Boston Celtics: 10 Reasons Their Future Is Brighter Than Rival L.A. Lakers
Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo helped to fuel what was as dynamic a rivalry as the league had seen in decades.
Whether it's boasting one of the NBA's more dominant head coaches or a league-elite point guard, there is much reason to believe these Celtics are set to have a more promising future than their rival, the Lakers.
These are the 10 reasons why the Celtics will undoubtedly be the better team in the near future.
The Avery Bradley Factor
There aren't many players that can say they played just over 21 minutes per game and were still given one third-place vote for the NBA's All-Defensive teams.
Avery Bradley was given the vote after his play in the 2011-12 season.
What makes Bradley so special is his dedication to the defensive end and his hound-like approach against opposing point guards. He is an improving offensive threat that will have the Celtics as strong as any team in the league in their backcourt alongside Rajon Rondo.
Unlike the Celtics, the Lakers have a depleted guard rotation and will likely use this 2012 offseason to better the backcourt play.
Andrew Bynum Is an Outright Headache
Gasol, there is no use reasoning, we understand.
Out of control three-point shots, cheap shots to end a postseason sweep against the Dallas Mavericks and expressed anger for not getting the basketball enough has been especially detrimental to this former title-contending team.
In no way must we forget just how special this player is when he's at his best. Bynum is a consistent 20-point, 10-rebound per game threat that has as much talent at the center position as any player in the game.
However, without a change in attitude and more of an openness to work with his teammates, this may well lead to the collapse of the Lakers team. His ego has threatened and will continue to threaten this team's chances to win in the future.
2012 NBA Draft
The Celtics are ready to bring together some special pieces to the table in the 2012 draft, as the team boasts three selections, including two of which will come in the first round (No. 21 and 22).
Unlike the Celtics, the Lakers don't have a single selection in the first round and own the 60th and final pick in this year's NBA Draft.
Undoubtedly, Rivers and Celtics' President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge have the edge in this year's draft over the Lakers. Expect the team to target a solid scoring threat as well as a major presence in the frontcourt.
Syracuse's seven-footer Fab Melo is a center that could bring an immediate boost to the team's inside game on both ends of the floor.
A Top PG in the Game
Ramon Sessions has played especially solid basketball for the Lakers this season, but he is no match Boston's Rajon Rondo.
It would be unfair to Rondo to even make the comparison after his performance last season. Rondo averaged 11.9 points and 11.7 assists per game on the year.
In the postseason, his production was all the more lethal, upping his averages in the playoffs to an impressive 17.3 points and 11.9 assists per game.
Outside of his numbers, it is his ability to orchestrate the team on both ends, his intangibles, that make him such a special talent. Other than Chris Paul, there may not be a point guard that makes more of an impact on the outcome of a game than Rondo.
Yes, he has the Kendrick Perkins mistake to live down. In spite of that move, however, Ainge has been as successful a general manager as any in team history.
Had it not been for Danny Ainge, this team would not have been competing for NBA championships.
It was Ainge who kept Rivers and Paul Pierce in Beantown. It was Ainge who brought in both Kevin Garnett in a historic blockbuster trade and acquired Ray Allen during the 2007 NBA Draft. It was Ainge who elected to deal Delonte West and other guards and start Rajon Rondo, which ended up being arguably the strongest move of his tenure.
Make no mistake about it, if there's a GM that knows winning titles is must, it's Ainge. Having him as the primary person in charge of building this team's future is a fortunate position for these Celtics to be in, to say the least.
A Defensive Gameplan
Defense wins games, and these Celtics have proven just that in the Big Three era.
There is no secret to the success of the Boston Celtics: They are as strong and consistent a defensive unit as there is in the NBA.
Head coach Doc Rivers has continued to emphasize his team's efforts on the defensive end. Making defensive stops is what has clearly been the secret to this team's success.
Since the beginning of the Big Three era, the Celtics have never been ranked outside the top five teams in points allowed.
The Lakers are more of a team predicated on offensive finesse, featuring talents like Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and the great Kobe Bryant. Yet living and dying by offense is a much riskier style of basketball, as defense is more heavily based on effort than anything else.
Doc Rivers the Superior Head Coach
Five-consecutive Atlantic Division titles, two NBA finals appearances and an NBA championship over the L.A. Lakers in 2008 speaks volumes of just how accomplished a head coach Doc Rivers is.
Meanwhile, although Mike Brown has coached some top-notch teams, he has also coached two of the greatest talents to grace the league. Here are the stats comparing the two head coaches in their last five seasons:
Mike Brown: 241-121, 28-22 playoffs
Doc Rivers: 327-160, 54-39 playoffs
Rivers has taken this Celtics team to new heights, had a say in bringing together the Big Three and was able to instill a belief in defense and trust offensively that Brown is yet to prove in his career.
Sooner to Start the Rebuilding Process
Allen and Garnett are likely set to hit free agency this offseason, pushing the Celtics quickly into a rebuilding process.
Although the team may take a hit over the next season or two, there is no doubt the Celtics will be in a promising position soon enough.
Led by Ainge, the Celtics will boast a strong backcourt in Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo, as well as a plethora of young, frontcourt talents. The 2012 NBA Draft will largely target big men because the team was short-handed for the majority of the 2011-12 season down low.
The Lakers are a team that still plan to win games behind Bynum, Gasol and Bryant, who are all still signed to contract with the team. Unless there is a trade this offseason, this should be the same team to hit the court next season.
Getting into the rebuilding process sooner as opposed to later will have the Celtics become the more dominant team in the near future.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol on Their Way out
The 2012 postseason was a telling one for these L.A. Lakers.
In spite of fighting the Oklahoma City Thunder to death in nearly every win the Thunder got in the series, it was clear that the Lakers lacked the extra boost of energy late in games to close the deal. Based on the first three quarters of play of each game, the Lakers could have well took the edge in this series.
It was not a matter of not possessing the talent, it was a case of failing to sustain that level of play for four quarters. Age got the best of Bryant and Gasol, who both boasted their fair share of struggles in these playoffs.
Bryant was 2-for-18 from three-point range against the Thunder and shot a whopping 61 times in his last two outings. He was continuously forcing jump shots throughout the series, and failed to put up a single assist in the final game of the series.
As for Gasol, his shooting percentage dropped from 50.1 percent in the regular season to 43.4 in the postseason. After scoring a solid 17.4 points per game in the season, his average dropped nearly five points in the playoffs.
Whether or not the team breaks up their stars is still in question. Yet what is certain is the fact that Bryant and Gasol are starting to slow down significantly in production.
Room to Work with in Free Agency
On paper, the L.A. Lakers have six free agents and the Boston Celtics have 10. Yet the 10 free agents for the Celtics are far more significant than those who will have expiring contracts in L.A.
These are the nine players for the Celtics set to become free agents:
Ray Allen - $ 10 million (2011-12 Salary)
Kevin Garnett - $21.2 million
Brandon Bass - $ 4 million
Jeff Green - Out for Season
Ryan Hollins - $ 300,812
Sasha Pavlovic - $ 1.2 million
Mickael Pietrus = $ 1.2 million
Greg Stiemsma - $762,195
Marquis Daniels - $1.2 million
Keyon Dooling - $ 2.2 million
Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green all headline the list of players that will be off the team's payroll. Granted they will likely re-sign both Garnett and Green, the team still saves at least $10 million without signing Allen.
It is difficult to see the Celtics retaining more than four to five players from this list, as there is no question they will be able to make some big-time moves to the frontcourt in the 2012 free agency period.