2011-12 was a pretty good for the Boston Celtics winning their fifth consecutive Atlantic Division title (39-27) and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for third time in the past five seasons even though they weren’t expected to advance so far. Losing to the Miami Heat four games to three isn’t much of a consolation prize for this proud group of veterans who believe they can compete for an NBA Championship each and every season. This season their roster has gone through some key changes and it will interesting to see if they were enough changes to get them past the Heat and into the NBA Finals again or if those changes will hurt their chances of reaching as far as they did last season.
The Boston Celtics starting lineup has been altered slightly this season with the departure of Ray Allen, but the new big three return in the form of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Last season Pierce averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game while Garnett put up 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and one block per game playing center for most of the season. Rondo has stepped into the role as the team’s best player and he had his best season last year averaging 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. These three will take the C’s as far as they will go this year but they will also need to get some big contributions from the other two members of the starting five (Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee) along with what is without doubt Boston’s deepest bench in years.
Bass averaged a very solid 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in his first season with the Celtics last year and he could prove to be a crucial member of the team. When he was inserted into the starting lineup last year he gave them more scoring presence in the front court and also allowed Garnett to move to the five position where he flourished especially during the postseason. Lee is a one of the Celtics new additions and they will need him to step in and fill Allen’s shoes at the shooting guard position. Last season while with the Houston Rockets, Lee averaged 11.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and one steal per game. He is a solid shooter, fills the lane well on drives and is a good defender as well.
The Celtics bench this season is extremely deep with a quality player at each position and then some. Leading the way for the C’s reserves will be one of the best sixth men that the NBA has ever seen in Jason Terry (last season he averaged 15.1 points, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game). Terry signed with Boston after spending eight seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and looks to also help offset the loss of Ray Allen. Avery Bradley will also be a huge member of this bench unit once he returns back into the lineup following his shoulder injury. There is no exact time frame as to when he will return but Boston could definitely use his 7.6 points per game and terrific individual defense on smaller guards.
The Celtics will also get the returning services of forwards Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox who both returning following missing extended time last season due to heart alignments. Green missed the entire season due to an aortic aneurysm while Wilcox sat out the final half of the season with heart irregularity. The Celtics will also have a talented trio of rookies to look for some assistance off of the bench in the form of Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph. Sullinger was expected to be a lottery pick but slipped to 21st overall following draft day rumors of back issues, he should be a major contributor for Boston this season and beyond. Mel and Joseph both attended Syracuse and the familiarity with each other should aid them in fitting in comfortably with the NBA life.
Head Coach/Front Office:
Doc Rivers returns for his ninth season as head coach of the Celtics looking to guide Boston accurately for another run at an NBA Championship. Rivers is easily one of the top coaches in the NBA and will have to deal with a changed roster this season, mixing and matching the new parts with the old ones. If anyone can do it Rivers can, due his extensive knowledge of the NBA as being a head coach for 13 years and playing point guard for 14 seasons prior to that. Rivers even attempted to take the blame for Ray Allen leaving the Celtics and going to the Heat so that way there would be constant media attention surrounding Rajon Rondo who is known to be the real reason for Allen’s departure.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has done another masterful job during the offseason in attempts to ensure that Boston has all they need to contend in the East. There wasn’t much he could do about losing Allen due to the fact that he left for personal reasons as opposed to monetary issues (Celtics offered three million dollars more than the Heat). Ainge replaced Allen with both Lee and Terry who combined should produce more than Allen would have but he wasn’t done there. He also selected those three rookies (Sullinger, Melo and Joseph) in the draft who should all contribute nicely for Boston.