State of the Celtics

With the current state the Celtics are in, fans are left with an endless amount of questions. Does this team have the pieces to win under contract now? Will Avery Bradley cure what ails us? Is Bradley the only injured player that will greatly help his team? If they need to make a trade who is available and who would we have to give up? Why is this team so much worse than last year despite at least on paper upgrading? I will attempt to answer all these questions and more while taking stock of this team currently as well as projecting the future.

I. The Return of Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley is not known to everyone across the league in the way he should be. He made Ray Allen expendable, and played some of the best on the ball defense in the league last year. In 2011 the best line up the Celtics played with involved Bradley and not Ray Allen.

2011-2012 Bradley line ups



















2012-2013 most productive lineup

# Unit Min Off Def +/- W L Win%









The lineup stated above was the second most used line and the most productive. The 1.13 points per possession rating is .5 better than the most productive lineup this year. This lineup also happened to be .5 points per possession better on defense. I know this kind of sounds like meaningless numbers but it is actually very telling. The Celtics are, this year, averaging 93 possessions per game on offense and defense . Currently the number one lineup plays 24% of the teams minutes, meaning Bradley is playing around 22.3 possessions on offense and defense. If you multiply those numbers it is safe to assume Bradley will be good for about a 2.34 more points for the Celtics than their opponents per game. Essentially this means that with the addition of Bradley the first lineup will be over two points a game better. That might not seem like a huge number but it is. Last year in capturing the four seed the Celtics were 2.5 points per game better than their opponents. Bradley might not be the savior but he will help a lot.

II. The Return of Chris Wilcox

Bradley isn't the only player that will help when he returns from injury. Chris Wilcox was very good to end last year before being shut down with a heart ailment. This year before going down with a thumb injury he was playing 6 points per 100 possession better than last year. The Celtics were a .500 team with Wilcox healthy and were 2-4 without him. More importantly than how Wilcox played is the value above the player he is replacing. Wilcox should take over Jason Collin's minutes when Wilcox comes back. Collins has been statistically the Celtics worst rotation player this year. Every lineup he is in produces a negative output (give up more points than it scores). Below I will post the most prominent Wilcox lineup and the most prominent Collins line up.



















The Wilcox lineup is 18 points per 100 possessions better than the Collins line-up. Using the same method I used to project the return of Bradley to one lineup I will figure out Wilcox's impact (in just this line up). Wilcox, adds .8 points per game just from that lineup. So between Bradley and Wilcox coming back we should see an increase of 3.3 points per game just from their addition into the two lineups above. These 3.3 points might not matter when they are getting blown out by Sacramento but as the team becomes healthy, these points will surely translate to wins.

III. Reason for Optimism: Growth

If a positive can be pointed to regarding the games since Christmas it is the improved play of Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green. Now rebounding has always been a problem for the Celtics and despite their poor play recently Green and Sullinger are making steps towards solving it. During the month of December Jared Sullinger has grabbed 1.1 more per game despite play a minute less than in November. Green has pulled down 1.4 more rebounds a game and 2.7 more points since the previous month.

These might not be ground breaking stats but they are very important ones. It is not just the increased rebounding but the story the increased rebounding tells. Jeff Green has always been an athletic specimen but his lackadaisical style leaves something to be desired. Kevin Garnett calls him Bruce Banner because when a switch goes off he plays strong and becomes a force (Bruce Banner is the alter ego of the Hulk for any non nerds out there). Green increasing his rebounding means that he is playing with the energy it takes for him to eventually become a great player. It must be understood that Green is coming back from open heart surgery so it will take time for him to play at 100%, but small improvements during the season point to a large improvement by season's end

Eventually the Celtics will defend like they did in past years (my guess would be Tuesday when Bradley comes back). When this time comes they will need to make sure they secure the defensive possessions with rebounds. The recent improvement of Green and Sullinger will go a long way towards this end.

IV. Trade Talk

This team is currently in tailspin. As fans one of our coping mechanisms is improving our team via fake trades we make up. Celtics fans are no different, myself included. It is abundantly clear to anyone with eyes that the Celtics need an upgrade at Center (a large upgrade at power forward could also do). Their defense becomes porous as soon as Garnett exits the game. The team desperately needs a big to come in and make sure the team doesn't immediately deflate with KG out.

Luckily for fans there are a lot of big men being rumored as available so far. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are targets because they are in the last year of their contracts on a team that is struggling mightily. Marcin Gortat is available because Phoenix is a sinking ship that needs exciting prospects to have a chance at being kept afloat in the future. Cleveland is considering moving Anderson Varejao for the same reason as Gortat. DeMarcus Cousins is rumored in trades because he has done nothing but scream at coaches since he started playing basketball. Kevin Love has been unhappy with the direction the Timberwolves have been headed, the question is would Minnesota trade him? Last on the Celtics assumed wish list is Samuel Dalembert who has become useless with the emergence of Larry Sanders.

The question now remains who are you willing to give up for these players? Do they part with Bradley, Sully, Melo, Green or Bass in an effort to win now? Or do they think about moving Garnett or Pierce to go with the youth movement. This can be solved by looking at the make up of the team and it's future.

IV. Make-Up/Future

The Celtics are a young team. They just happen to be a young team with older veterans as two of their top three players. With your superstars probably only having two more years in them does it make sense to acquire veterans to make a run now? Or would it be better to take the nucleus you currently have and develop them?

Boston is a team in transition from the old to the young. Players like Rondo, Bradley, Sullinger, Green, Lee and Bass mark players that could lead the C's into the future. Risking to trade some of them for a win now player to appease KG and Pierce could set the Celtics back long term. If they are to make a deal they need it to be one that makes them better not just this year but for the future. With such a young team the best course of action with regards to the future is to keep the young players they have and allow them to grow.

V. Conclusion

Right now the Celtics need to wait for Bradley and Wilcox to come back in order to see the team fully amassed at full strength. They need to give Green a chance to come back from heart surgery and Sullinger a chance to develop as a 20 year old. While Trading some young players now in order to win and satisfy the fans the Celtics could doom themselves for the future. It is for this reason that I believe the Celtics should stand firm where they are, setting themselves up to make a second half run similar to that of last year. Despite the horrendous basketball I am currently witnessing I still believe in this team and their ability to improve quickly.

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