Best and Worst Case Scenarios for Boston Celtics in 2012-2013
But over the course of the NBA season, there are endless possibilities regarding what could happen with this team. From breakout performances to devastating injuries, the Celtics' title quest will certainly be a hard-fought one.
So, in order to bring the upcoming season into focus, let's pin down some of the best and worst case scenarios for this Boston Celtics squad.
Best Case Scenario: Celtics Have the Most Productive Bench in the NBA
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Last season, the Celtics' bench was second in the league in defense, yet 29th in offense and 27th in rebounding.
This season should be a different story, given that the Celtics have a well-rounded second unit that could be the best in the NBA. With Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Chris Wilcox pegged as key reserves, the Celtics will be able to throw a variety of lineups at opponents.
Offensively, we know that Terry can almost always be leaned on to score as he has the ability to create his own shot. Lee, though not as consistent as Terry, is a great athlete who can connect from the outside and get to the basket.
Lee is also a capable defender, as are Green, Terry and Wilcox, while rookie Jared Sullinger is a big body who will be able to use his size to muscle opposing players in the paint and fight for rebounds.
If the Celtics are going to make a serious run at the NBA finals, they need to have a bench on which they can rely. This year, it looks like they'll have that and more.
Worst Case Scenario: Celtics Are Hampered by Injuries Throughout the Season
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The Celtics' depth should be able to protect them from injuries. However, injuries seem to always occur in bunches for them. Whether it's Rondo and Garnett or Pierce and Brandon Bass, this team will have multiple injuries. They just can't happen all at once.
Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox are prime candidates to miss time this season. Both players had heart issues last season that required major surgery and an extensive rehabilitation process. Also, Wilcox is known to be injury prone as he has only played more than 60 games three times in his 11-year career.
The bottom line is that the Celtics will have to contend with some injuries. Hopefully nothing major looms on that front because they'll need to be at full-strength if they stand a chance of emerging from the Eastern Conference come playoff time.
Best Case Scenario: Jared Sullinger Proves to Be a Steal
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When Celtics GM Danny Ainge took Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick of the 2012 NBA draft, he was taking a calculated risk in hopes of a huge payoff.
Originally projected to be a high lottery pick coming out of Ohio State, Sullinger's draft stock was marred by reports of a career-threatening back injury.
So far, his back has proven to be a non-issue. Sullinger played well in both the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues and could be an immediate impact player for the Celtics.
If Sullinger could come off the bench and consistently score the ball and rebound—say, to the tune of 10 points and five rebounds per game—Ainge will see an immediate return on his investment. Not only that, but the Celtics would also have a legitimate big man coming off their bench, something they didn't have last year.
And that would be a serious step toward solving the Celtics' rebounding woes, which cost them a championship in 2010 against the Los Angeles Lakers and have been the source of many headaches over the last few seasons.
Worst Case Scenario: Jeff Green Struggles to Regain His Rhythm
Jeff Green is expected to play a key role for the Celtics this season as part of a new run-and-gun lineup more suitable to Rajon Rondo's up-tempo style. However, even if he is able to stay healthy this season, there's no telling whether he'll be able to readjust to the rigors of NBA basketball and reintegrate himself into the Celtics system.
Green essentially had to start from scratch in training himself for the upcoming season. The fact that he has missed an entire season is a major point of concern, and the extent of his production will be in question.
In his first, albeit brief, stint with the Celtics, Green struggled to acclimate to coming off the bench and playing the small forward position. Anything short of an improvement upon his initial effort will be disappointing, especially since the Celtics have inked him to a lucrative long-term deal.
The fact that Green is returning after suffering a life-threatening ailment makes it difficult to see him having a breakout season, let alone improve on his 2011 campaign.
Best Case Scenario: Rajon Rondo Continues to Elevate His Game
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Every year, Rajon Rondo continues to get better. This season will be no different.
While we can expect that Rondo has worked to expand his game this offseason, we have also have to consider his supporting cast.
Rondo will have more offensive weapons in his arsenal than ever before. Whether he's firing precision outlet passes to a sprinting Chris Wilcox or hitting Kevin Garnett at the top of the key for one of his patented 20-foot jumpers, Rondo has options.
And the more options he has, the scarier he is.
But let's not sell Rondo short on his own game because, despite the talent around him, he's still the catalyst.
You can say what you want about his sub-par jump shot or his eagerness to gamble on defense. Just keep in mind that it all starts with Rondo. His ability to slice through an opposing defense and find enough daylight to thread the needle cannot be overlooked.
It's safe to say that we can expect to see an improvement from Rondo, most notably in his scoring output, as the Celtics will be doing things more by committee this season.
Worst Case Scenario: Kevin Garnett Finally Shows His Age
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36-year-old Kevin Garnett was remarkable last season, averaging over 19 points and 10 rebounds per game during the playoffs and nearly carrying the Celtics to the NBA Finals.
But there is a chance that Garnett may not resemble the player he was 10 years ago like he did last season.
And if Garnett doesn't have the same spring in his step this season, the Celtics will have a wide, gaping hole at center.
This team, as talented as it is, still needs Garnett to be at the top of his game. If he isn't, and if his body is unable to handle another season of taking a relative beating at the center position, then the Celtics' short-term hopes of winning another championship will be dealt a powerful blow.
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Will the Celtics win the NBA Finals?
Will they get bounced in the second round?
There's a lot that can happen between now and June. Teams can be broken and teams can be reborn.
Last season, the Celtics found new life after the All-Star break, grinding out each and every victory with incredible perseverance. Let's hope the same happens this season, just with a better start.
The Boston Celtics are all in, yet again. And though there's a lot to lose this season, there's everything to gain.