Boston Celtics: ESPN Insider

Insider: KG the playoff MVP

May, 12, 2012
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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireKevin Garnett's stat line in Game 6 included 28 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks.
ESPN Insider makes the case for Kevin Garnett as MVP of the postseason thus far Insider. A taste from ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh:
The more we look at the numbers, the Celtics' battered state of affairs and his overall contributions, a case can be made that he has been the most irreplaceable player in the postseason.

Need proof? Consult the scoreboard.

With Garnett on the floor during the postseason so far, here is the score:

Boston 428, opponent 354. That's a margin of plus-74.

That's impressive enough as it is, but there's more. This is what the score looks like when Garnett has sat on the bench this postseason:

Boston 93, opponent 139. A margin of minus-46.

That's a staggering 120-point swing on the scoreboard in a six-game span. We can frame this in more relatable terms. With Garnett on the floor, the Celtics crushed the Hawks by 16.1 points every 100 possessions. But when Garnett rode the pine, the Celtics got trounced by 33.8 points every 100 possessions. Yes, the 49.9-point swing is largest in the playoffs, once we control for playing time and pace.

So why has Garnett been so vital to the Celtics success so far?

First, consider the alternative. The Celtics' depth behind Garnett is thinner than a Larry Hughes-for-MVP argument. The Celtics' frontline has been decimated by injuries to the point that they're calling on Ryan Hollins -- a player the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers saw no use for, mind you -- for big crunch-time minutes. The Cleveland castoff has shot 25 percent in the playoffs and can't help himself from constantly hawking for blocks in the paint. If Garnett can't play for whatever reason, Hollins is the big man the Celtics must rely on. That's frightening.

Hop HERE Insider to read the full story.

C for C's? Ford grades offseason

December, 19, 2011
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ESPN's Chad Ford assigns grades for every NBA team's offseasonInsider and you won't find the Celtics at the head of his class:

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/7366912/nba-2011-offseason-grades-every-team
So it will surprise absolutely nobody to find out that advanced metrics suggest the Boston Celtics were one of the worst teams in the league on the second night of back-to-backs last year. In fact, the only surprise might be that the Celtics were not the worst team in the league when comparing numbers after rest to numbers on the second night of a back-to-back.

INSIDER: MEN AT WORK, REST Insider

Boston landed at No. 3 in net rating differential behind only the Nuggets and Pacers:

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/6932841/nba-analyzing-impact-minutes-played-importance-rest

And more bad news for Boston. The player with the biggest drop-off in field goal percentage on the second night of back-to-backs compared to his stats after rest? Jeff Green. Not what you want to see from a 25-year-old player:

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/6932841/nba-analyzing-impact-minutes-played-importance-rest

Not to be the bearer of more bad news, but the 1998-99 shortened season featured back-to-back-to-backs. All the more reason to hope this lockout ends soon and the season starts on time in November.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesDoes Boston have to start preparing for a future without its Big Three of Pierce, KG and Allen.
ESPN Insider examined what would happen if five teams decided to start over by making seismic personnel shifts before the 2012-13 season, including the Boston Celtics. Here's a glimpse at one man's plan from Basketball Prospectus' Kevin Pelton:

ESPN INSIDER: A REBUILDING PLAN FOR THE C'S Insider
Step 1: Hold the line this offseason
The biggest challenge for Ainge will be filling out a roster for 2011-12, assuming there is a season, without compromising flexibility the following summer. Ideally, Boston would bring back its own free agents, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Jeff Green, on one-year contracts -- even if it means paying a little more for this season. That allows the Celtics to be competitive while staying with their 2012 plan.

Step 2: Deal for Al Jefferson
What more fitting replacement for Garnett could there be than the centerpiece of the package Boston sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves to get KG? In the Summer of 2012, Jefferson will enter the final year of a contract that pays him $15 million. With the Utah Jazz adding young big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Jefferson's salary could make him expendable. The Celtics could take Jefferson into their cap space while offering the Jazz some trinkets in return. Jefferson would give Boston a post scorer capable of drawing double-teams, and the Celtics would be able to give him more help defensively than he got in Utah.

Hop HERE Insider to read the full story.

