Exploiting the Celtics' 5 Biggest Weaknesses for 2012-13
For a 39-27 team, the Boston Celtics had several weaknesses that were easily exploitable last season. Unfortunately, they didn't do a great job of addressing those issues this offseason, so it's likely to see the same weaknesses appear in 2012-13.
Now, don't get me wrong here. The Celtics were a strong all-around team last season. They took the Miami Heat to Game 7 in the Easter Conference Finals, as they were able to overcome their disadvantages and play well.
The Heat were clearly the more talented team in that series. In the opinion of many, the series never even should have gone to Game 7.
The Heat's inability to take control of the series was mostly because of their inability to exploit several key weaknesses of the Celtics.
That's surprising, as strategies to exploit these weaknesses should not have been all that difficult to come up with.
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The Celtics were terrible on the glass last season. How terrible? Well, terrible enough to be ranked dead last in the NBA.
They brought down just 38.79 rebounds per game, while allowing 43.20. That minus-4.41 differential wasn't last in the league, but it was darn close (28th).
Most of this lies on the shoulders of Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. It's not necessarily that they are incapable rebounders...it's more that they're so undersized as a pair.
The two grabbed just 14.4 rebounds as a tandem last season. Compare that to the 14.5 put up by Dwight Howard alone, and the Celtics have got themselves an issue.
The best way to exploit this weakness is actually quite simple: Box out hard on every potential rebound.
Garnett won't out-jump you at this point in his career—his legs simply don't have the same lift they did five seasons ago. A good box out should be able to keep him in check.
Bass, on the other hand, is just too small in the frontcourt (6'8") to be a dominating force on the glass. Putting a big body up against him will easily keep him from grabbing more than five or six boards per game.
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Yeah, yeah, yeah—I know you've all heard this argument before.
The reason it keeps coming up is because it gets more and more relevant with each passing season.
Pierce and Garnett are on the home stretches of their respective careers, Jason Terry isn't as young as he once was and the combination of Jason Collins and Chris Wilcox contains a combined 21 years of NBA experience.
The addition of Courtney Lee and the return of Jeff Green will help the problem, but Garnett, Pierce and Terry will be playing a vast majority of the minutes.
The best way to exploit this weakness and get into Boston's bench is to play a fast-paced game with high intensity from the onset.
This style of play can easily tire the older legs of the Celtics and could directly lead to lackadaisical play on defense.
Young, fast teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers can easily give Boston problems by implementing this style of play. Even "slower" teams can capitalize on this strategy, as there's a good chance that they're at least slightly faster.
Weakness: Lack of Trust in the Bench
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Last season, Boston starters played a ton of minutes due to a lack of depth on the bench.
Each starter averaged over 30 minutes per game in the playoffs last season, with the lowest average coming from Bass at 30.4. Rondo was the high-mark, as he averaged a ridiculous 42.6 minutes per game.
The bench was upgraded this offseason with Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger and Terry added into the mix, but those players will need some time to earn the trust of head coach Doc Rivers.
This lack of trust in the bench will likely lead to Rivers keeping in his starters for a similar number of minutes that we saw in last year's playoffs.
The best way to exploit this weakness is to play hard from start to finish. If the other team can play a fast-paced game, the Boston starters will get tired, and Rivers will be forced to make a tough decision—either leave in his starters or go with an untrusted player.
This strategy may only work for the season's first month or so, however. As soon as each bench player carves out his own role on the team, Rivers will have a better sense of how to rotate his guys in and out.
Weakness: Rajon Rondo's Jump Shooting
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Rondo is one of the most explosive point guards in the NBA—he can drive, dribble and distribute. Those are three pretty important "d's" if you're a point guard in the NBA.
The only thing missing from his game is a consistent jump shot.
Rondo was way behind the elite guards in terms of three-point shooting last season, shooting just 24.7 percent. Compare that to the 31.2 mark put up by Derrick Rose—a number that is even behind the likes of Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams (among others)—and there's a big gap between himself and the top point guards.
His inability to hit an 18-footer is equally as astounding. Rondo's jump shooting represents a real weakness in the Boston offense, so exploiting that would be smart for other teams.
The best way to do so would be to protect against Rondo penetrating into the paint. I'm sure it's easier said than done, but having help ready on defense could go along way in neutralizing his driving ability and forcing him to pull up and take a shot that he is uncomfortable taking.
Rondo averaged just 11.9 points per game last season (17.3 in the playoffs). Forcing him to take more jump shots could result in a big decrease in his production.
Weakness: Rondo's Free-Throw Shooting
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I feel pretty bad picking on Rondo, but his inability to hit free throws consistently is a real hindrance to the Celtics offense.
During the regular season, Rondo shot just .597 from the should-be charity stripe. He improved slightly in the postseason, posting a .696 percentage.
These percentages are pathetic for a guard in the NBA—and really for a professional basketball player in general—and there's no doubt that the Celtics would benefit from Rondo knocking down two or three more free throws a game.
Rondo's game is molded around penetrating and getting to the stripe, and he'd be a much more complete player if he could capitalize when he got there.
Other teams would be smart to play Rondo more aggressively when he attempts to penetrate. I'm in no way condoning hurting Rondo, but being a little physical with him near the basket would result in a lot more free-throw attempts.
Chances are, he won't make many of them. It's like a modified hack-a-Shaq—rock-a-Rondo.