Boston Celtics: Ranking Each Player on the Celtics

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2012

Boston Celtics: Ranking Each Player on the Celtics

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    With the Boston Celtics' roster all but fully decided, arguments will now ensue about who is the most important player on the Celtics, why one player is more vital than another, why one player should get more playing time than another, etc.

    Given how deep Boston's team now is, it is certainly an incredibly difficult task to rank each member in terms of overall importance. For example, is Avery Bradley more important than Courtney Lee because of his perimeter defense? Is Jason Terry more crucial than both due to his penchant for making big shots? And, of course, who truly is king of the C's? Is it Kevin Garnett or Rajon Rondo?

    Well, I will rank each player on the roster in this article, and I welcome you to comment with some rankings of your own.

14. Kris Joseph

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    Let's assume that Joseph is going to make the team, because barring any unforeseen circumstances such as a last-minute sign or trade, he is going to be a member of the Celtics come the season opener.

    Boston selected Joseph with the 51st overall pick of the draft this past June, so like any late second-round pick, he will have to earn his way into the rotation. However, there is a legitimate possibility that Joseph can become a part of Doc Rivers' gameplan.


    Because the C's really only have two true small forwards: Paul Pierce and Jeff Green (who is still not officially signed, but is essentially a Celtic as his deal is all but done). If there is an injury or some foul trouble arises, you might see Joseph get some minutes.

    The Syracuse product has already been compared to Pierce, a very flattering comparison, indeed. Do not be the least bit surprised if you see the athletic rookie getting some burn this coming season.

    That said, he is at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to overall importance to the team.

13. Keyon Dooling

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    Let me start by saying that I love Dooling. He is a great guy and is an outstanding locker room presence, as evidenced by the fact that he was a great influence on the mercurial Rondo this past season.

    All of that said, the Celtics are far too deep for me to rank "The Reverend" any higher than this.

    Don't take this the wrong way, though. Dooling will absolutely see playing time this year. He played a significant role in Boston's run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, hitting timely threes and playing feisty perimeter defense whenever he was on the floor. That alone should buy him some minutes in 2012-13.

    Still, he will be fighting with the likes of Rondo, Bradley, Terry, and Lee for minutes, and out of that group, it's pretty clear that Dooling will be the one who is relegated to the bench the most.

    Dooling's most valuable attributes are undoubtedly his likeable personality and leadership ability, and I imagine that those two qualities were a big factor in the Celtics deciding to bring him back.

12. Jason Collins

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    Some Celtics fans were not too enamored with the signing of Collins.

    I was not one of them.

    Collins is one of the best low-post defenders in the league, and former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy once commented on how effective Collins was against Dwight Howard, saying Collins' defense was "the best" he'd seen all year against his superstar center.

    Boston signed Collins for one reason: to defend guys like Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Marc Gasol, and don't think for a second that he isn't going to be an extremely valuable piece off of the bench because of that. A lack of size up front was a big problem for the Celtics this past season, and Collins will quickly remedy that.

    No, Collins does not provide much of anything in the way of offense (although he is a good screen setter), but that is not why the C's brought him aboard. As a matter of fact, you probably won't even see Collins on the floor unless the Celtics are playing a team with a dominant low post presence.

    Because of that, I don't see how you can be upset with this deal. Collins is a specialist, a specialist that Boston could have really used in 2012.

    An interior defense of Garnett and Collins sounds just fine to me.

11. Fab Melo

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    Melo was the second of the Celtics' back-to-back first-round picks in June, and while some scoffed at the selection, I thought it was a shrewd choice by Danny Ainge.

    As I said in talking about Collins, Boston was a smallish team this past season, and adding the 7-foot, 255 lb. Melo is a good way to fix that problem.

    Melo may not be prepared to play big minutes right off the bat, but his size alone should serve as a deterrent to opposing wing players from driving the lane. It also helps that he has Garnett (and even Collins) to mentor him, and that should greatly advance Melo's defensive prowess right off the bat.

    I still expect Melo, Joseph's teammate at Syracuse, to play a rather significant role for the C's this season. Will he be playing 25 minutes a game? No, but when he is out on the floor, you will know, and I mean that in a good way.

10. Chris Wilcox

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    Could the Celtics have used Wilcox against the Miami Heat or what?

    The 6'10" Wilcox saw his 2012 season come to an abrupt end in March when it was revealed that he suffered from a heart condition that would require surgery. He was waived by Boston but then re-signed in the offseason, and what a great re-signing that was.

    Wilcox was playing tremendous basketball before going down, providing Rondo with a reliable running mate, rebounding the ball well, and playing solid defense. Most of all, his combination of size and athleticism gives opponents fits.