Forsberg's thoughts: Keep in mind, this exercise is done with the idea that Boston blows up its roster. There's no guarantee that happens and aging stars like Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett could always be brought back at reduced rates. Given the lockout, it's at least something to ponder while we wait for real basketball to return.
ESPN Insider examined the payroll situations for every NBA team this offseason and suggested that the likes of the Celtics, Lakers, Magic, and Mavericks are likely to endure the greatest roster inflexibility this summer (or whenever the offseason officially takes place). Here's a glimpse at their Boston breakdown:

BOSTON CELTICS

6 players under contract: Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo
Total payroll: $64.37 million
1 waived player: Rasheed Wallace
Total: $491,109
1 free-agent cap hold: Jeff Green
Total: $13,367,964 (300 percent previous salary)
1 first-round cap hold: JaJuan Johnson (No. 27)
Total: $895,700 (rookie scale)
Other: 3 minimum roster charges
Total: $1,470,540
Estimated over the cap: $22.56 million
Notes: The Celtics already have about $64.86 million on the books for next season with just six players under contract plus Wallace's buyout. They can get to eight signed players by agreeing to deals with their first-round pick, Johnson, and restricted free agent Green. They can also bring back Glen Davis. However, it seems that both sides want to part ways. The rest of the squad will be signed to minimum contracts if the new collective bargaining agreement eliminates the midlevel and million-dollar exceptions. They can also bring back a player who makes no more than $2.488 million by using the trade exception from Marquis Daniels. In terms of dollars and roster parity, this is a top-heavy situation.

* Forsberg's thoughts: Don't immediately dismiss the idea of Davis being back in Boston. While the Celtics don't want to impede the cap flexibility they are scheduled to enjoy after the 2011-12 season (when the likes of Garnett, Allen, and O'Neal will come off the books), a short-term, reasonable-money deal for Davis isn't out of the question. Boston also boasts full Bird Rights to Davis, which means they can pay him up to a maximum contract or use that leverage to explore the idea of a sign-and-trade deal (maybe netting a veteran with an expiring contract in return). Yes, any such move will add even more money to what Boston is already committed to spend, but if it helps keep the team competitive in what's almost certainly the final year of the Big Three, it might be worth it (particularly any one-year deal that maintains cap flexibility next offseason). The Celtics spent $76.2 million last season, zipping past the luxury tax threshold ($70 million) and will need to pay dollar for dollar for going over the cap. On the surface, the Celtics might not have much flexibility this offseason, but there are moves the deep-pocketed team can make to remain a championship contender.

Davis: A best buy in free agency?

June, 25, 2011
6/25/11
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Nick Laham/Getty ImagesOften maligned as a non-starter, Glen Davis could be a big help to a lot of teams.
Even with an impending lockout that might delay the start of free agency this summer, ESPN Insider began taking a look at the players that will be available this offseason and identified some of the best and worst values:

Best Buys: Davis tops the list Insider


Scouts Inc.'s David Thorpe looks at free agents-to-be that he considers potential bargains this offseason, producing beyond what their perceived value. Celtics forward/center Glen Davis top that list:
Davis embodies an accomplished role player with excellent career numbers, in terms of wins and big plays made in important games. He's considered a good locker room guy, easy to get along with and open to coaching from the staff and veteran players. Now that he's a respected vet himself and has played in dozens of tense playoff games despite being just 25, teams needing "glue guys" will target Davis as someone who can do more than just play a role. He brings all those "war" stories with him, not to mention a vast knowledge of how to play elite-level team defense.
 

Buyer Beware: Has Green peaked? Insider


Which players could be risky signings this summer? Basketball Prospectus' Kevin Pelton identifies five who might be overvalued:
Still a couple of years from reaching his peak, Green should be an ideal alternative to the fading veterans so common in free agency. Yet instead of getting better during his mid-20s, Green has stagnated or even gone backward in his development. His flaws were spotlighted after he was dealt to Boston by the Oklahoma City Thunder at midseason in a deal unpopular among Celtics fans. Green failed to win over the skeptics with his performance and was largely a nonfactor during the postseason. Green was more or less the same player in Boston he was in Oklahoma City, but the bigger stage exposed a national audience to the shortcomings that led the Thunder to deem him expendable. It also dispelled the notion that Green's issue was playing out of position as a power forward for Oklahoma City. Green played both forward positions with the Celtics, and as a small forward, his poor outside shooting tended to shrink the floor on offense. The danger is that Boston invested so much in Green that the front office will feel the need to re-sign him as a restricted free agent.
 
Davis and Green will define how Boston's offseason plays out. With full Bird Rights to both players, the Celtics can use deep pockets to retain the services of both players despite being over the salary cap. The question is what is Boston willing to pay and what will the market dictate for the price tag of both players?

