For nearly every single NBA team the goal of an offseason is simple.
If you're not getting better than you're either getting worse, or you're stuck in neutral. That could be fine and dandy if you just won the NBA title.
If you count yourself among the 29 teams that did not win the final playoff game of the 2011-2012 NBA season, then you should probably be looking to improve.
The Boston Celtics are part of that group of 29.
They did start the offseason in better shape than most. One could make a strong case that the Celtics were the second-best team in the NBA last season.
Sure, Oklahoma City Thunder fans will point out it was them, and not Boston, that lost to Miami in the NBA Finals. That series lasted five games. The Thunder won Game 1, and then proceeded to drop four in a row.
The Celtics extended the Heat to seven games, and most of the games were pretty close. Boston was the only team in the NBA to bring the Heat within one game of elimination. There is plenty for Celtics fans to be proud of from last season, but it is also over.
Boston's mission this offseason was to improve enough so that, if the Celtics can once again bring the Miami Heat within one loss of elimination, they can slam the door shut on them and end their season.
This is no easy task. The Miami Heat didn't just trip and stumble into a title. They're a very good basketball team, led by the best player in the NBA, who is in his prime as a basketball player.
The Celtics are clearly up for the challenge. They've made a number of moves this offseason. Here's the rundown.
- Boston re-signed Kevin Garnett
- Signed guard Jason Terry
- Traded for guard Courtney Lee
- Signed center Jason Collins
- Brought back Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox
- Re-signed veteran guard Keyon Dooling
- Drafted Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph
- Boston also signed free-agent guard Dionte Christmas
Boston also lost some players. Most notably Ray Allen, who signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Heat. There were other departures as well.
- Greg Stiemsma
- Jermaine O'Neal
- E'Twaun Moore
- JaJuan Johnson
- Sasha Pavlovic
- Sean Williams
- Ryan Hollins
That's a lot of player movement, and in the end the only real question is "are the Celtics a better or worse team than they were last year?" If they are in fact a better team, then are they good enough to beat the Miami Heat?
Yes, the Celtics are a better team, and yes, under the right circumstances the Celtics could probably beat Miami, but if you had to pick a winner of a series between the two teams, you would be picking the long-shot if you plumped for the Celtics.
Why is that? The Celtics only lost to the Heat by one game, and Miami only added Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen.
Those are solid points, and the Celtics have made more moves to improve their team than the Heat have. There is also something to be said for consistency. The Heat have a small core of extremely talented players who are about to enter their third year playing together.
The Celtics also lack strength in the area where Miami is most vulnerable.
Even if the Celtics' additions of Lee and Terry can adequately make up for the loss of Ray Allen, the Celtics are still a team with questionable rebounding, and without a bona fide low-post threat.
Miami's weakest point on its formidable roster is the low post, as Bosh is not a great defender against bigger and more physical players. The rest of the Heat's roster is made up of guys like Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony; they can play, but only with limited effectiveness.
The Heat could be very vulnerable to a dominant low-post player, who ruled on both ends of the floor. Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum leap to mind.
Tyson Chandler paired with Amar'e Stoudemire could be very tough for Miami, but the Knicks are a team with other weaknesses that offset any advantage those two big men could give them.
The Celtics are still a team that features Kevin Garnett starting at center, and Brandon Bass at power forward. The additions of young players like Sullinger and Melo could help, but not enough to offset what really is Miami's greatest advantage.
LeBron James. I know there are lots of LeBron haters out there, and it is every fan's right to root for, or against whatever player or players he or she wants.
It's tough to deny the reality of just how good James is right now. He single-handedly put the Heat on his shoulders and won a must-win Game 6 in the Eastern Conference finals.
James is the best all-round basketball player in the NBA, he's right smack dab in the middle of his prime, and while he might not ever end up with accomplishments that mirror those of guys like Jordan, Magic, Kobe and Bird, James is that guy right now.
There is no question that the Celtics can contend with Miami this coming season, they are likely to once again be the Heat's most difficult opponent. Contending is not the same as winning though.
The Celtics have made great offseason moves, they should be a better team, and they do have a great veteran leader named Kevin Garnett, a hall of fame small forward named Paul Pierce, and one of the NBA's best point guards in Rajon Rondo, but they don't have LeBron James.
No one does, and he gives Miami a major edge over every team they play, even the Celtics.
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