Boston Celtics: Five Bold Predictions for the 2012-13 Season
Rejoice Celtics fans, the season is less than three months away.
General manager Danny Ainge has made one prudent decision after another, as he was able to re-sign every major role player with the exception of Ray Allen.
Once considered one of the shallower teams in the league, Boston has added some depth, which will allow older players like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to stay healthy throughout the season.
With all of the free agency speculation basically over, it is time to look at how well this team will actually perform.
Here are five bold predictions for the Boston Celtics' 2012-13 season.
No. 5: Paul Pierce's Numbers Do Not Regress
It is crazy to think that Paul Pierce will be 35 years of age once this season gets underway.
The future Hall-of-Famer and probable Celtics lifer was rock-solid all of last season, averaging 19.4 points, 4.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds in only 34 minutes.
With Jeff Green likely joining the Celtics (the deal has yet to be finalized), many have wondered whether Pierce's numbers will decline next season, as Green has the ability to play either forward positions.
However, I see Pierce playing 34 minutes a game again this season, just because of his elite offensive abilities.
You might remember how out of sorts Boston looked in their first three games of the season without Pierce, as they stumbled to an 0-3 record.
Doc Rivers is smart enough to realize Pierce's importance to this roster and will play him appropriately. Look for "The Truth" to average 19-5-5 once more.
No. 4: Avery Bradley Makes the All-Defensive Second Team
As he recovers from shoulder surgery, Avery Bradley might miss the first two months of the season.
While Bradley's defensive presence will be missed, Courtney Lee will be an able replacement for the time being and has the ability to inject a little more offense into the lineup.
His absence in the Eastern Conference Finals proved to be very costly, as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were able to average a combined 55 points per game during the series.
Because he is not as well-known as the aforementioned guards, making an All-Defensive First Team might be a stretch. The second team is a definite possibility.
No. 3: The Celtics Finish with the Second-Best Record in the Eastern Conference
This past season, the Boston Celtics finished with the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and the fifth best record.
If the Celtics want to win their second title in the past six years, they need to get a higher seed.
Obviously, Boston can't expect another injury to help them on their quest for a title, but I do see them getting a higher seed than last season.
In 2012, Boston was hurt by their shallow bench, which forced their starters to play big minutes early on. With a deeper bench including Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee (once Avery Bradley returns from injury), the Celtics will be as formidable as their 2008 championship roster.
While the Celtics will have a hard time passing the Heat in the regular season, the No. 2 seed is more than enough for the experienced C's.
No. 2: Rajon Rondo Finishes in the Top-Three of MVP Voting
Why were the Boston Celtics able to make it to this year's Eastern Conference Finals?
Maybe Rajon Rondo's great play in the postseason. Boston's All-Star point guard averaged an absurd 17.3 points, 11.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds in the playoffs, upping the ante in the Conference Finals, with 20.9 points, 11.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds in the series.
Rondo isn't consistent enough to put up 17-12-7 over the course of 82 games but something like a 15-12-6 line is conceivable. Considering his jumper and all-around offense has improved over the course of his career, it's definitely doable.
If Rondo can put up those numbers, while also maintaining his elite defense, he will definitely be in the conversation for an MVP award.
If Boston lands near the top of the Eastern Conference, look for Rondo to finish in the top three in MVP voting, likely behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
No. 1: The Celtics Win the 2013 NBA Finals
I might be in the minority with this prediction, but hear me out.
The Boston Celtics came within one game of the NBA Finals, falling to the mighty Heat because of the weary legs of their starters, like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
With a deeper bench this problem will likely be solved, and hopefully both players can remain healthy enough to be effective during the postseason.
Since there are so many elite teams in this league, it is very difficult to repeat. Miami is no doubt the favorite heading into next season, but they are still extremely thin in terms of their frontcourt.
Boston has a very deep set of big men, including Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green.
I see the Miami Heat losing to the Boston Celtics in the Conference Finals, as the C's avenge their past two playoff defeats.
The Celtics will meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, a repeat of the 2008 and 2010 series.
Instead of falling to the "Lakeshow" like they did two years ago, the Celtics will win the series and put up banner number 18.