Davis stumbled late last season, but he's still a big man who was a Sixth Man candidate for much of the year with inspired play at both ends. He earned $3 million last season, but would seem to be in line for a healthy raise. He'd probably also be looking for long-term security, having had to deal with offseason uncertainty every two years to start his career. Even if the Celtics decide a clean break is necessary, it might behoove the team to work a sign-and-trade deal, where they can use their rights to ink him at a higher salary than what another team might be able to offer given salary cap restraints, and then flip him for, say, a veteran with an expiring contract. Of course, as an unrestricted free agent, Davis isn't under any obligation to do that.

The Celtics continue to stress that they believe Green will thrive next season with a full training camp under his belt and increased minutes. Before June 30, Boston will almost certainly extend a qualifying offer ($5.9 million) and the market will dictate what happens from there. As a restricted free agent, other teams can attempt to lure him away, but Boston will have the ability to match all deals. Ultimately, it might be in Boston's best interest to ink him to a one-year deal, which would maintain the salary flexibility next season and allow the team to decide then whether they wish to ink him to a long-term deal (the danger there is that he'll be an unrestricted free agent and the potential for another team to lure him away would be greater).

What's your take, armchair general managers? Do you want to see the Celtics re-sign both players with eyes towards being as competitive as possible this season? Is it time for a break with Davis? Would you lock up Green long term now? Obviously, a lot of this hinges on the new collective bargaining agreement, but sound off with your thoughts in the comments.
NBAE/Getty ImagesThe East's top three seeds have room to improve during the offseason.
ESPN Insider's Tom Haberstroh examined the biggest needs for the East's playoff squads Insider. Here's a glimpse at the Celtics recommendations:
BOSTON CELTICS
Statistical weakness: Offensive rebounding (30th) and turnovers (28th)
Weakest position: C

The key for the Celtics this offseason is to not overreact. They don't need to blow it up. They don't need to press the rebuild button. The truth is that the elbow injury to Rajon Rondo couldn't have come at a worse time. Sure, the C's were disposed of in five games at the hands of the Miami Heat, but they're closer to title contention than it seems.

With four All-Stars in the fold, the Celtics find themselves in a stronger position heading into 2011-12 than almost every team in the NBA. If they can sharpen the periphery, they'll be right back in the mix for the East crown -- at the very least. Jermaine O'Neal will be back for another go-around, but they desperately need someone who can rebound. For reference, Matt Barnes posted a better rebound rate than O'Neal last season. The Celtics will likely join New York and Miami, among others, in competing for the services of [Samuel] Dalembert at the 5.

Hop HERE Insider to read more.

Insider: C's are in trouble?

April, 26, 2011
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Austin Link of TeamRankings.com, which produces a range of data-driven NBA playoffs predictions and contributes other predictive-oriented content for ESPN Insider, suggests that the Celtics are in trouble moving into the next round of the postseason. And if that doesn't get Celtics' fans in a lather, Insider also examines the impact Kendrick Perkins is having in Oklahoma City:

Insider: Garnett vs. Bosh

April, 10, 2011
4/10/11
12:00
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Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Garnett and Chris Bosh are two of the top power forwards in the game.
Each week, ESPN Insider Insider breaks down one of the week's key matchups. This time around: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh before Sunday's showdown on South Beach:
You just can't win in this league without a great power forward. Particularly one who can fill the stat sheet across the board and perfectly complement the superstars playing next to him. The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat have no such worries with Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh on the floor.

Garnett is the emotional anchor of Boston's Big Three while Bosh is the unsung third wheel in Miami's triumvirate. Their roles vary, but both will play vital roles in their respective teams' championship chase. While Garnett is putting the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career, Bosh has become one of the league's more maligned players despite posting stellar numbers alongside two superstars who often have the ball in their hands.

They're both charged with providing their respective teams with scoring, muscle, and leadership, but who does it better?

ESPN the Magazine's Chris Palmer gives the Bosh the edge on key strength (shooting touch), secret skill (ambidexterity), while Garnett earns the edge in weakness (durability) and intangibles (intimidation). The winner? No need to toss your keyboards out the window this time, Celtics fans.

As an added bonus, check out the Player POV, which includes commentary from two former Celtics: Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson. Here's Perk on old friend KG:
"KG is one of the toughest guys to play because his intensity never lets up. He's one of the true competitors to ever play the game. He goes hard against guys and a lot of them can't deal with it. He's the best at that. As an opponent you don't get to see the other side of him, but he's a great teammate, somebody that's going to have your back and you always like to be out on the floor with a guy like that. His emotion and focus carries over to the people around him, until you have the whole team on the same page. It's very hard to beat a team like that. That's what KG does. In the locker room and on the floor, you're lucky if he's on your team."

