably break Reggie Miller’s career mark for threes by Thursday against the Lakers.
Ray brings more than shooting. Ray has done a tremendous job defensively for Boston all season. He did the job Paul Pierce could not do against Kobe and the Lakers. Kobe got his, but he needed to work harder with Ray on him. Ray has also provided great mentoring for the other shooters on the team. He works with Rondo, Nate Robinson, and anyone else that needs work. This season Ray has been more vocal as well. It was Ray that gave the speech that woke Boston up to beat the Kings. Look for the future three point king to continue to be lights out in the second half.
Kevin Garnett- A
Garnett has done his usual job on the defensive end; this is worth the A alone. It is KG’s intensity that defines this defense. The Celtics are tops in points per game allowed and KG is the anchor of that defense. KG locks down his man, rotates well, and shuts down the middle quick on anyone driving the lane. KG is also cleaning up the glass with 9 (7 defensive) rebounds a game.
KG is only averaging 15 points a night, but he is not shooting that much. He is still a consistent option in the paint and can provide the lethal 14 foot jump shot to stretch the defense.
Pierce is the NBA newest member of the 20,000 point club. It is no wonder because Pierce is scoring 19 a game still to lead this team. Pierce has hit clutch shots and taken over the game at the right moment. His jump shot is sweet from any range, he has moves to the basket, and can finish with the best of them. The bottom line is he still is the best scorer on this team and can impose his will at any time. Look for him to continue his scoring exploits in the second half.
Shaquille O’Neal- B+
Shaq has exceeded all expectations this season. Shaq is only averaging 9 points, 5 rebounds, and a block a game. These are not huge numbers, but with the Celtics besieged by injuries, Shaq stepped up huge. Shaq at 38 showed he still has plenty of juice. Shaq is still a force in the middle. He plays great defense by clogging the middle and brings the no easy basket mentality that has been huge for the defense without Perkins. The numbers are also deceptive. Shaq is shooting a career high .662 from the floor. The problem is he is not getting a lot of shots due to the fact the Celtics are so loaded on offense. The man has had a few games that he dipped into the past and looked like the guy from 2000. Only his mobility slowing down, his injuries, and minute restrictions keep the man from an A.
Glen Davis- B+
Davis has been an x factor for Boston this season and should win the 6th man of the year award. The man is averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. On the defensive end he more than makes up for his lack of size by positioning his wide body. No one has taken more charges than Glen Davis this year. He has filled in this year admirably during Kevin Garnett’s injury.
The reason Davis fails to get the A is his inconsistency. Davis has been both spectacular and vanished at times. Too many times Davis has lacked the effort on both ends. The result is he becomes a jump shooter on offense and on defense his man owns him. If Davis ever gives total effort and concentration every night, he would be not just a great sixth man, but an all star.
Daniels has been solid. The problem with a guy like Daniels is he is a role player. People see 6 points a game and think he is not that great. However, Daniels is doing a very nice job in the role he has. He spells Pierce by playing solid two way basketball. He uses his length to defend and he is a smart little player as far as jumping the passing lanes. On the offensive end, the man only gets about three to six shots a game. He uses his size on matchups that suit him and is a solid scorer off the dribble. With Delonte West out, he has been used at times as the point forward so Nate Robinson can play off the ball.
The C grade is because too many times Marquis vanishes into the fabric of the game. He does nothing to hurt you, but he just does not wow you. I just wish he would be a little more aggressive at the offensive end and get more shots.
Nate has struggled this season with his shot a lot this year. His ability to knock down jump shots and stretch the floor is vital to the second unit. The fact is Nate also did not do a solid job running the second unit offense either. There were no easy baskets and plenty of turnovers for the second unit. The backup point guard also struggled running the first offense in Rondo’s absence.
However, Nate is still averaging 7 points a game and has won some games with his shot. Recently it appears Nate is coming out of his doldrums. The bottom line is Nate is a shooter and not much a point guard. I expect him to be better with the return of Delonte West.
Erden has exceeded all expectations. The unknown rookie has been a blessing by playing solid minutes in the absence of Perkins, Shaq, and JO. Erden has shown solid foot work and decent moves in the post. He boxes out well and is a very intelligent player for a rookie.
The problem is Erden is a rookie center. He is prone to terrible foul calls and rookie mistakes. The man also makes minor mistakes on defense that have caused some issues. However, over all Semih has shown he belongs in the NBA and has been an asset to the Celtics.
Wafer has been impressive in limited duty. He has bought into Celtics basketball. He has played solid defense. However, his athleticism on offense is his calling card. The man can get into the paint better than almost any Celtic this side of Paul Peirce. He has great hops and can score off the jump shot. The problem is Doc does not have the minutes to dole out.
The C grade is because at times Wafer seems too timid. Instead of driving the lane for the score, he is looking to play Celtics basketball. Wafer needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end for his grade to grow.
Luke has great intangibles. He hustles on both ends of the floor. He mixes it up in the paint. Luke also has no fear of shooting. In limited minutes he has shown some potential.
The problem is Luke does not possess a very consistent shot. Too many times his odd shot does not find the bottom of the basket.. The other issue is Luke has had games like the home win against Orlando that his defense was awful. Ryan Anderson lit him up in that game. However, Luke is not being asked to do much and has shown potential. Look for him to continue to hustle and work on his game to the point he carves out a decent NBA career.
Bradley is a work in progress. The man had zero opportunity to play on Boston’s veteran rotations. When Bradley did play, he showed the skills that made people gush over his defensive abilities. The man is a lock down defender already.
The problem is his offense is awful. His jump shot is not consistent. He also struggled grasping running the offense. The result is he needs playing time in the D-League. Playing every day should improve his offensive game. Plan on Bradley making at least a Tony Allen like impact real soon. The man just has too much talent.
West was lighting it up in the pre season and is the straw that stirs the second unit’s drink. He is the guy Boston needs to solidify the second unit. He will make it easier to score for guys like Nate Robinson, Glen Davis, and Marquis Daniels. He also stretches the floor and plays hard nose defense.
The problem is he has not really played due to a suspension and broken wrist. He looked solid before he got injured and look for him to be a big part of Boston’s second half plans.
JO has struggled to be healthy this year. His knee is an issue and will probably limit him to ten minutes a game upon his return. This is a shame because JO was a beast defensively. He rotated well and blocked shots like a champion. A rotation of Perkins, Shaq, and JO healthy would have been huge. However, look for JO to be a factor even in limited minutes in the second half.
All the man does is win basketball games. The injuries have mounted and Boston keeps winning. The Celtics are tops in the league in defense and on offense are shooting 50 percent from the floor and lead the league in assists as well. This is Doc being able to get all these aging stars to buy into his theory. Doc deserves all the credit in the world for this great start.
Ainge has done everything in his power to make Boston better than in 2010. The Celtics have a deeper team than last year. Any team that has had this many injuries and is still the top seed. They also are a taller team. That was on display as Boston out rebounded the team they gave up 25 offensive rebounds to in the Finals. The Celtics will be getting Delonte West back and that should finish off fixing the second unit. However, if Rip Hamilton becomes available look for Ainge to make one last move. It is all about Banner 18. Ainge with his personnel decisions has created that mentality.
Look for the Celtics to continue their rampage through the league in the second half. The Celtics are too deep, too talented, and too well coached to not. A healthy “Real Big Three” will ensure no second half slide like last season. The Eastern Conference has gotten better, but Boston is still the class.