1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
Injuries left the Celtics frontcourt paper thin (insert your own Big Baby joke here). So they went out and snagged the best big man the MLE could buy in Rasheed Wallace. His defense and outside shooting fit perfectly into Doc Rivers' system. Playing with Kevin, Paul, and Ray should be enough to rekindle the passion for Sheed. The C's will take the technicals as long as they are accompanied by clutch buckets and hard nosed team defense. The kind of stuff that was missing since the departure of James Posey.
Another missing element was a reliable wing backup. Tony Allen and last year's rookies were too inconsistent to provide much support so Doc was forced to rely heavily on Paul and Ray. Enter Marquis Daniels, who gives the team a versatile slasher who can actually help out with bringing the ball up the court from the point forward position. That would allow Eddie House to pick up point guards on defense and focus on his forte of catching and shooting on offense.
Despite several rumors surrounding Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen (in the last year of his contract), the only action on draft night was picking Lester Hudson with the 58th overall pick. Ray has since expressed his desire to sign a contract extension and the team has indicated that they will speak with Rondo about an extension of his own.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Lets see here: Defense, talent, intensity, cohesion, experience, hunger, focus, (and for lack of a more sophisticated term) all around awesomeness... the list goes on. Excuse me while I gush, but this team is stacked. The Big 3 is still here and assuming good health, they will once again set the pace. Rondo, Perkins, and Big Baby all stepped up into larger roles last year. Add Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels to the mix and sprinkle in Eddie House's shooting and you've got one potent rotation.
Defense always comes first on this team, and that's perhaps the biggest reason why they are among the elite. Imagine a point guard using all his quickness and strength to get past Rondo, only to find himself staring up at 4 long arms waving frantically in his face while expletives and guttural yells reign down on him. Meanwhile, he just got pickpocketed by Marquis Daniels sneaking over from the weak side to help. Rondo's already streaking up the floor with the ball before the guy knows what happened. Can you tell I'm ready for this season to start?
Last point: Getting superstar players all on the same page and buying into the team-first mentality isn't something to take for granted. Many give lip service to the concept, but few are able to truly live it out. The core of this team saw the result of walking the team ego walk when they won the title two years ago. They know it works. They will lead by example and the rest of the team will once again fall in line. The big name free agent that they brought in is a faithful believer in this concept. He won't just fit in, he'll feel like he's home.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Mortality. Nobody can stop KG but his knee. Nobody can check Paul Pierce when he's full speed. Nobody is more clutch than Ray Allen when he's healthy. Nobody is getting an easy bucket when Perkins' shoulder is in its socket. The problem is that nobody knows when any of these guys is going to hit the other side of the hill. All great players see their careers come to an end. Some burn out and some fade away. All you can do is hope that the magic lasts long enough for this group to get another title or two. Anything is possible when the Celtics are healthy.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Another banner. Nothing else matters.
This summer the rich got richer and the poor got cap room. So with few exceptions, the Celtics have to hope that they are stacked enough to overcome other stacked teams. The Lakers, Spurs, and Cavs will all set the bar high. The Celtics just have to stay healthy and be ready to knock them all down in the playoffs.
5. Aside from KG's knee, what could have the biggest influence on the upcoming season?
Once again, Rondo taking the next step forward. Looking back at last year's preview, Rondo's next step was my "underrated story" of the season. He certainly lived up to my expectations. I fully expect him to do so again. He has shown us extended flashes of everything you would want out of a point guard (aside from a jump shot). All he needs to do is gain some consistency. If he didn't improve any aspect of his game but managed to have his A or B game every time out, he would be an All Star. Yet he's worked on his body and on his shot this summer. If he can show teams that he can hit that midrange jumper, they won't know what to do with him anymore. Everything is rightfully focused on the present with this team, but Rondo is both the present and the future.
Bonus Prediction: This will be one of the most hated teams (by other fans) in recent memory. I plan on writing about this more soon.
Predicted Record: 60 - 22