Click HERE Insider to read the full breakdown.
US PresswireThe better point guard: Deron Williams or Rajon Rondo?
Who's the better point guard: Rajon Rondo or Monday's foe, the Nets' Deron Williams? ESPN Insider breaks it down:

--WHO'S BETTER: RONDO OR WILLIAMS?Insider--
Point guard is the deepest position in the NBA. Never before have there been so many quality floor generals in both conferences, and never before has the debate raged this fiercely about who among them is the best. Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo's styles are at the opposite end of the lead guard spectrum. The once maligned Rondo has become the Boston Celtics' most valuable player, and Deron Williams toggles between potentially the best point guard in the league and the guy who never gets enough credit. Now they occupy the same division, so there's no better time for them to square off in our weekly matchup. It's D-Will's power and speed against Rondo's cunning and unselfishness.

ESPN the Magazine's Chris Palmer breaks the matchup down in four categories, with Rondo earning advantages in key strength (basketball IQ) and secret skill (creative passing). But the overall winner? Palmer gives the nod to Williams.

Not adding up

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
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Elsa/Getty ImagesEven with a healthy Garnett, it is going to be difficult for the Celtics to keep up their hot shooting pace.
Even more daunting than Kevin Garnett's injury is the law of averages. The Celts' number is up, writes John HollingerInsider:
Kevin Garnett's health is obviously first and foremost on the minds of Boston Celtics fans right now. It goes without saying that a long-term injury to the superstar power forward would be devastating to the Celtics' title hopes.

But a more insidious foe also might be a factor for them in the final two-thirds of the season: the law of averages. Statistically, it will be very difficult for Boston to maintain its offensive performance, even allowing for the fact that it has been short-handed on several nights.

It's an odd conclusion to reach because Boston isn't primarily an offensive team; the Celtics are only 10th in offensive efficiency. It's their top-ranked defense that has carried the mail for them in their torrid 24-6 start.

Nonetheless, the offense perhaps bears greater scrutiny as we test whether the Celtics' play can continue throughout the season's final 52 games because, in one respect, Boston has been flukishly amazing.

Let's start at the top. The Celtics are one of the league's most unusual offensive teams: They take fewer shots than nearly everyone else, and they make a higher percentage of them than everyone else. In fact, their field goal percentage of 50.2 is more than 2 percentage points higher than that of any other team this season; what's more, it's the second-best shooting percentage of the past decade.

On the flip side, although the Celtics have lowered the obscenely high turnover rate of seasons past, their lack of second shots remains phenomenal. Despite enviable size, Boston ranks last in offensive rebound rate. The Celtics claim only 21.0 percent of their missed shots, and, as a result, only the woebegone Charlotte Bobcats attempt fewer shots per possessions. (I define "shots" here to include free throw attempts.)

That's just par for the course so far; Boston was last in the NBA in shots per possession last season.

Click HEREInsider to read the full story.

Ford grades the East

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
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Getty Images, US Presswire, Getty ImagesHow did the C's do this offseason? Chad Ford grades the East.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford checks in with grades for each team in the Eastern ConferenceInsider based on offseason maneuvering and Boston lands below the upper crust. From Ford:
Key additions: Paul Pierce (re-signed), Ray Allen (re-signed), Shaquille O'Neal (FA), Jermaine O'Neal (FA), Nate Robinson (re-signed), Avery Bradley (draft)

Key subtractions: Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Tom Thibodeau

After an injury-plagued, so-so regular season, the Celtics got healthy and caught fire in the playoffs -- making their second NBA Finals appearance in the past three seasons. Had Kendrick Perkins not gone down with a season-ending injury, the Celtics may have won the title. The question now: How much gas does this team have left in the tank?

Danny Ainge wrestled with that question. Was it time to blow up the team and rebuild, or should he bring the principals back for another two-year window? Ainge chose the latter. He got Doc Rivers to re-up, and re-signed veterans Pierce (four years, $50 million) and Ray Allen (two years, $20 million) to big deals.

He also brought in two veteran bigs to fill in for Perkins and a retiring Rasheed Wallace. Both Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal's best days are behind them, but Ainge is hoping that together they can help hold down the paint for the next two years.

Did Ainge do the right thing? If the Celtics can make another deep run or two, he probably chose wisely. But if we saw the last gasp of the Celtics this past spring or if the Heat just steamroll everyone this season, then Ainge and the Celtics missed a critical chance to rebuild while they had the cap space to do it.

