Summer Forecast: Focus on JET
August, 13, 2012
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesCeltics fans hope Jason Terry drives past opposing point guards next season.As this year's Summer Forecast series rolls into Week 2, we shift the focus to predictions on how some of the Celtics key players will perform next season. Call it Expectations Week (yeah, we know, not nearly as cool as Shark Week).
We tip it off with maybe the team's biggest offseason acquisition: Jason Terry. The 13-year veteran, inked for three seasons utilizing the full value of the midlevel exception, gracefully transitioned to a reserve role during his time in Dallas and thrived (averaging at least 15.1 points per game in each of those seasons and winning the league's sixth man award in 2009). Terry also brings eight seasons of playoff experience, playing a crucial role in the Mavericks' 2011 title run.
My expectations? Terry should emerge as the no-conscious bench scorer that the Celtics have so desperately craved since winning their own title in 2008. That's a bolder prediction than you might initially think. There's a pattern here where Boston has struggled to find offensive consistency off its bench. Each year, the preseason buzz is about how this is the reserve cast that finally pushes Boston over the top. And, invariably, the underproduction of the bench is pegged as one of the reasons for Boston's inability to achieve its ultimate goal in recent seasons.
The Celtics have tried all sorts of iterations, including last year when they went with characters over pure talent. Injuries didn't help matters as the team lost reserves like Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, and Jermaine O'Neal during the season, but there's renewed hope this offseason that Boston has cobbled together the sort of depth that might distinguish it from its chief rivals.
That confidence comes in large part from Terry, who oozes it.
Accepting that sixth man role takes a special breed, and Terry embraces it. While some come to Boston and walk on eggshells because of the presence of a veteran core, Terry won't be overwhelmed after his time in Dallas.
Let's face it, here's a guy that got a tattoo of the Celtics logo spinning the Larry O'Brien trophy this past weekend, and he hasn't even put on his new No. 4 jersey yet. This is almost certainly the JET's last flight and he seems pretty confident about his chances of adding some additional title hardware before his final descent.
There's a lot to like about his game beyond the obvious. He's a combo guard who can handle the ball (and create his own offense that way). That affords Boston the luxury of not having to carry a pure backup ball-handler, as the likes of Terry and Keyon Dooling can run the offense when Rondo's on the bench. His 3-point shooting should ease the loss of Ray Allen. And Terry is insanely durable, while the Celtics as a whole has been anything but over the last four years.
Read on for our panel predictions.
Greg Payne, ESPN Boston
I expect Terry to deliver something that's eluded Boston for the greater part of the last five seasons: bench consistency. Finally (finally!) the Celtics have someone who embraces and prides himself on the sixth-man role and, even if he isn't a spring chicken anymore, Terry won't have any trouble filling it up off the bench. He'll probably be more of a combo guard than anything, as I envision him bringing the ball up and scoring off the dribble, or dishing early in the offense and being set up for open looks later in the shot clock. He'll knock down a boatload of 3-pointers, and he'll be good enough in the clutch to make everyone miss Ray Allen that much less. But that's just on-the-court stuff. Off the floor, he'll be a veteran leader and a great voice in the locker room (he and Keyon Dooling need a radio show or a podcast or something). Having won a championship, he'll only add to the never-say-die attitude we've seen out of this group in recent seasons, particularly last year.
Brian Robb, CelticsHub
I expect offensive consistency and creativity off the bench. Both have been foreign concepts for the Celtics reserves over the past few seasons, as the team’s overall offensive output has steadily decreased largely due to a lack of serviceable production from the second unit. The arrival of Terry should change that. The former Maverick played the offensive-sparkplug role to perfection in Dallas, using his improvisation and shooting ability to average 15-plus points per game for the past six seasons. It’s a different supporting cast in Boston, but a revamped Celtics bench, anchored by Terry, should excel as a unit, before the sixth man joins the starters for crunch time most games. Additionally, I expect a full healthy season from the 6-foot-2 guard, who has missed a mere 28 games in his 13-year NBA career, bringing some reliability for Doc Rivers to turn to off the pine. Perhaps most importantly, though, Terry gives Doc another new option at the end of games now in isolation plays besides Paul Pierce. With this additional wrinkle, unpredictability should return to the C's offense late in contests for the first time in a long time.
Tom Westerholm, Celtics Town
One change that Celtics fans will notice with Terry will be in the type of cuts he utilizes to get open. The majority of Ray Allen's 3-point attempts came off long, elaborate cross-court movements involving several screens. Terry played differently, but still effectively, in Dallas. Where most of Allen's 3-point attempts were thought-out and premeditated, Terry's are often more of a sneak-attack. While a play develops and the ball-handler drives to the basket, Terry stands on the right wing and makes his way slowly to one side, lulling his defender into a false sense of security before taking two quick steps along the 3-point line and finding himself open. Rajon Rondo, with his driving skills and extremely high basketball IQ, is uniquely suited to this kind of trickery and should be able to capitalize on Terry's on-court spontaneity.
Your turn: What do you expect from Jason Terry this season? Sound off in the comments.