6 Ways the Boston Celtics Can Exceed Expectations This Season
Each NBA team will start the 2012-13 season with a set of expectations.
For a team like the Miami Heat the expectation game is tough, they're going to want to repeat as champs, something that isn't always so easy to accomplish.
Contrast that with the expectations set for a team like the Charlotte Bobcats who are coming off a historically bad season. For Charlotte, simply winning more than 25 games would represent significant progress.
In Boston expectations are high. The Celtics are already going to be saddled with a set of daunting challenges.
The Celtics would love to win a sixth consecutive Atlantic Division Title, make the playoffs, and get back to the Eastern Conference finals.
After that it gets tough.
Beating the defending champion Miami Heat would be great. It might not be fair to expect that to happen, but every Celtics fan certainly wants it to happen. Then, of course, there's the little matter of the franchise's 18th banner. That's the ultimate goal of every season, and as last season showed—even an inconsistent regular season doesn't mean a trip to the Finals is out of the question.
It's easy to forget what the final roster of the Celtics looked like when the 2011-12 season came to its conclusion.
The Celtics were an aging team that didn't rebound well, had trouble scoring and lacked depth. If you're setting your expectations for this coming season's team based primarily on the product that left the court last May, then prepare to have your expectations exceeded.
The 2012-13 season is almost upon us. The Celtics are going to be good, here are some ways the C's can go from just "good" to great or maybe even Champs.
1. Jared Sullinger Must Be Good
When the Boston Celtics drafted Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger the team was taking a calculated risk.
Sullinger had some fairly solid NBA tools, but he also saw his stock drop in the weeks leading up to the draft after some medical issues regarding his back were revealed.
There are a lot of good things one could say about the 2011-12 Boston Celtics but "good rebounding team" is not one of them.
The Celtics were the NBA's worst rebounding team last season, and while one can dig through stats to find teams that have succeeded in spite of being weak rebounding teams, it is certainly not a weakness a team with NBA Title designs would find desirable.
Kevin Garnett at center is nice, Rajon Rondo is a great rebounder for a point guard, but the Celtics are a weak rebounding team. They need help, and Jared Sullinger, if healthy is a good bet to help out on the glass.
Sullinger is a 6'9" 265 pound man who should be able to use his strength to clear space and grab rebounds in the paint.
Doc Rivers needs someone who he can turn to who can enter a game and focus primarily on getting rebounds.
2. Jason Terry Must Knock Down 3-Point Shots
Ray Allen is gone. He's taken his talent to South Beach, and in case you weren't aware, Ray Allen's "talent" is knocking down a lot of three-point shots.
The 2011-12 Boston Celtics weren't exactly a high scoring, showtime type of squad. The Celtics struggled to score at times, didn't shoot the ball that well, and that was with one of the greatest shooters in NBA history on the roster.
Now he's gone, so that makes any player brought on board to replace him of paramount importance.
The Celtics' defense will keep them in most games. They're a good team even if they aren't a great scoring team. The presence of Jason Terry on the roster means they have a chance to be very good.
Terry hit more three-point shots than all but one other NBA player last season. Only Ryan Anderson's 166 made three-point shots eclipsed the 138 from Terry.
If Terry can continue on that path, if he can be one of the league's very best long-rang gunners, a Celtics team with great defense and an inconsistent offense becomes a much more potent all-around basketball team.
A Boston team with Jason Terry is good, a Celtics team with Terry among the league leaders in made three-point shots could be that much better.
3. More Uptempo Offense
In one offseason the Celtics have gone from a somewhat aging crew to a somewhat younger team.
Gone are Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus and Jermaine O'Neal.
The Celtics of 2012-13 will welcome two 2012 NBA draft first-round picks, as well as two 26-year-old players in Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. A healthy Avery Bradley adds a 21-year-old elite athlete to the starting five.
Last season there were too many times when Rajon Rondo would race ahead of the opposing defense, only to find himself on a one-man fast break.
This season that won't be happening as often.
No, the Celtics probably won't be confused with the showtime Lakers of the 1980's, but a team that at times really struggled to create any easy baskets may find themselves with a few more layups and dunks than last year.
The defense will still be good, add more offense and the Celtics could see more wins—perhaps even more than expected.
4. The Backup Big Men
In 2011-12 by the time the Celtics were mired in a rough-and-tumble seven game series against the Miami Heat, the team was nearly devoid of any serviceable big men off the bench.
It was Kevin Garnett as the starting center and then Greg Stiemsma. That was really about it.
This season, Garnett will return to his role as starting center.
He's going to have a lot more help though. That help could play a major role in the Celtics being better than many expect.
This coming season if Doc Rivers needs to give Garnett a rest, he can turn to Jason Collins, Chris Wilcox and possibly even rookie Fab Melo.
Wilcox was on the team last season, but missed a portion of the regular season and all of the playoffs with heart condition that required surgery.
Melo is a seven-foot rookie who may or may not be able to have an impact in his rookie season.
Jason Collins has been a decent backup center in the NBA for 11 years.
Adding more depth to the center position will play a key role in allowing the Celtics to surprise a few so-called experts.
5. Avery Bradley Improves His Offense
When Avery Bradley was moved into the starting shooting guard role last spring he had an immediate impact on defense.
Bradley is an exceptional defender, who ended up receiving votes for the NBA's All-Defensive Team. He is not, nor is he ever likely to be as gifted or accomplished on offense as Ray Allen.
If Bradley can improve his offense, once he returns from off-season shoulder surgery, then the Celtics will be that much tougher to beat.
Bradley's defense is top-notch, especially when one considers his age ( 21 ) and his lack of experience.
His offense has plenty of room for improvement, if Bradley starts to improve by leaps and bounds then this coming season could be a very good one in Boston.
6. Jeff Green Plays Like a Top 5 Pick
It's been so long that it is easy to forget.
Way back in 2007, Jeff Green was the No. 5 pick in the NBA Draft.
Being selected that high bestows certain expectations on you. In the 2008-09 NBA season, as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Green appeared to be heading in the direction of fulfilling those expectations. He averaged 16.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He was only 22 years old and was on the right path.
Then things got sidetracked. Green had to fight for minutes in Oklahoma City, his numbers started to decline and was ultimately traded to Boston where he would end up missing the entire 2011-12 season due to heart surgery.
This coming season he'll be back, and most people would probably expect him to be a fairly solid but not spectacular contributor for the Celtics.
What if they were wrong though?
What if Green became the player that was picked fifth overall in 2007? What if he started scoring in buckets, passing the ball well, while hauling in 8-10 rebounds a night?
The Celtics would be in a great position if those things started occurring with regularity. No player on the current Celtics roster was selected higher than Green was. Kevin Garnett and Green were both picked fifth in their respective draft classes.
Green has tons of talent, and if this season is to become one of pleasant surprises in Boston then he's going to have to play a major role.