Just as important and with as much room for improvement as the Celtics starters, are the bench players. The bench could end up being the deciding factor in the Celtics season. If they can play well and carry the team for periods of time while giving the aging core valuable rest, then the Celtics can go far.
However, if they are ineffective, can't hold leads and can only offer minimal rest, then obviously the Celtics will have problems. So far, the bench has performed well, but there is still much room for improvement in a group that has great potential.
(Note: Players not in the rotation such as Greg Stiemsma, Sasha Pavlovic, Marquis Daniels and E'Twaun Moore will not be included)
Really, finding any flaws in what Brandon Bass would be about as hard as getting him to pass up a shot, and that is part of why he has excelled.
The Celtics need a fearless scorer off the bench and Bass more than fits the bill. For those who liked Big Baby, Bass is Big Baby 2.0. He shoots better; he attacks the hoop more efficiently; and most importantly, he is much, much more consistent.
So for Bass, all he really needs to do is get back on the court again after missing six games. Hopefully, he will be back after the All-Star break and will not have to miss more time.
Mickael Pietrus has had some great games as a Celtic (mainly two great performances against the Thunder), but for every great game he has played, he has played two sub-par games (mainly eight games with five points or less and two games with zero points).
He is one of the most important role players of all. The Celtics need someone to back up Paul Pierce and hit shots. Some games he embodies this role and shows shades of James Posey during the 2008 postseason. During these games, he seems worthy of a spot in the crunch-time lineup, and for many games, the Celtics have gone small in order to keep him in the game late.
Then there are other games when his shot isn't falling and he is a non-factor. I'm not saying he has to go out there every night and be Reggie Miller, but as one of the most important bench players, he needs to find consistent scoring at around eight points a game, with a few game-changing performances sprinkled in.
You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger Avery Bradley fan than me (okay, so maybe Tommy Heinsohn has me beat by a little bit). I've been a fan from the beginning and always believed in his great potential in this league.
Now we're at the point where he too is realizing his potential in this league. He is a lock-down defender and we haven't seen defense like his since Tony Allen in the 2010 playoffs.
That being said, Avery Bradley is not quite a point guard, at least not yet. What I always say is that the trade off with him is that opposing teams can't get their offense started until late in the shot clock because of his harassment of opposing guards; but at the same time, the Celtics lose significant time on the shot clock with him dribbling at the top of the key, waiting for someone else to volunteer to handle the ball. If he can improve his ball-handling skills, not only will he be better-equipped to lead an offense, but he will always be able to take it to the hoop easier.
Chris Wilcox was one of the biggest signings by the Celtics this off-season and his signing is finally starting to pay its dividends.
Over the past couple games, Wilcox has shown his scoring and rebounding abilities and has looked like he will be able to be a valuable contributor off the bench. One part of his game in which improvement would yield massive gains though is his mid-range jump shot.
Big men in the Celtics system thrive on mid-range jump shots off the pick-and-pop and he could easily score some points off of that play if he extends his range just a bit. This would add more depth to his game and open up for more pick and roll opportunities for him.
Getting Good Shots
Dooling has missed most of the games this season due to a hip injury. But one thing that has been evident in the time he has played is he can hit open shots.
However, these open shots have been hard to come by for him, especially as of late. Early in the season against the Heat, he got a lot of open looks and as a result, he scored 18 points. What he needs to do now is work to get those same types of shots again. He should move without the ball more and even try to drive more (his left handed dribble drive is effective and throws defenders off, and he also has a good hesitation move). Most importantly though, he should stop settling for bad shots.
Johnson started out the season on the bench and that may be where he will finish the season, but for now he is in the rotation and is playing well. He can run the floor well and hit jumpers.
One thing that is evident in just looking at him though is his rail thin build. This build hinders him in defending opposing big men on the block. On numerous occasions, opposing forwards have just backed the 220 pound Johnson straight down.
Obviously, this issue will not be fixed easily in season, but his role will likely diminish as the team gets healthier, so this can be considered more of an off-season goal. Given his work with legendary trainer Tim Grover, I think he will be able to fix this and develop into a very good player.
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