Celtic Changes: Mixing in the Youth
Last year's new-look Celtics took the league by storm with a 42-win improvement, which easily garnered them the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They would go on to face adversity in the first round of the NBA playoffs when they were pushed to seven games by the young Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics would stay tough, and as we all know, they would push on to get to the NBA Finals where they would defeat the Lakers in six games. It was a far cry from the previous draft night which saw the Celtics miss out on Greg Oden. Celtics fans on that night looked eager for a bottle of Jack Daniels. That is until Danny Ainge got a case of tradeitis. Ainge traded small forward Wally Szczerbiak, point guard Delonte West, and the No. 5 pick for Ray Allen and the No. 35 pick. Celtic's fans were already on there way to forgetting "The Big Oden". Fans of the Big Green would completely get past Greg Oden when Danny Ainge traded Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, and Theo Ratliff with a additional two future 1st round picks for Superstar Kevin Garnett. In that moment, Ainge went from somebody with slight Isiah Thomas status, to a guy that will be able to eat free at any restaurant in Boston. Also, at that moment NBA coaches realized that they would have to deal with the three headed monster of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce.
So as history would tell, The Celtics would go on to win there 17th NBA Championship. As much as you can give credit to the big three for that championship, There were other players(role players) that proved important come playoff time. Some of which that have either moved on to other teams or retired. Here are the vital players that have departed from the Celtics:
He is often called "dirty", but the fact remains that James Posey has been a big part in the 2006 championship of Miami Heat, and the 08 title team for the Boston Celtics. The Pose is somebody that the Celtics counted to play very aggressive perimeter defense, along with getting rebounds, and hitting the occasional spot up three. Posey has been known as a impact player on winning teams for some time now, But his shooting performance in last year's NBA Finals couldn't have come at a better time with Posey becoming a free agent. Unfortunately, Danny Ainge had to worry about the future of the luxury tax if he were to re-sign Posey. He was reluctant to offer Posey more then a three year deal starting at the mid level exception(5.6 million). The Hornets weren't reluctant, offering Posey four years, along with a chance to compete for a title. Just like that, Posey would sign with New Orleans and the Celtics would be forced to look for solutions from within.
Possible replacements:Tony Allen/Bill Walker
Tony Allen: Tony Allen is coming off 3 surgeries on his ACL but has been impressing the Celtics coaching staff. Allen looks to be explosive again, while at the same time showing he trusts his knee again. Last year that was Tony's biggest problem. The Celtics have always liked his defense so look for Tony to get his fair share of burn. The big question is can Tony stay healthy? We'll find out
Bill Walker:This kid could be the steal of the draft. He dropped to the Wizards at 47 because of question marks with his knee, but was then dealt to the Celtics for cash. The biggest factor in this kid getting minutes early on is if he can defend enough to stay on the floor. He definitely has the athletic capabilities to do so. If there is a sure negative on Walker right now, or a projected negative, it would be his temper. There is a reports that state Walker had a altercation with Kevin Garnett in practice. Usually that's not a big deal considering all the good teams have ridiculously intense practices, but Walker also got into it with Tracy McGrady in a preseason matchup.
Hey nobody is perfect right? Regardless of his emotional prowess, a lot of scouts are comparing his upside to the likes of Jerry Stackhouse. High praise right? If Walker is looking for more praise then that, Look to Danny Ainge cutting Darius Miles to give Walker more minutes. So far that's not bad for a guy taken with the 47th pick.
As well and as admirably rookie Glen Davis and young Leon Powe played during the 66 win regular season for the Celtics, it was of great importance to have a guy like P.J Brown. Brown brought another veteran presence out on the floor with steady production on the boards, along with very solid post defense.
Possible Replacements:Glen Davis/Leon Powe or trade?
Glen Davis-With a year more in experience and of course championship experience at that, Celtic nation could be less worried about Glen Davis and Leon Powe. Davis has become the master of knowing how to use his backside, along with improvement in his mid range jumper. As long as Davis continues to keep on top of his conditioning and avoid the steakhouse burger, he should be a valuable contributor off the bench.
Leon Powe-If people didn't know who this guy was before the NBA Finals, that certainly changed. Just ask Phil Jackson. In game 2 of the NBA Finals Powe came off the bench to score 21 points in an amazing 15 minutes. After the game Jackson referred to him as Leon "Pow". From what I've seen of Leon this preseason, he looks to have added muscle. Obviously that will do him wonders in the paint battling for boards. On the scoring side, with Powe's good hands look for him to continue to flourish because of all the attention the "big three" sees.
I'm not forgetting about Patrick O'Bryant or Brian Scalabrine. O'Bryant is as disappointing as a pro could get, while Scalabrine is a less athletic small forward with power forward height.
If the Celtics can't trust a solution from within, Who is a quality role player that may be available?
Look to Indiana for a guy like Jeff Foster. Foster has always been a great rebounder, especially on the offensive boards. Foster is a great team guy who will do all the intangibles which includes giving you great post defense and taking the occasional charge. Foster may not have an offensive game besides put backs but offense wouldn't be the need. If the Pacers get off to a horrible start, look for a guy like Foster to be moved.
Michael Ruffin was just recently waived by the Chicago Bulls. He is a player that could fit in well with the Celtics as he does a lot of what Jeff Foster does. Also, like Foster he possesses no offensive game but his rebounding and athletic ability could fit in well for 10-15 minutes a night. If he is not claimed he will stay on with the Bulls for the time being.
Now of course all of this is moot if the current bigs of the Celtics step up this year and grow into the role. It may sound like I don't respect guys like big baby Davis or Leon Powe, but that's not the case. I'm just throwing out some hypothetical situations. Why? Because hypotheticals are interesting to think about because they can sometimes come to fruition.
What is it going to take for this roster to have a legit shot at repeating?
Besides from quality contributions from the role players, there are some keys that the Celtics held there hat on last year to win the NBA title.
Defense-Doc Rivers knew what he was doing when he told Danny Ainge to bring in defensive guru Tom Thibodeau. The Celtics became a dominant defensive team by constant communication, a defensive style of physically wearing down your opponents, and of course having the eventual defensive player of the year Kevin Garnett. If the Celtics want to repeat, then they will have to make there money on this end of the floor.
Playing together(offense)-This philosophy made them a team that you had to respect from all angles on the floor. The Celtics are that championship team that when one of there players has an open shot, but thinks more of one of his teammates having a better shot, then the ball will undoubtably be passed. The selflessness is among only the great teams. If the Celtics are winning, odds are that everybody is getting involved.
Do the Celtics have a legitimate shot to repeat? Lots tend not to think so with the Lakers, or with the acquisitions the Cavaliers made. Let me hear your thoughts.