Boston Celtics: Insider
While Green is likely being shopped, the remaining two years on his contract paying $18.36 million could be problematic. Green is having a good season for the Celtics, however he has not lived up to his contract or expectations as a leader. The Celtics will likely need to include one of their many future first round picks for some team to take Green.
Chris ForsbergMidseason check-in: All on board?
"Green has been exactly who he has been over the first six years of his NBA career, which is sort of the problem. Thrust into the spotlight with Rajon Rondo rehabbing and Boston's veterans departed, Green was supposed to flourish as the focal point of the offense. Instead, his per-36-minute numbers remain in line with his career averages, his scoring up a bit (17.1 points per game), but his field goal percentage down (42.9 percent). His defense has been better, but the Celtics are still waiting for Green to be the sort of offensive player they can lean on every night."
A snippet from Kevin Pelton: "When schedule is factored in, they've performed no better than the Sacramento Kings, who are 14th in the West at 8-18, and nobody would be considering an unexpected playoff run if Boston was in the other conference. Still, the Celtics have overachieved, especially considering that those projections factored in Rajon Rondo returning at some point. Without their star point guard, Boston has stayed competitive thanks to Brad Stevens molding an above-average defense out of a team lacking size and shot-blocking in the frontcourt."
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The good news, however, is that the added offense, especially from Terry, should take some of the strain off Garnett, Pierce and Rondo. The former two players struggle to create easy looks in one-on-one situations, and while Rondo can be a dynamite set-up man, his own inability to score makes it hard to use him as the focal point.
Thus, the likes of Terry, Lee, Sullinger and Green will add more options for Boston offensively, particularly when the second unit comes in. (Boston's bench was pitiful offensively last season.) There isn't a pure point guard in the bunch and that may cause some strains, but Boston is likely to improve on its 24th-place standing of last season … particularly if some of the new guys try for offensive boards.
Overall, then, Boston is poised to end up right back where it was last season. With no daunting power in the East beyond Miami, the race for the second position in the conference is there for the taking. I have the Celtics projected in a tight pack with several other teams, so they could easily finish as low as sixth or seventh or as high as second. But given their recent track record, nobody will count them out in the playoffs regardless of where they're seeded.
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Can the Celtics win the Eastern Conference next season? Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus examines that topic in an Insider profile of teams that could dethrone the Heat:
So the Celtics look like a much deeper team this season and they're younger, too. Boston projected to have an average age (weighted by projected minutes) under 30 for the first time since the 2008-09 season. They should be a bit more athletic and projected to be the top defensive team in the league. The key to closing the gap with Miami in a possible head-to-head meeting will be for Boston to keep the scoreboard turning on a consistent basis. While the Celtics project a little better on the offense, they still won't be an elite team on that end of the floor, or even average. Boston does not emphasize offensive rebounding in the least, which is one of the items holding back its offensive efficiency.
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Hop HERE to read the full mock, complete with Ford’s pick-by-pick analysis.
Hop HERE for ESPN Boston’s 2012 draft profiles.
Why they might shock Miami or Chicago: Well, we've seen this movie before -- Boston staggers through the regular season, gets its starters healthy for the playoffs and then gears up for a run. Amidst all the team's troubles, the Celtics' defense hasn't wavered (third in defensive efficiency), and their biggest weakness, the bench, will be much less of a factor when the starters play 40 minutes a night in the playoffs.
On the other hand ... They're just not that good. Boston is only 19th in the Power Rankings and has barely outscored its opponents while playing the league's third-eastiest schedule thus far. Also, the Celtics are out of bigs. With Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal done for the season, the Celtics' frontcourt "depth" consists of limited shot-blocker Greg Stiemsma and underachieving hothead Ryan Hollins.
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INSIDER: SHORT SEASON COULD AID FIVE
No active big man has logged more minutes on an NBA floor than this guy (only Jason Kidd has more). In fact, the second minute that Garnett plays next season will be No. 48,000 for his career, if we count both regular season and the playoffs. At 35, "The Kid" could use an extended vacation, and with the owners and players currently refusing to budge, he might very well get one.
He's less injury-prone than most think. If you could guarantee Boston fans before last season that Garnett would play more than 70 games in 2010-11, they'd take that in a second. Garnett played 71 games, not to mention another nine in the playoffs. Heck, Celtics fans might have even broken the bank for more than 60 games from their All-Star big man.
He looked physically overmatched against Chris Bosh (never a good sign) at the tail end of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but for a guy who's got that many miles on his odometer, it's hard to expect anything more.
The other players listed: Portland's Greg Oden, Chicago's Derrick Rose, free agent David West and old friend Kendrick Perkins. Writes Habestroh: "Although he's not known for posting big numbers, Perkins' 6.1 playoff PER was a far cry from his 16.4 rating during the Celtics' title campaign in 2008-09. If the lockout persists, he'll get plenty of time to get back to his less grumpy-looking self."
INSIDER: ABBREVIATED SEASON GOOD FOR SOME
Like Orlando, the Celtics benefit from having a strong defense. The second-best defense in the league last year has performed well for multiple straight seasons and should continue to do so even in a shortened season.
A short season could also give the weary bodies of Boston's Big Three a much-needed break. If the Celtics are going to make another championship run, they need all their players to be healthy. What does 30 fewer games mean? More than 1,000 minutes of game play where Kevin Garnett can't get hurt.