Grade: B-

Click HEREInsider to read the full report card.

Ford's top spots went like this: 1. Miami, 2. Washington, 3. Indiana, 4. Chicago, 5. New York. While it's hard to argue against the Heat, we continue to think the moves that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made -- particularly given the restraints of the salary cap -- were shrewd and deserve more credit than they might be getting. While it's easy to simply assume the Celtics were going to bring back Pierce and Allen, it's not like either was a slam dunk (OK, maybe Pierce). If those two bolted for greener pastures, Boston's offseason plays out completely different than how it did, particularly in Ainge's ability to lure low-risk, high-reward players like Shaq and Delonte West at the veteran's minimum.

(h/t: CelticsHub)

Going gets tough...

May, 1, 2010
5/01/10
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Kelvin Ma/Icon SMIIt's always tough going for Rajon Rondo at the rim against the Cavs.
Tom Haberstroh, an ESPN Insider contributor and HoopData.com analyst, analyzed the Celtics' inside scoring against quality opponents Insider and found some eyebrow-raising stats:
It's time to throw away regular-season records and the mythical sense of momentum. These things do not matter in the NBA playoffs. In the postseason, it's all about matchups and, in a first-to-four format, the team that exposes its opponent's weaknesses and successfully hides its own will conquer and advance. So the Boston Celtics had better hope the Cleveland Cavaliers' coaching staff has not discovered the secret that has plagued Boston all year: It can't score inside matched up against top post defenses.

Looking at statistics about the Celtics' inside game, courtesy of HoopData.com, you'll find that they finish at the basket better than just about everybody in the NBA. A 64.4 field goal percentage on shots at the rim (layups, dunks and tip-ins) places the Celtics second in the NBA -- just behind their second-round opponent. But while Boston's overall numbers look dominant on the surface, a closer inspection reveals an opportunistic post game that could spell its demise against top foes.

Evidently, when the going gets tough, the Celtics get intimidated. Just as you wouldn't call Jason Campbell a great passer after throwing for 340 yards against the Lions' lousy D last season, you have to weigh NBA stats for strength of opponent, too. So, after grouping the top 10 teams in lowest opponent at-rim field goal percentage, we find that the Celtics shoot 58.3 percent, whereas the rest of the NBA shoots a comparable 58.5 percent (and that includes the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves). All of a sudden, the elite Boston inside game looks decisively average. Turns out, the Celtics just feasted on weak interior defenses, hitting 67.4 percent of their at-rim attempts against the 20 worst defensive teams in that category.

Stats don't lie. Check out the breakdown:

Celtics starters at-rim FG%

Player vs. Good vs. Avg vs. Poor Total
Kendrick Perkins .740 .723 .782 .747
Paul Pierce .544 .742 .636 .640
Rajon Rondo .580 .671 .685 .642
Ray Allen .644 .644 .800 .678
Kevin Garnett .600 .691 .672 .652

Click HERE Insider to read the full story.

(h/t: CelticsHub)

Bucher: C's to conference finals

April, 16, 2010
4/16/10
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Getty ImagesTwo teams that could surprise? Ric Bucher picks the Celtics, while Chris Broussard takes the Suns.
In their weekly One-on-One series Insider, ESPN's Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard debate potential playoff surprises, with Bucher seeing a potential playoff run by Boston. Here's the opening exchange:
Bucher: When we first discussed debating who the surprise team of the playoffs would be, I figured the most difficult part would be choosing from a half-dozen or so options. Did I want to go with a playoff newcomer (as in, OKC or Charlotte) that seems poised to pull off a first-round upset? Or did I want to go with a coming-on-strong team (as in, San Antonio or Portland) to reach the conference finals? I decided to go the other way and pick the team whose staunchest fan, The Sports Guy, already has given them up for dead. I'm saying the Boston Celtics are going to be in the Eastern Conference finals.

Broussard: You are certainly going out on a limb, my man, because I don't see any way Boston gets by Cleveland in the second round (assuming the Cavs beat the Bulls in Round 1). I like Charlotte, but the Bobcats won't beat Orlando in the first round. I thought about picking Miami to get to the second round, but that wouldn't be earth-shattering. So I'll take it out West and say Phoenix will stun us all and reach the conference finals.

Click HERE Insider to read the full conversation.

(h/t: CelticsBlog)

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Isaiah Thomas
PTS AST STL MIN
19.7 5.0 0.6 26.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsE. Turner 5.1
StealsM. Smart 1.4
BlocksT. Zeller 0.7