Boston Celtics –

October 1, 2006

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


Boston Celtics – Celtics17

October 1, 2006

Website: Celtics17 & CelticsStuff Live
Author: Justin Poulin

Last Year’s Record: 33-49
Key Losses: Raef Lafrentz, Oriene Greene, Dan Dickau, and Michael Olowakandi.
Key Additions: Rajon Rondo, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, Kevin Pittsnogle, Allan Ray, Leon Powe, Brian Grant and Coaches Clifford Ray and Kevin Eastman.

Breaking Down The Offseason Moves
Once again the Celtics roster underwent many changes during the offseason. The biggest splash being a draft night trade (in case you weren’t paying attention) that sent defensively challenged point guard Dan Dickau, the sporadically hot handed Raef Lafrentz, and the Celtics #7 overall pick in the draft to Portland (netting the Trailblazers hometown phenom Brandon Roy). Boston received Rucker Park stud Sebastian Telfair, oft injured blocking machine Theo Ratliff, and Brian Grant’s salary with his well-known intention to retire. The Celtics also picked up Rajon Rondo and Leon Powe on draft night deals while signing undrafted free agents Allan Ray and Kevin Pittsnogle. Danny Ainge also chose not to pick up an option for a second year on lead-footed Orien Greene’s contract and he allowed Michael Olowantisanotherchance to become a free agent.

Sebastian Telfair is an immediate upgrade at point guard for this young team. While Delonte West did an admirable job manning the position last season his shooting percentage, range, and everyone’s favorite intangible – hustle – indicates that he is best suited to play away from the ball. For now that means West will come off the bench, but he’s one Wally Sczcerbiak injury away from starting and no more than 2 seasons from passing “Z” on the depth chart. Telfair should find himself in the starting role to begin the season, but there is an outside chance that Rajon Rondo could be hot on his heals. Rondo’s defense is reportedly superb and do not forget, even amongst all the turmoil of last season this team did not struggle with scoring but rather allowing too many easy buckets for their opponents. Just as it was last year the point guard position is up for grabs with Telfair garnering 4 to 1 odds of being the opening night starter.

Theo Ratliff was essentially swapped for Raef Lafrentz. While it seemed at first that the Celtics were benefiting most from the fact that Ratliff has one less year remaining on an almost identically bloated contract to Lafrentz’, Ratliff should mean so much more to the team this season. Theo fills a great need as a veteran presence and dominant shot blocker (when healthy) that is an upgrade over Raef if for no other reason than he can help teach toughness, rebounding and defense in the paint to the young bigs. That is something Raef Lafrentz could not do as well despite being the consummate professional during his time in Boston. If you need more convincing of just how much of an upgrade Ratliff is over Lafrentz, and it’s likely that you do not, the Celtics picked up undrafted free agent Kevin Pittsnogle to fill Lafrentz’ assigned role as the streaky perimeter shooting big man to spread the floor.

The Boston Celtics Are All About Development
One of the reasons the Celtics are notorious for overvaluing their own players is because they are truly committed to development. Trading away young prospects for marginal veterans or trading too many young prospects for an aging all star is out of the question because of the poor return on the investment. To be successful in this area you need to have a capable staff and they added coaches Clifford Ray and Kevin Eastman to help achieve their goals. Eastman is returning after a year long sabbatical with Nike and you may know Clifford Ray as the man brought in to mentor Dwight Howard in Orlando. Given that the Celtics have the youngest frontcourt rotation in the NBA the signing of Coach Ray in addition to acquiring Theo Ratliff was imperative for the team to make any major strides this season.

Biggest Misconception of the Offseason
The Celtics could have drafted Randy Foye rather than trading for Sebastian Telfair. While the Trailblazers drafted Foye with the pick they obtained from the Celtics, he was quickly swapped for Brandon Roy who had just been drafted by the Timberwolves with the 6th overall selection. The swap was done simply for a small fiscal savings that netted the Timberwolves a near negligible amount of cash in the difference between the salaries awarded to draft picks according to the rookie pay scale. Had the Celtics kept their own first round pick Minnesota would most certainly have selected Foye one pick ahead of them. This would have forced Danny Ainge to select Brandon Roy who has been described as a Paul Pierce clone and who also plays an overloaded position on the Celtics roster. Foye and Telfair will inevitably be unfairly compared throughout this season by Celtics fans that incorrectly believe that Danny Ainge had the choice to select Foye rather than trade for Telfair.

