The 7 Biggest Obstacles to a Boston Celtics Championship Run

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2012

The 7 Biggest Obstacles to a Boston Celtics Championship Run

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    The Boston Celtics made numerous moves this offseason to keep themselves in title contention.

    On paper, they are clearly still one of the best teams in the league. However, like any other team, there will be obstacles that stand in the way of a potential championship run.

    One can easily say that age is the Celtics' biggest potential issue, but the fact of the matter is that the C's are actually a rather young team now.

    So, if age isn't one of the obstacles, then what exactly are they?

    Let's break down seven of them.

7. Rookies Don't Step Up

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    The Celtics don't normally rely on rookies, but this year is different.

    Boston selected Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo with its two first-round draft choices, and both of those bigs are expected to fill needs for the C's up front.

    First and foremost, Sullinger and Melo will be asked to rebound the basketball, something the Celtics struggled to do in 2012. Sullinger was a great rebounder in college, and although Melo wasn't exactly stellar in that area, he has the size (7'0", 255 lbs.) and skill to improve drastically.

    Sullinger in particular will also be depended upon to provide some low-post scoring off the bench. Outside of Kevin Garnett, Boston didn't really have anyone it can go to on the low block this past year.

    Well, now it does. Sullinger was the best pure back-to-the-basket player in the draft, and he should be able to carry that ability to the professional level.

    Melo certainly needs some grooming, but his presence defensively alongside of Garnett could end up working wonders for the C's.

    These two kids may very well be big-time contributors to a potential playoff run.

    Hey, Kris Joseph might even step up, as well.

6. Change in Philosophy Produces Negative Result

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    With the moves the Celtics made during the offseason, their team is now more inclined to get out on the break and run. The question is, will such an imminent change in philosophy have a negative impact on the team as a whole?

    Garnett and Paul Pierce used to be able to get up and down the floor without any problems in their prime, but being that they are now 36 and 34, respectively, that may become an issue over the course of a full season.

    Of course, the more likely scenario is that a reliable fast-break game will provide Boston with more versatility and unpredictability offensively. Plus, it will allow Rajon Rondo to be at his absolute best, as he certainly loves to push the tempo and is most dangerous out in the open floor. It should definitely be fun watching him work with Chris Wilcox in transition again, and we will get to see him dish the ball off to Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry, as well.

    One just has to wonder if more running means wearier legs for Garnett and Pierce came playoff time.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Thunder have kind of been forgotten about amidst the Dwight Howard trade and the Miami Heat's five-game victory over them in the NBA Finals, but they are still an elite team, nonetheless.

    Due to the fact that the Celtics got younger and a bit more athletic this offseason, Oklahoma City does not pose as much of a matchup issue for Boston as it has in the past. However, the Thunder are still a bit too quick for the C's regardless, as they possess the best transition game in the league with the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

    Oklahoma City also has a menacing duo up front defensively in Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.

    The Los Angeles Lakers look to be the best team in the Western Conference now with their acquisition of Howard, but it would be silly to dismiss the defending conference champions just like that.

    They are the defending conference champs for a reason, after all.

4. Miami Heat

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    The past two postseasons in a row, the Celtics were eliminated by the Heat. So, naturally, Miami has to be considered one of Boston's biggest roadblocks on the path to an 18th championship.

    There will be more drama between the C's and the Heat this year than ever before, as Ray Allen spurned the Celtics to join forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in South Beach. How effective Allen will be on that ankle of his remains to be seen, but it is still a great storyline, regardless.

    One thing we can definitely say about Boston is that it matches up very well with Miami, as seen in the two teams' classic seven-game series this past June. Garnett and Rondo both give the Heat fits ad nauseam, and now the Celtics have someone who broke Miami's heart in the 2011 Finals: Jason Terry.

    Thanks to the moves GM Danny Ainge made during the offseason, Boston now has plenty of depth to counter the Heat's previous strategy of simply trying to wear down the C's, and that should make this matchup even more interesting.

    Let's face it: barring key injuries to either club, these two squads will be going head-to-head in the Eastern Conference finals again in 2013.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

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    That brings us to the toughest possible matchup for the Celtics: the Lakers.

    The Heat may be Boston's most difficult task in the Eastern Conference, but there is absolutely no question that Los Angeles is the scariest adversary for the C's overall.

    L.A. possesses the best frontcourt in the game with Howard and Pau Gasol, and any team that has a good amount of size up front could give the Celtics problems—not as many problems as last year, as Boston has made moves to remedy that, but problems, nonetheless.

    Actually, this Lakers frontline will give every team in the league issues.

    I should probably also mention that Kobe Bryant guy and that point guard named Steve Nash. Oh, and how about the fact that this once depth-challenged Los Angeles squad now has Antawn Jamison coming off the bench?

    Should the C's get to the Finals, there seems to be a very good chance that they will run into their historic rivals. That would be one heck of a series.

2. Kevin Garnett's Longevity

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    Garnett didn't just merely perform better during the playoffs than he did throughout the regular season this past year. He looked like a different player entirely, averaging 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

    To put it plainly, K.G. was simply dominant in the postseason.

    Well, the Celtics will need that Garnett again in 2012-13.

    He doesn't have to put up those kinds of numbers over the course of the first 82 games, but he does need to regain that form for late April. He is Boston's most important player. As he goes, so go the C's. By time the postseason comes around in 2013, though, K.G. will be 37 years old.

    Does he have another run like that left in him?

    This is why it is so imperative for Doc Rivers to limit his minutes during the regular season. K.G. should not be playing over 30 minutes a game.

    Take notes from Gregg Popovich, Doc.

1. Health

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    Health has not been a friend to the Celtics in the past. In each of Boston's last four postseasons, at least one key member of the team was injured.

    Hopefully for the C's, their luck will change this year.

    As mentioned earlier, it's not like the Celtics are an old team anymore, as Ainge infused some youth into the roster by drafting Sullinger and Melo, acquiring Lee and bringing back the likes of Green and Wilcox.

    That does come with an asterisk, however.

    Why?

    Because Green and Wilcox are both coming off heart surgery, and it remains to be seen how either player will handle the grind and strain of an 82-game season.

    Pierce was playing on a sprained MCL during the 2012 playoffs, but he should be ready to go for this coming season. Pierce has always been a rather durable player, too.

    It would mean everything in the world if Boston can finally head into the playoffs at full strength.