NBA Blogger Preview - Boston Celtics

This begins our annual NBA Blogger Preview series, where every team is represented by at least one blogger covering those teams.  Every day (during October) a new team will be previewed for the upcoming season.  Here's a complete list and schedule.   Enjoy. 

bos.gifBoston Celtics - CelticsBlog
Last Years Record: 66-16
Key Losses: James Posey, PJ Brown
Key Additions: Patrick O'Bryant, Darius Miles, JR Giddens, Billy Walker

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

poseyhugkg.jpgWe knew going into last year that James Posey took less money for a chance to win another title and thus earn himself a bigger paycheck.  Mission accomplished on all accounts and no regrets.  Posey will be a very valuable pickup for the Hornets for the next year or two, but beyond that I can't imagine that he'll be worth the paycheck he got from New Orleans. 

Some will argue that the future cost would have been worth paying to secure the short term window of opportunity that we have with this core group.  On the other hand, if we want to sustain the success this team has achieved as that core group grows older, we will very much need that cap flexibility in a couple of years.  For now, clearly no one player can step in and do everything James did for this team.  However, I believe that each of the younger players has the ability to learn and grow into bigger roles on this team to collectively fill the void.

In other news, Ainge filled out the roster by bringing in low cost, low risk, high upside guys.  Patrick O'Bryant was a bust in Golden State but gets a second chance here (and has been working with renowned big man guru Clifford Ray).  Darius Miles is trying to prove every doubter and doctor in the world wrong.  Giddens slipped a little in the draft for character concerns (but seems to have matured greatly).  Walker slipped a lot in the draft for injury concerns (but seems to be healthy and could be the steal of the year).

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?

kg-lakers.jpgDefense, defense, defense.  The thing about clichés is that they are often very true.  And defense certainly won the Championship last year.  It was a total buy-in from the top of the roster down, with Kevin Garnett setting the hyper-intense pace.  Paul Pierce played the best defense of his life (brilliantly stepping up on both ends in the Finals) and Ray Allen even learned to move his feet and trust his teammates. 

Rounding out the starting five were Rajon Rondo (quick hands, quicker feet) and Kendrick Perkins (roughneck anchor).  Posey will be missed but the team has high hopes for Tony Allen, Leon Powe, and the next generation of younger players.

On offense, the resumes of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett speak for themselves.  Rondo drives the bus and everyone else knows their role and plays their part well.

Of course the glue that holds everything together is the concept of Ubuntu (teamwork) that Doc Rivers got the team to buy into a year ago.  When everyone is working together (not just paying lip service to it, actually sacrificing self for the greater good), things tend to simply fall into place.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

Very little went wrong last year, so "weakness" is a relative term.  In truth, there are more potential weaknesses than glaring holes.  The bench was questioned last year but ended up becoming a significant strength.  This year's younger group faces the same types of questions and has the same kind of opportunity to prove its worth.  Specifically a lot of pressure falls on the untested shoulders of Patrick O'Bryant if Kendrick Perkins misses any significant time.

Scribes will point to the team's age as KG, Pierce, and Ray are all a year older.  But Doc has made a point of saying that he'll try to rest Paul and Ray more this year.  So the team may not keep that same breakneck pace that saw them steamroll through the regular season last year.  Of course then we start sounding like the Detroit Pistons, wondering if and when the team will be able to "turn it on" for the playoffs.  Then again, the Pistons don't have KG barking (litterally) at his teammates to step it up.  Bottom line is that if the veterans can stay healthy and well rested, age shouldn't catch up with them just yet.

4. What are the goals for this team?

Dynasty.  If they need motivation, all they have to do is look up.  The 17 Championship banners are both a salute to the storied history and a call to arms for the current generation.  The energy and emotion driving this team to win the first rings for KG, Pierce, and Ray now has to be rechanneled into adding this team to the list of all-time greats.

In a way, the age of the veterans once again becomes a bit of an asset.  They know that time is precious and every year is a cherished opportunity to add to their legacy in green.

5. What is the most underrated story going into this season?

Rondo1.jpgRajon Rondo taking yet another step forward.  At this point last year, we were handing over the keys of this superstar lineup to a largely untested 2nd year player.  Many around the league were skeptical, but most Celtics fans were confident in his ability to step it up.  And step up he did.  His defense was disruptive, his ball handling superb, and the offense simply ran better when he was in the game.

However, there were still times when he played inconsistent basketball.  He had to learn to look for his own shot.  He had trouble with some matchups.  He would follow up 3 great games with an ineffective one.  Nothing major.  He did better than anyone could have expected, but there was still room for improvement. 

Typically it takes point guards a couple years in the league to really "get it" and mature into their potential.  I see Rajon taking another big step forward this year, perhaps even forcing himself into the discussion for the All Star game.  He should be more consistent, which will raise his averages and more importantly raise the productivity of the team.

Just think about how good the team looked in games 1, 2, and 6 of the Finals and contrast that with the way the team struggled more when Rondo was limited by injury in the other games. Rondo is already a solid starter and a Champion.  This could be the year that he becomes a star.

Predicted Record: 59-23 

The East is getting better, so I feel like the bad teams will lose less and the good teams will win less, but the Celtics should still be good for the best record in the East.

More Celtics Blogger Previews: Green Bandwagon | LOY's Place | Red's Army | Celtics 24/7

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