Author: Jeff Clark
Last Year’s Record: 33 – 49
Key Losses: Raef LaFrentz, Orien Greene
Key Additions: Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, Rajon Rondo
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
All the real action happened on draft day. The team traded away its only draft pick before the draft started, but somehow still managed to end up with 4 rookies on the training camp roster. The #7 pick, Dan Dickau, and Raef LaFrentz were traded to Portland for Sebasitan Telfair and Theo Ratliff. The Celtics got a talented point guard and saved one year of big money by swapping Raef’s contract for Theo’s. On draft night the team picked up Rajon Rondo for a future first rounder and Leon Powe in a cash deal. After the draft, they also added undrafted players Allen Ray and Kevin Pittsnogle.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The best players on the team play the swing positions (SG/SF), so that is obviously a strength.
Paul Pierce doesn’t get enough credit as one of the best all around players in the league. He’s not just the top scorer on this team; he’s also among the leaders in rebounds and assists, and has become a true leader. If the team around him can step up and help him deliver some wins, you could see his popularity skyrocket.
Wally Szczerbiak is coming off knee surgery but when healthy is good for 20 points a night. Delonte West stepped up his game as the team’s point guard last year, but expects to see more time at his natural shooting guard position in this his 3rd year.
There is also a lot of potential at the other positions. Telfair could be ready to turn the corner in his 3rd year at the point. Al Jefferson took care of some bone spurs and conditioning issues that plagued him last season and could be the PF of the future. Kendrick Perkins established himself as a solid defensive center and should be a rock in the middle for years.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
By far, the two biggest issues this team has are youth and defense.
All the talent and promise comes wrapped in inexperience. Gerald Green could be the next Tracy McGrady, but right now he’s usually lost on the court. Green, Telfair, Jefferson, and Perkins were all drafted straight out of high school and need time to develop. The team was also plagued with turnovers last year, which seems to be a direct result of the youth movement.
On the other hand, that youth is growing up. The only player with less than 2 years of experience that the Celtics will be relying heavily on is Ryan Gomes, and he played like a seasoned vet down the stretch. The youth excuse isn’t going to work much longer. It is time for these players to produce or be left behind.
This team has put points on the board but hasn’t proven that it can stop the other team from doing the same. Opposing guards were able to drive the lane and force the young big men into foul trouble. Players couldn’t trust their teammates to cover for them, so they tried to play too much individual defense. The coaching staff needs to work hard to implement a defensive strategy and the players need to work on fundamentals and buy into the team defense concept.
4. What are the goals for this team?
I’m sure that the stated goal will be to make the playoffs, but more than that this team needs to develop and evaluate the youth. A few players have the talent to be very special players and a number of others could be very solid. Of course the law of averages states that some of them will not pan out. Management needs to decide who will be the core group moving forward and who is expendable.
5. What else should people know about the Celtics?
Be ready for more changes. Management seems to be behind Coach Rivers, and they really haven’t given him a team that he would be expected to win with. However, the team hasn’t overachieved either and if they struggle this year, Doc is going to catch a lot of heat.
Also, GM Danny Ainge has made no secret of his desire to upgrade the roster using a couple of “tradable assets” to bring in an All Star calibre player to put beside Paul Pierce. Don’t be too surprised to see some of this youth dealt for a big name player sometime during the year.
Predicted Record: 42 – 40