    Wilcox will be part of an incredible deep rotation up front, but make no mistake: the guy will get his minutes.

    What I like most about Wilcox is his attitude. He clearly wanted to remain a Celtic, and he is a very hard worker. Even if you're not a Celtics fan, you can't help but root for him.

9. Jared Sullinger

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    Sullinger was the Celtics' first pick of the draft this year, as the lottery talent fell all the way to No. 21 because he was medically flagged for bulging discs in his back.

    According to Sullinger and his father, the back problem is nothing to worry about, as it was merely a result of a tight hamstrings and quads which put more pressure on his back.

    Sullinger may be a rookie, but he is going to be a key piece in Boston's rotation this season. He will provide the C's with another low-post presence to pair up front with Garnett, as Sullinger is likely the best pure low-post player in this draft class. He will also be one of the few players in the entire NBA who possesses a refined back-to-the-basket game, and that will be absolutely huge for the Celtics.

    Perhaps most importantly, the 6'9", 260 lb. Sullinger will beef up Boston's rebounding, as it is well-known that the C's were one of the league's worst teams on the glass in 2012.

    The 20-year-old Ohio State product also has a killer instinct and competitive fire that should only strengthen while playing alongside of K.G. I cannot wait to see those two man the frontcourt this coming year. It should be fun to watch.

8. Courtney Lee

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    This is where it starts getting tough.

    It was extremely difficult for me to rank the three of Lee, Bradley, and Terry, as the three of them will all spell shooting guard throughout the season. The funny thing is, Lee is the best all-around player of the three. However, just because he is better overall than Bradley and Terry does not mean he is more important.

    Lee is one of those guys who does everything well. He can get to the basket, he can shoot the three ball and hit his free throws, (shot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc and 82.6 percent from the stripe in 2012), and he can defend.

    However, what drove me to rank him behind Bradley and Terry is that he doesn't have one particular special skill, like Bradley's perimeter defense or Terry's clutch gene. Because of that, I would guess that late in the fourth quarter in close games, Rivers would go with Bradley or Terry before Lee.

    All things considered, I think Lee is an outstanding pickup for the Celtics. Again, he is a very solid all-around shooting guard, and along with Bradley and Terry, he should give Boston the most depth at that position in the NBA.

    I expect a big year out of Lee, and his acquisition was what made me firmly believe that this team will contend for a title this coming season.

7. Jeff Green

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    When I first published this article, Green was left off the list because he is not yet "officially" a Celtic. However, let's face it: barring a catastrophic collapse in negotiations, Green will be wearing the same color as his name during the 2012-13 season, so I decided to go back in and include him.

    I'm sure you all know Green's story. He was diagnosed with a heart condition that required surgery, forcing him to miss the entire 2012 season. He was then a free agent at the end of the year, and Boston is working toward signing him to what looks like will end up being a four-year deal worth $36 million. According to Green's agent, the two sides are just working out minor details in the contract and a deal is "imminent", so while Green is not technically a member of the C's yet, he will, in all likelihood, end up being one.

    Green is certainly going to be one of the most versatile players on the Celtics this season. He can play either forward position, and he will undoubtedly be used as a body to throw at LeBron James. At 6'9", he has the length to at least do an adequate job on James, and his athleticism will help, as well.

    Green was a pretty reliable scorer with the Oklahoma City Thunder, so I have no doubt that he will be able to produce off the bench with the Celtics. Plus, how many times would love to have Green as a seventh or eighth man? I think pretty much every team in the league would like to have that luxury.

6. Brandon Bass

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    Bass had the best year of his career with the Celtics this past season, putting up 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, both career highs.

    He proved to be extremely valuable in the pick-and-roll game with Rondo, as he possesses one of the sweetest mid-range jumpers of any big man in the NBA. Pair that with Garnett's ability to hit that same shot, and Boston had an absolutely lethal triple threat in that set. Either Rondo would go around the screen and take it to the hole, or he would kick it back out to either Garnett or Bass for the jump shot.

    I expect to see more of the same this coming year, and now, thanks to the arrival of Sullinger and the return of Wilcox, Bass' job becomes much easier, as there is not as much pressure for him to produce big numbers in the power forward spot.

    What was most impressive about Bass in 2012 was how much his defense improved. He was never known as a good defender before coming to the C's, but, thanks much in part to K.G., he became a solid defensive player. Solid enough that Doc relied on him to guard LeBron at times during the Eastern Conference Finals.

    I look forward to another nice season from Bass, who the Celtics recently re-signed to a three-year deal.

5. Jason Terry

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    Another tough one.

    First of all, Terry has always been one of my favorite players. I have loved his game ever since his Atlanta Hawks days, and he showed the world just how much of a gamer he is in his time with the Dallas Mavericks.

