We all know that the major advantage that the Celtics will have over much of the Eastern Conference is their bench. On paper the bench looks high-octane, especially when Avery Bradley comes back off of injury but despite improvements to their own team what about the rest of the Eastern Conference? We'll look at the Atlantic Division first. Over the next few days I'll make posts regarding how well the Celtics will do against the Raptors, 76ers, Nets, and Knicks.
The Philadelphia 76ers are the next team on the list. Andrew Bynum's presence certainly changes the complexion of the Atlantic Division. There hasn't been a center as dominant as Bynum in the Atlantic Division for a while and of course this group will be in the running for snatching the Atlantic Divison title away from the Celtics. Let's not forget Jason Richardson who was also in the trade for Bynum. We'll also note the departure of Andre Iguodala, who gave Paul Pierce a difficult series (not as difficult as the Shane Battier/Lebron James combo though). Then you can add the defensive tenacity that LaVoy Allen had on Kevin Garnett, with the 7-foot tall Spencer Hawes and the 76ers have a mean front court that can neutralize or even overpower the Celtic's front court. The weakness to me, seems to be the Philadelphia backcourt. Jason Richardson hasn't played well since he joined the Orlando Magic, and I don't see too much improvement with the 76ers, because in my opinion, Jameer Nelson is a better play maker than Jrue Holiday. The 76ers lost their purest scorer in Louis Williams and their best overall player/best on-ball defender in Andre Iguodala as well as their sharp shooter Jodie Meeks. They helped replace Louis Williams with Nick Young but they both seemed to struggle in their respective Conference Semi-Final matches.
The best hope for the Celtics to beat the 76ers in a playoff series lies in the back court. Rondo has to be an attacker and cause the defense to double team him and with Rondo's superb passing skills, he can kick it out to an open Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, or Paul Pierce. Then of course, if the 3-point shots don't start falling the Celtics have more players now on the roster that can take it to the rim and draw fouls (like Pierce, Terry, Rondo, etc.), thus causing the Philadelphia front court to either leave the game early, or force them to play less aggressively. Kevin Garnett has the ability to defend Bynum but I don't think it can be to the point where Bynum becomes ineffective. Other than Garnett nobody has the defensive prowess to adequately defend the 76ers front court. Fab Melo is a young 7-footer who has potential but he's not somebody you want defending the best center in the Eastern Conference, especially in a playoff game. The Celtics may find themselves calling upon Jason Collins significantly more. Other than Kevin Garnett, Jason Collins is probably the most qualified player on the Celtics to defend Bynum, he may not be very fast on his feet, but due to his size, he should be able to provide good post-defense against Andrew Bynum. If Spencer Hawes is in the starting lineup he'll be at the power forward position, and if not, he'll be on the bench. Either scenario is not good for Boston, unless they put Jason Collins/ Chris Wilcox in as the starting center with Kevin Garnett at the power forward.
Doug Collins is also a very good coach, so he does have the ability to properly utilize his new front court. The Celtic back court is going to be the key if they meet the 76ers in the post season. I expect Jason Terry especially to have a very good series against the 76ers.
What do you guys think? How should the Celtics approach the 76ers if they meet in the playoffs? And who do you feel will step up/dissapoint?