Training camp is one day old… which means it’s a perfect time for predictions!
Actually… this is part of a massive effort in the NBA blogosphere to put together previews for every team. It’s coordinated by Jeff at CelticsBlog and it will feature previews by something like 70 different blogs all month long.
Today, we… along with a few other C’s bloggers… will put together a Celtics preview. And the rest of this week, other Atlantic Division bloggers will put up previews for their respective teams that we’ll link to… and so on… and so on… all month long until every team is previewed.
So without further ado:
Team Name: The World Champion Boston Celtics
Last Years Record: 66-16
Key Losses:James Posey
Key Additions:JR Giddens, Bill Walker, Patrick O’Bryant, Darius Miles
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
With the Celtics handcuffed a bit by how much money is tied up in Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen… the C’s had no choice but to go bargain shopping to fill out their roster. The loss of James Posey will hurt in many respects… but the contract he got from New Orleans just wasn’t happening in Boston for a variety of reasons.
So the C’s went to the clearance aisle and pulled in two guys who could actually have a decent impact. Patrick O’Bryant is a legit 7-footer who is very young and very raw. In a best case scenario… he went into a cocoon this summer with Clifford Ray and started his metamorphosis… and he’ll emerge this season as legit post player who will rebound and defend… and occasionally score.
In Miles, the Celtics have a reclamation project that they hope will pan out like so many of them have for the New England Patriots. Miles’ skill was never in question. But his attitude, and right now… his health, are huge questions. Fears over his attitude have subsided to some degree because he has the motivation of returning to the NBA… and he’s doing so with an NBA champion full of strong-willed leaders. He’ll either have to be part of the team… or the team will reject him. If he gets healthy… he’ll be the steal of the off-season.
The selections of Giddens and Walker (the latter via draft-day trade), reflect the same philosophy. Both had middle-round (or, depending on who you ask, lottery) potential… but both fell in the draft for different reasons. Giddens can be an explosive wing player that will help the C’s by pushing the ball… and who will be helped by the veteran leadership. His questions are also about his mentality… but he’ll have some strong leadership on which to rely. Paul Pierce especially will be looked at as a role-model for Giddens, as Giddens started at Pierce’s alma mater (Kansas) and faced some similar, off-the-court incidents.
Walker could be yet another second-round steal for Danny Ainge… who has made a habit of stealing productive players in what many consider a throw-away round in the draft. Walker’s role model on the team will be Leon Powe… who also dropped in his draft year because of serious injury questions. If Danny is right again… he’ll have yet another tough forward that will come in with a scowl and do a lot of fan-friendly dirty work.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths? Experience, Star Power, Depth
Hey… they’ve been to the mountain top. And they’ve spent enough time climbing that mountain that you’d think they understand how hard it is to stay on top. So while the question about how they’ll react to the championship is legit… I don’t think it will be a big factor. If KG, Pierce and Ray can’t remember how long it took them to get one ring… then they don’t deserve another.
And the Big 3 are still the Big 3. KG is still going to be intense… and he’s still going to be a force down low. PIerce is a bull who dishes out more than he receives… and his strength will help preserve his body. Ray… Ray is a little more of a question mark because of his ankles. He says they’re fully healthy… and if they are.. then we can expect a pretty good year out of him. But if any one of these guys falters, the smart money seems to be on Ray.
And while the C’s did lose James Posey, they’re still a pretty deep team. People want to say the C’s need to replace PJ Brown, too… but people seem to forget that the C’s really won 66 games without him. His experience was valuable in the playoffs… and he was clutch… but he’s not irreplaceable. Tony Allen, even though he’s a different player than PoZ, is the obvious key to whether James is missed or not.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? Age
As much many of us would like to think the Big 3 can remain healthy… we do know that the odds of that decrease the longer players play. So while I don’t EXPECT Paul Pierce break down… it’s more possible now than it ever has been. Same for KG and Ray. Luckily, they’re not so old where we’re crossing our fingers.
4. What are the goals for this team? Championship or bust
Ray Allen said yesterday that Michael Jordan told him the first championship is luck… but the second one really means something. If the C’s don’t win it… then people can say “see… they weren’t hungry enough” or “see… they were too old” or “see… they really missed Posey”. We as fans don’t want that… and the players don’t want that either.
Besides, those guys were blown away by that parade. I think they want to do it again.
5. How will the loss of James Posey really affect this team?
James Posey provided the Celtics with something they didn’t have last year… but do have now: Someone who knows what it takes to win it all. So while that intangible was priceless last season… it’s less important now. This is now a team full of winners. They’ve faced adversity and persevered. In that respect, we can thank James Posey for what he brought and wish him well in his new endeavors.
But the Celtics will miss some of his veteran savvy. Posey knew the tricks. He’s a master of positioning, which makes him much faster defensively than his foot speed will have you think. How many times did he take a charge at a key moment last year? That’s frustrating for the other team. We really don’t know if Tony Allen is capable of that… or if he’ll be the type of defender that will always swipe for the steal… and cost his team fouls.
We’ll also miss the clutch 3’s… which, again, was the product of brains more than physical ability. Posey barely jumps into his shots… but he always gets them off. It’s because he knows how to slide to a new position when his defender’s head is turned… and get himself just enough space to get that shot off. Who off the bench will be able to bring that? That, we’ll have to wait to find out.
Tony Allen will be looked upon to “replace” Posey… but he won’t do that because they’re different players. But Allen, if his mind is right, can provide an intense defensive spark… and an explosive scoring punch for that second unit. Other players will get thrown into the mix to make up for the loss of James Posey… but Tony will be the guy we’re all looking to pick up most of the slack.
Predicted Record: 59-23
I’m a big advocate of limiting the Big 3’s minutes early on in the season. Let some of the younger guys work in and get some reps to see who can really fit where. Let KG, Paul and Ray sit and let some of the other guys try to win a couple of games. You don’t get an extra trophy for hitting 60 wins… and we want to make sure that we’re not overworking these guys for some meaningless November W’s. If the C’s do that… then they’ll drop a few more games than last year.
Herald: Miles still hungry | Doc-less room to Rome a good thing | Chomping at the bit | Globe: Perk recovering | Celts pull into a new port | Quality Miles during test run | Allens seek help in diabetes fight | SI: C’s must find new source of motivation | ESPN: Hollinger’s Celtics prediction