A hectic schedule with multiple games crammed into a tight time frame remains a concern, particularly considering how poorly the Celtics played in back-to-back games last season. Alas, we've also seen the Celtics stumble to the finish line in each of the past two seasons, so maybe lopping off 30 games wouldn't be a bad thing for Boston.
* Mock, Version 1.0: Chris Singleton, Florida State
* Mock, Version 2.0: Jordan Williams, Maryland
Celtics choosing Florida State's Chris Singleton, who leaped all the way to Utah at No. 12 in Mock 2.0. Williams only has one strength listed -- rebounding -- but that's something Boston clearly needs after the past two seasons.
Kevin Garnett is the only Celtics player to land on Hollinger's first team, earning the award at the power forward position.
The power forward crop doesn't overwhelm with top-tier candidates this year, but Garnett is a glaring exception. Even if his own numbers weren't off the charts -- for a team that's already great defensively -- one would have to consider KG for the way his manic intensity rubs off on the rest of the team. Throw in his renewed vigor after struggling with bad knees a year ago, and he's a no-brainer first-team pick.
Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo lands on the third team at point guard (Writes Hollinger: "It's hard leaving him out of the top two when he's the unquestioned top dog at this position when he's at the top of his game."), while Paul Pierce is third team at small forward (Writes Hollinger, "Pierce's offense gets all the press, but he may be the league's most underrated defender.")
Hollinger also gives a nod to Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels for their strong defensive play during the 2010-11 season.
--HOLLINGER: THE RACE FOR No. 2 IN THE EAST --
We were duped by Boston's second-half struggles a year ago, so we'll grab a few salt packets with this information, but the league's long-term history bears repeating: Coasting into the postseason hoping to "flip the switch" is a poor formula for playoff success.
Still, both Miami and Boston have a card left in their pockets that the Bulls do not: For both, the redistribution of playoff minutes from scrubs to starters should make them more potent foes than in the regular season. In Miami's case, this is abundantly obvious, as the Heat's top-heavy roster has been one of the season's most heavily discussed phenomena.
Boston? Arguably, the Celtics could benefit nearly as much. Consider this chart from basketballvalue.com. What you're seeing is Boston's plus-minus with various units on the court. At the top, notice that their most common units feature their four All-Stars with any warm-bodied big man; you'll see that regardless of whether it's Glen Davis, Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal or Ed O'Neill, the Celtics dramatically outscore the opposition with that group. Meanwhile, some commonly used Boston regular-season units that were trampled -- like "Robinson-Wafer-Daniels-Davis-Erden", for instance -- won't be seeing daylight this postseason.
All of which offers reasons for optimism for fans of each. Yet the big-picture takeaway from the Eastern Conference regular season is that both clubs may have too many fundamental flaws to beat the likes of the Bulls and Lakers in the postseason.
TRENDING PLAYER: RONDO'S DECLINING SHOOTING
As the Celtics prepare for the playoffs, their biggest concern has to be the performance of their point guard. Rajon Rondo, so crucial to Boston's offense, has struggled in March, contributing to a 5-5 stretch over the last 10 games. It is difficult to overstate just how much Rondo's shooting has been off lately. In terms of five-game averages, every combination of Rondo's past eight games has been worse -- often substantially so -- than any stretch over the season's first four and a half months.
The notion that Rondo has been a different player since the Celtics traded his close friend Kendrick Perkins is an appealing storyline, but not one that is supported by the numbers. Rondo played well going into March, including a 16-point, 15-assist effort against the Phoenix Suns on March 2. The reality is, Rondo's shooting woes truly surfaced on March 13, when he missed five of his six attempts. Since then, Rondo's field goal percentage is a dismal 29.2 percent.Insider GraphicSince Game 50, Rondo's shooting has taken a dive.
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Based on recent history, the Celtics' win streak will end in Indiana on Dec. 28. I say this not out of any great affinity for the Pacers but because of Boston's amazing pre-Christmas track record in the Kevin Garnett era and its rather ordinary post-Christmas performance.
In the four seasons since Garnett arrived, the Celtics are a ridiculous 91-15 (.858) in games on or before Christmas but a more pedestrian 106-57 (.650) afterward. Last season was their most extreme yet, as they ran their record to 23-5 after an impressive Christmas Day win in Orlando before limping home at 27-27.
The current win streak has been impressive. The Celtics began it with a 23-point beating of the Hawks in Atlanta -- a team that swept them 4-0 in last season's series -- and added double-digit wins at home over Denver and Chicago and a 31-point smackdown of Charlotte. Although there were a couple of narrow skate-bys -- at home against Portland and on the road in Philadelphia -- the Celtics' scoring margin has been plus-14.6 points per game. However, it has come against a fairly easy slate -- their opposition has a record of 101-127 (.443) when not playing Boston.
Like Miami, Boston has a schedule that could allow its streak to extend for quite a while. The Celtics have a back-to-back against New York and Atlanta this week -- not easy, but survivable -- and will visit Orlando on Christmas. If they get through those games, and if we put their post-Christmas history aside, their next tough test would be Jan. 5 in Boston against the Spurs. By then they'd be carrying a 20-game winning streak.
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