    Terry reminds me a lot of Sam Cassell. He is the type of guy that you want on the floor late because he is a cold-blooded killer. He is never afraid of hitting the big shot, and if you are a fan of the opposition, every time he takes a crucial shot late, your heart is in your throat because you know that he makes that shot all too frequently.

    His attitude will also fit right in with the Celtics, as he wants nothing more than to win, and he will run through a brick wall for his team to make that happen. He should also be a great guy to have around Rondo.

    The only reason why I rank him behind Bradley in terms of importance to this team is because of defense. Bradley is quite arguably the best perimeter defender in the league, and having him to contain the likes of Dwyane Wade could end up being all the difference in what looks to be an inevitable meeting with the Heat in the playoffs.

    Terry was one of the better signings of the offseason, in my opinion, and I look forward to a full season of him hitting backbreaking jumpers for Boston.

4. Avery Bradley

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    That brings us to Bradley.

    Words cannot describe how much of a warrior this kid is, as the entire world saw his shoulder popping in and out like a Lego during the playoffs, and he kept shaking off the pain and throwing himself out there while still playing lockdown defense to boot.

    Unfortunately, Bradley's shoulder popped out one time too many in the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers, and he was forced to miss Games 5, 6, and 7 of that series and the entire Eastern Conference Finals against Miami. He proceeded to undergo surgery on both shoulders in the offseason, and because of that, he is going to miss some time at the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign.

    When Bradley returns, he is going to be an absolutely vital piece to the Celtics' title hopes.

    As I noted before, you can make a serious argument that he is the game's best perimeter defender. He is simply outstanding on that side of the ball, making life a living hell for Wade during the regular season and perhaps handing him his most embarrassing highlight (or I guess I should call it a lowlight) of his career with this violent rejection.

    What many people do not know about the 21-year-old Bradley is that he actually became a good three-point shooter this past season, as he shot the ball at a 40.7 percent clip from beyond the arc (he especially likes the corner three). Bradley also shot 49.8 percent from the floor overall in 2012, not to mention 79.5 percent from the free throw line.

    And they said he couldn't shoot.

    If Boston is going to win a championship this season, Bradley will have to be a big part of it.

3. Paul Pierce

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    And now, for Mr. Celtic himself, Paul Pierce.

    Pierce was clearly not himself against the 76ers or the Heat in the playoffs, as he was playing on a sprained MCL that visibly limited him on both ends of the floor (as one would expect). Now that Pierce has had a chance to get healthy, I expect him to return to form in no time.

    The good thing for Pierce is that, with all of the depth Ainge has accumulated throughout this offseason, he will likely not have to play big minutes during the regular season, so he could save all of that energy for the playoffs when he really needs it.

    I don't think I need to explain much more. Whether you are a Celtics fan, a Los Angeles Lakers fan, or a Charlotte Bobcats fan, you know Pierce's game like the back of your hand by now.

    Believe me; I was very tempted to put Pierce at No. 2 on this list, but I just couldn't do it.

2. Rajon Rondo

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    Many people call Rondo the motor of the Celtics.

    That is a very good analogy, as it seems like Rondo never runs out of energy out there.

    As if Rondo's game needed to get any better, we all saw his jump shot improve right before our very eyes in the playoffs, as he used it to bury Philadelphia in Game 7 of the conference semifinals and then to help put Miami on the brink of elimination in the conference finals.

    We all know how effective Rondo is on the break, and now he will have a healthy Bradley and Wilcox back in tow, not to mention Terry and Lee, as well. That's why I think the 2012-13 season could be Rondo's biggest yet, as he has an abundance of support around him, especially in the backcourt which should take an ample amount of pressure off of him.

    Fortunately for Rondo, with the likes of Terry aboard now, he will get a chance to rest throughout the season.

1. Kevin Garnett

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    I know many feel that this spot belongs to Rondo, but it's just not true. Garnett is the most important player on the Celtics, and the playoffs proved that.

    As a matter of fact, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld, Garnett had the highest plus-minus stat of any player in the postseason heading into Game 6 against the Heat at plus-164. If that doesn't tell you how valuable the guy is, I don't know what will.

    Don't get me wrong; Rondo is obviously a gigantic part of Boston's ultimate goal, but Garnett is the straw that stirs the drink. Even at age 36, K.G. is arguably the best defender in the NBA, and his defensive prowess rubs off on his teammates, as mentioned earlier with Bass.

    I also feel like Rivers should always run the offense through Garnett in the post. It opens everyone else's games up, including Rondo's.

    Garnett will be the driving force behind a potential title run for the C's.