After the devastating news of Rajon Rondo’s season-ending injury, the Boston Celtics will look in-house for a capable guard to step up, and carry the heavy load Rondo took on his shoulders night in and night out. Obviously, Doc Rivers is going to go for a different look with this new formula, so expect to see more driving and scoring out of ball handlers, and more minutes all around as they have 37.4 minutes to make up for. That leaves a lot of playing time open to go around and there are some golden opportunities for certain guys to step up.
Rondo makes up about 60% of the total assists on this team averaging 11.1 per game. I wouldn’t expect any one guy to fill this void in the slightest, but I do expect that the guard core will step up on both ends of the floor.
Courtney Lee- This guy has semi-proven himself as the teams second next ball handler behind Rondo, and his offense is certainly versatile enough. He could become a score first ball handler working early in the shot clock to get to the basket or pull up with quick jumpers. The pressure is on Lee take most of the scoring load and an encouraging sign is that defensively he is rarely a liability and is an above average shut down guy. He offers a little extra size to match up with as well. Strangely enough, the Celtics’ perimeter D could improve greatly without Rondo on the floor. If he can get his sharp-shooting abilities back Lee could have himself a great second half of the year and a great impact on this team moving forward.
Avery Bradley- Lot of pressure for this kid to grow up on the job. His potential remains sky high as long as he can stay on the floor. The opportunity is here for him to make himself not only a better play-maker but to refine his offense as well. His shooting must improve and he is going to get the green light to fire off more shots. Most likely to be coupled with Lee on the floor, something special could come out of this duo in terms of a smothering defensive pair that can create turnovers and run the floor for easy buckets. There still may be some tweaks to the starting line up, but most likely Lee and Bradley will take over. There’s plenty of potential for these two.
Jason Terry- …is going to get more shots. A lot more shots. Most would argue that this has been the biggest reason for Terry’s struggles and shooting slumps this year. He’s out of rhythm, and the opportunity now arises to bring that instant offensive spark off the bench and his shot numbers increasing can only be a good thing. Sure, don’t expect to see anything stellar defensively, but Terry’s shot-making ability has been slightly under-utilized this year because of his minutes and attempts taking a slight dip.
Leandro Barbosa- Huge opportunity for the Brazilian Blur to do what he does best and plug his much needed energy into this line up. This is a guy that when given the minutes averages over 16 ppg for his career and doesn’t ever need a single play called for him. Barbosa was definitely getting the short end of the stick simply because he didn’t fit into the offense as well as the other guards. With the new scoring guard-type of mentality, the Celtic’s will play with in Rondo’s absence Barbosa is the perfect guy to have. Expect his scoring numbers to go up because he’s been doing it for years. He’s his own offense and a luxury to have now under the current circumstances. For a guy that was seemingly not pleased with his role things are going to change in a big way.
The opportunities for more production from these four guys are being handed to each of them on a silver platter. It’s hard to think this will be a ‘better’ team with Rondo, but sometimes circumstances like this work themselves out in strange ways.
One eye opening statistic to take into consideration is the Celtics’ record without Rondo over the past 4 seasons: 21-13 (.618 winning percentage) with him they are a .604…
Only time will tell, but the Celtics ‘depth’ is about to be put to the test in a big way.