Boston Celtics: 5 Biggest What Ifs of the Season
In sports and in life, everyone loves to play the "what if" game. It's human nature to wonder about the unknown. For Celtics fans, "what ifs" are all too familiar, especially in the Big Three Era. We associate the 2009 season with the question, "What if KG had been healthy?"
Likewise, the 2010 season is remembered by Celtics fans through the question, "What if Perk could have played in Game 7 of the Finals?"
For the rest of time, Celtics fans will ask themselves these questions. Now, after the 2011-2012 season, there is a bunch of "what ifs" to add to the list.
What If Chris Wilcox or Jermaine O'Neal Had Been Healthy
Both Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox had their seasons cut short by a wrist injury and a heart condition respectively, and with that, nearly all of the Celtics frontcourt depth vanished. Jermaine O'Neal was not having a great season and was quickly becoming a liability, so his absence wasn't all that detrimental. Plus, with him out, Kevin Garnett was able to slide into the center position where he excelled.
On the other hand, Chris Wilcox was just starting to come into his own as a Celtic and became comfortable in his role. Therefore, his absence was felt by a Celtics bench that lacked a center with offensive ability like Wilcox.
The bottom line is, having either Wilcox or even O'Neal would have helped the Celtics tremendously because last time I checked, they are a lot better than Ryan Hollins who wasn't even good enough for the Cavs to keep him. All the Celtics needed was an extra 10-20 minutes of quality big man play off the bench. Either Wilcox or O'Neal could have certainly brought this.
And who knows? That could have swung at least one of the Eastern Conference Finals games in the Celtics' favor and brought them to The Finals.
What If Jeff Green Had Been Healthy
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A 6'9" versatile swingman that can play the three or the four, run the court like a gazelle, defend elite players like, say, LeBron James and make a big impact on the offensive end both inside and out. Hmm, the Celtics could have used a player like that. And if not for a rare heart condition, they would have had Jeff Green, a player who meets that description perfectly.
It really is a shame that Green had to miss this season because this really could have been a huge season for him. With a whole year of the Celtics system under his belt and a lot to prove, Green could have been the impact player that the Celtics traded for.
During the season, he could have been a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate while lessening the minutes of both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. More importantly though, in the playoffs, he could have guarded LeBron and run with the Heat.
Also, Green's versatility would have allowed the Celtics to try all kinds of lineups. They could have gone small with Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Green and Garnett/Bass and they could have gone big with Rondo, Pietrus, Green, Bass and Garnett.
To close games, the lineup would have been Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Green and Garnett. With that lineup, the Celtics would have probably been able to finish Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Thus, if Green had been healthy, he would be facing off against his former team in the NBA Finals as we speak. Now that would be interesting.
As a side note, an even more interesting what if would be" "What if the Celtics had traded for James Harden instead?" The original Perkins trade was for James Harden, but that fell through and the Celtics settled for Green instead.
Simply put, if the Celtics got Harden instead, it would be a Celtics-Spurs Finals right now. Again, that would be a great series.
What If Avery Bradley Had Been Healthy
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This one may be the easiest to answer because his absence was felt immediately in the Eastern Conference Finals when he couldn't play. Without him, the Celtics were not as good on the defensive (still very good though) and certainly not as athletic.
Against the Heat, Bradley could have guarded Dwyane Wade. Instead, a hobbled Ray Allen took the assignment and because of that, the Celtics tossed help Ray's way by trapping Wade on pick and rolls and occasionally doubling him. This opened up the offense for LeBron and the rest of the Heat.
If Bradley had been playing, then Wade would need all the attention and the rest of the Celtics could focus on shutting down the rest of the Heat.
Also, Bradley could score double digits every game with his three-point shooting and cuts to the basket. That aspect of the offense would have no doubt helped the Celtics offense that occasionally stagnated.
Really, Bradley was the missing piece for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Had he been healthy, the Celtics would find themselves in the NBA Finals right now.
What If Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce Had Been Traded
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From December to March, rumors constantly swirled about the Celtics potentially making trade either most notably with Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce. Now, unlike all of the other what ifs, if the Celtics had traded Rondo or Pierce it would have been to their detriment.
As it is, Rondo and Pierce are the only two members of the Big Four under contract for next season. If they were traded, then there is no chance that Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen would return and we would never see the Big Four again.
Also, we all saw how the poor chemistry and team unity after the Perkins trade affected the Celtics, and that was just Perk. Imagine if the team's captain and the team's on court leader were both traded. I don't care who the Celtics would have got in return, this move would have been bad regardless.
Even if the C's got the seemingly best possible deal in Rajon Rondo for Chris Paul, it would have still hurt them. As I mentioned before, the chemistry and team unity would take a hit and Rondo really outplayed Paul when it mattered most—in the playoffs.
Therefore, Danny Ainge made the right decision by not trading Rondo and Pierce. In the end, it almost led the Celtics to another Finals berth.
What If Doc Rivers Had Not Returned
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After last year's early exit of the playoffs courtesy of the Miami Heat, Doc Rivers signed a five-year extension with the Celtics for $35 million. With that, the band was back together for one last run.
And with Doc in charge, the Celtics nearly turned this last run into a championship. Throughout the season, he helped the team battle through adversity while also mentoring and aiding the development of young guards Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley.
On top of all this, he also made necessary lineup changes, including the brilliant move of moving Garnett to center, and continued to call great plays out of timeouts.
Doc proved yet again that he is one of the best, if not the best coach in the league. Had he not come back for this season, it is unlikely that the Celtics would have had the same success that they did.
All Celtics fans should look forward to at least four more years of Doc coaching. With him leading the charge, I will always be confident in this team.