The Celtics Are Soft In The Middle

There's no secret that the Celtics have shortcomings in the paint. In particular the center spot, which is pretty much just the oft-injured Jermaine O'Neal, converted power forward Chris Wilcox, Kevin Garnett (playing out of position and floating on the perimeter anyway) and rookie D-League graduate Greg Stiemsma.

So far that group isn't getting the job done. Never was that more apparent than when Anderson Varejao exploded for 20 points and 20 rebounds against us (after having a very good game against us earlier in the week). Here's what Jermaine had to say about that.

Truth is, Doc Rivers got over spat - BostonHerald.com

"I got a little winded out there," O’Neal said. "It took me a couple of minutes to get my legs going. I couldn’t make multiple efforts. I’m probably the reason (Anderson) Varejao got hot. I gave him a couple of uncontested shots. But, all in all, it’s a process." Varejao hit three jumpers for Cleveland’s first six points, finishing with 20 (and 20 rebounds). But O’Neal got free inside for three dunks in the third quarter.

You want stats? Here's some good stats from WEEI Greenstreet:

Meanwhile, Celtics centers rank 24th in the league in rebounds per game (11.6) at their position while opposing centers grab 14.3 boards per game - ranking top five in the NBA. Jermaine O'Neal & Co. are worse on the defensive glass, allowing exactly five offensive boards (third in the league) to their counterparts per game.

Among centers who play at least 20 minutes a night, O'Neal ranks 28th out of 36 in both defensive and total rebound rate. If O'Neal wants to be judged on his defense and rebounding, the latter hasn't been so good. Of course, the fact that O'Neal remains the only proven center on the roster doesn't help so much either.

Of course the numbers aren't all bad with O'Neal...

Chargewatch: O'Neal's impressive stats - Boston Celtics Blog - ESPN Boston

According to the site's stats, O'Neal currently ranks fourth in the NBA having drawn 15 charges in 15 games. He trails only Minnesota's Ricky Rubio (18), Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins (17), and Washington's John Wall (16). But here's the more impressive part: all three of those players have at least four more games played and at least 200 more minutes of court time. Break it down by charges per minute played and O'Neal (one every 22.9 minutes) is far and away the leader in the clubhouse.

So he's got that going for him, which is nice. Then again, remember that Big Baby had some epic charge numbers at the beginning of last year and that didn't mean much in the end.

There's some hope that O'Neal can contribute more when he gets his legs under him and gets healthy... Sorry, go back and replace the "when" in that sentence with "if" and I might have it closer to the mark.

We knew it in training camp (well, what there was of training camp) and we know it now. This team is weak at the center spot. Can they overcome that or get some help? We'll see.

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