What Happened Last Year
Just about everything you can imagine. The roster has been in constant flux the past two seasons and that chaos has become the norm for Celtics fans and players alike. We become desensitized to the fact that there is no consistency to be found. Last season the Celtics were scoring at an outrageous clip to begin the season but it did not translate to wins because defense was lacking and the offense failed in the waning 4-6 minutes of every game. The only good news to come out of that period was the bad attitudes on the team were flushed out and subsequently dealt for Sczcerbiak and an expiring contract. Injuries plagued the team as well from the start of training camp and continued throughout the season. Tony Allen, Al Jefferson, and Marcus Banks were all lost to injury before the season began and Dan D’Achilles was not long after that. By the time Banks was healthy enough to pack his bags he was off to Minnesota. Jefferson and Perkins began playing well while Wally seemed to have re-energized the team, but then all three of them went down in a matter of weeks leading up to the all-star break. But at least Tony Allen was back on the court and playing point guard off the bench. OK – well at least Gomes got a chance to shine.

What Will Happen This Year
I can’t imagine things getting any worse than last season. They can truly only get better and that is not the Kool-Aid talking. While the Celtics youth need to gain the confidence to play a bigger role in the latter part of the game, savvy veterans have been added and, if used correctly, could have a significant impact on how well the Celtics finish games. Limiting Wally and Ratliff to a reasonable number of minutes per game so as to preserve them for a possible showing in the playoffs will also be crucial. Specifically, it would be wise to save the players’ minutes for the fourth quarter until the youngins prove they are willing and able to perform when it matters most.

The number one goal for every team in the NBA is to make the playoffs and that is no different for the Boston Celtics. Last season was a disappointment because the Green were not on the court in May, not even for an early first round exit. The Celtics are committed to development and a key part of development is gaining playoff experience – the earlier the better. This team must make the playoffs this season.

It’s All About Health
Ironically, injuries decimated the depth of the ’05-’06 Celtics and the bench was short after Danny Ainge was scrutinized for carrying too many players heading into training camp. The same holds true for this season, but Ainge is wise in his ways. If a player goes down in training camp he has a few options to fill out the roster accordingly.

The biggest concern for this team is their health. The list of potential casualties is long. Sczcerbiak, Ratliff, West, Allen, Jefferson, and Powe have question marks in this regard. At least 3 if not 4 of those 6 players are integral to the Celtics’ success this season. This team can make the playoffs while suffering through an injury or two, but if they want to make any noise in the playoffs (i.e. winning a single series) they will need all these players in good health. Sustained health will also lead to consistent rotations and enhance the chemistry of camaraderie that breeds success.

Predicted Record: 48-34
As I see it with my Kool-Aid Goggles on.

Boston Celtics – LOY’s Place

October 1, 2006

Website: LOY’s Place
Author: Loyalist

Last Years Record: 33-49
Key Losses: Ricky Davis,
Key Additions: Wally Szczerbiak, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
Ainge and Co. did the best they could this offseason. In fact, we really got something for nothing. It’s safe to say this is not a championship team…yet. But with Telfair and Wally we should have a backcourt that will razzle and dazzle us to the playoffs. The addition of Telfair provides us with a PG that we have not seen, dare I say *gulp*, since Kenny Anderson. Not comparing the two as we have not had a PG like Telfair since I can recall, maybe even ever.

Along with Telfair came packaged Theo Ratliffe. Theo would have been nice to have 6 years ago when he was at his peak. Unfortunately for us, we have Theo on the tail end of his career. All his numbers are down, but he is still and will be the best force to grace Boston in terms of hustle and rebounding in along time. I would think Theo and Perk will put us atop the rebounding and shot blocking. I hope.

The biggest moves we did were in the draft. I’m sure a lot of C’s fans were baffled by Ainge giving up our pick. But the chain of events led us to selecting Rojon, Powe, and Ray. All solid picks, however, I would be surprised if any made it All-Star. Role players is my projection, but solid role players nonetheless.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Right now I think we will be strongest in athletecism. We have young and hungry youths waiting to draw our awe. Offense will obviously most benefit from this. I will expect to see higher scoring numbers. Then, I feel rebounding/shotblocking will be the most improved. The addtion of Theo with Perk and Jefferson adds tons of beef and size. Powe and Ray also will get their share. This could be the biggest (most powerful) lineup we’ve had since the Big Three.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Some say we should have better defense now, but I am not so sure. Telfair is not The Glove or anything close and I am not expecting much from Green. However, with Perk, Theo, West, and Gomes, we should see better D than previous seasons. Also with addition of Rojon, we should at least have a defensive presence off the bench. Still I would think the better teams will be able to find a way to break us down due to the inexperience. Lets face it we have a ton of Rooks and 2nd, 3rd year players.

So, then, inexperience will be our other achillies.

4. What are the goals for this team?
I think our biggest goal this year should be our bigs, specifically Jefferson, making an impact on offense and defense. We will need to improve our record to at least .500 and to make the playoffs. These are things that are to be expected. Doc and even Ainge’s reputation are at stake. I mean we’ve all been waiting patiently now and we need to see a marked improvement in order to not become what the Bulls/Magic were/are.

The only other important goal will be to have a team that works as a team. I think some of this may be hard as we will need to break some selfish habits. Gerald for instance will need to play within a team or he may end up another Ricky Davis. All hops and no chops.

Predicted Record: 40-42