The impact of the Boston Celtics' role players will be the deciding factor this season. Although the team has incredible depth at most positions, it is imperative for the role players to work on becoming more productive.
For example, Avery Bradley is already impressing Doc Rivers with his game, especially his tight perimeter defense. However, he needs to work on his scoring to truly maximize his talent. It's important for role players to refrain from being stagnant, as there are always ways to improve.
Although the stars get most of the attention, the role players will make or break the Celtics' chances at another championship next season. If the following players raise their game in 2012-13, it will alleviate some of the pressure off the stars and make the Celtics a bigger threat than they already are.
Jeff Green joined the Celtics in 2011 as part of the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The promising forward missed the entire 2011-12 season due to surgery for an aortic aneurysm. However, he's now back with the C's and recently inked a contract reportedly worth $36 million.
While in OKC, Green averaged 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. However, once he arrived in Boston, his stats fell to 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Although Green's minutes dropped when he switched from starting to coming off the bench, his game was subpar compared to his days in Oklahoma City. There were times when he flowed comfortably, but there were also many moments when he seemed too tentative with the ball. He was out of sync with himself and the rest of the team.
It's likely the trade set Green back, especially because he had to get used to another role. He also had to learn new defensive schemes and plays in a short amount of time. Because we know what Green is capable of, he'll get another chance at being the role player the Celtics need him to be.
Green's biggest contributions to the Celtics this season will be on the defensive end. He should be able to alleviate some of the pressure on Paul Pierce to guard the stronger power forwards. His tough perimeter defense mixed with the solid scoring he produced in OKC is exactly what the Celtics are looking for.
Last season, Celtics fans got a chance to watch Bass develop right before their eyes. He used his strength and athleticism to score under the basket, while polishing a beautiful 15-18 foot jumper. He helps space the floor, which opens up more opportunities for Rajon Rondo to drive or pass.
Although Bass has the presence to dominate, he sometimes struggles when matched up against other big men. At 6'8", he tends to get blocked frequently in the post. If Bass works on improving his post game moves, his smaller size won't be a big factor anymore.
Bass only averaged 6.2 rebounds per game last year. The Celtics were the worst rebounding team in the NBA, but that has to change if they want a shot at a championship. Bass is a good defensive player, but if he grabbed more boards, he would help the Celtics fix their biggest weakness.
The 2011-12 season ended early for Chris Wilcox due to an enlarged aorta. Like his teammate and fellow heart surgery patient Jeff Green, Wilcox will be back on the court next season for the Celtics.
Wilcox can play both forward and center, depending on which role the team needs him to fill. He can also run the floor pretty well. However, he didn't put up great numbers last season, which means his production can definitely improve.
Last season, Wilcox registered 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds coming off the bench. It's likely that he will be Kevin Garnett's primary backup, so he needs to be a reliable option.
At 29 years old, Wilcox is young compared to Garnett and Jason Collins, who are 36 and 33, respectively. His ability to run the floor well will give Rajon Rondo another option on fast breaks. If he works on his offensive game, he will be more difficult to contain in the paint.
After missing last season's playoffs, it might take Wilcox some time to get back into form. In addition to heart surgery, he was also sidelined in February with a sprained wrist. If he can stay healthy and improve his offense, Wilcox has the potential to be a key piece in the puzzle.
Avery Bradley is arguably one of the best defensive players in the NBA. He always makes it extremely difficult for his opponent and his perimeter defense is impeccable. However, one thing Bradley needs to work on is his offense.
Bradley has a decent outside jumper and shot nearly 50 percent from the field last season. It's better than the 34 percent he put up the year before, but he still has plenty of room for improvement. Overall, Bradley is a good player, but he needs consistency in order to become a great player.
If Bradley improves his scoring ability, it will take some of the pressure off the stars. One of the Celtics' biggest problems last year was relying too much on their star players to put points on the board. Bradley already creates problems on defense, but becoming an offensive threat will take the team to the next level.
Unfortunately, the budding star is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. According to Gary Tanguay of Comcast SportsNet New England, Bradley isn't expected to be ready until December. Hopefully he's brushing up on his offensive IQ to prep for his return.
Rookie Fab Melo is a great addition to the Celtics squad. The young center has the potential to be a decent big man in the league, but he must develop in order to secure the spot as primary backup for Kevin Garnett.
While playing college basketball at Syracuse, Melo stuck strictly to playing in a zone defense. Now that he's in the NBA, he must to expand his knowledge and game. The pick and roll is very important to the Celtics, and any big man needs to know how to play against it.
Doc Rivers is known for keeping his rookies on the bench, with a few exceptions. Due to the lack of effective big men on the Celtics, Fab Melo could be one of those exceptions. Garnett needs a reliable backup, especially since his legs need to rest more than in the past.
Melo definitely has a lot to learn, but thankfully, Rivers is one of the best coaches in the league. The Celtics lack size and rebounding, so the development of Fab Melo is crucial to the team's chances of winning another title.