However, if the Celtics hoped to fully accomplish that goal this season, there were a couple of glaring holes that needed to be addressed during the offseason.
First and foremost, there was the troubling fact that only four players would be under contract come July 1. The list of expiring contracts included several key players for the Celtics—Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green.
There was also the Celtics’ lack of depth at every position except point guard. Most noticeably at power forward and center.
With two first-round draft picks and a healthy amount of cap space, the Celtics were in prime position to address these needs and more.
The Celtics began by drafting Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) and Fab Melo (Syracuse) with their two first-round picks during the draft.
Sullinger directly addresses the team’s depth at forward. At 6’9”, 260 pounds, the former Buckeye adds another low post presence for the Celtics, as well as a solid rebounder.
Melo presents the Celtics with a true center. While the selection was viewed as a reach by many analysts, it only goes to show just how desperate the team was to ensure that they found depth at the position.
Next up, the Celtics brought brought back Garnett, Bass and Green, and re-signed Chris Wilcox to the veteran’s minimum.
While losing Allen and his perimeter shooting to the Miami Heat is definitely a blow to the Celtics, the return of Garnett and the others is sure to outweigh that.
The Celtics then decided to make a splash in free agency.
The team utilized their cap space by bringing in the likes of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jason Collins and Darko Milicic.
Combine all of these moves together and the Celtics have had themselves one heck of an offseason.
Here are four ways head coach Doc Rivers will make the most out of these acquisitions.
Lee (left) will be entrusted with a large responsibility for the first half of the season
Last season, Avery Bradley—also known as the man who drove Ray Allen out of town—provided a boost to the Celtics’ offense. He averaged 12.3 PPG and shot 50.4 percent from the field—46.5 percent from beyond the arc—in 28 games as a starter.
Unfortunately, Bradley’s coming out party was cut short when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. He required surgery to repair his shoulder and underwent the procedure in July.
According to ESPN Boston’s Jackie MacMullan, there’s a good chance the Celtics might have to wait until early January before they see Bradley back on the court.
Mixed in with Allen’s departure, the Celtics were now facing a dire need at the guard position.
The Celtics responded by bringing in wily veteran Jason Terry. However, at the age of 35, the Celtics were in search of younger legs as well.
That’s when they pulled off arguably their best offseason acquisition by bringing in Courtney Lee.
Lee—acquired from the Houston Rockets via a sign-and-trade—will be expected to hold down the shooting guard position until Bradley’s return.
Lee averaged 11.4 PPG on 43.3 percent shooting for the Rockets last season. His 40.1 three-point shooting percentage is sure to help the Celtics forget about Allen sooner than later.
While Lee should have no problem matching the offensive output Bradley was expected to contribute, it’s his defense which will cause him to ultimately wind up losing this positional battle.
However, Rivers is known for getting the best out of his players.
Expect Lee to fare quite will in this filler role, while still competing for significant minutes once Bradley returns.
Jason Terry's presence will be much-needed in a suddenly-young Celtics locker room
Celtics fans will surely look back at Eddie House’s tenure with the team quite fondly.
If the Celtics were looking tired or lackluster on the floor, all Rivers had to do was substitute House. Two or three three-pointers later, the fans were back on their feet and the team was refilled with drive and energy.
He was an integral part to the team’s success during his three years in Boston—2007-2010—averaging 7.7 PPG and shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the arc in 17.5 MPG.
With Terry, Rivers hopes he has all that and more. Much more.
In his 13 years in the NBA, Terry has a career average of 16.1 PPG on 44.8 percent shooting. He is an NBA champion, a Sixth Man of the Year award winner and he’s made it quite clear that playing for the Celtics is a serious matter for him.
While House succeeded in providing the Celtics with that momentary boost, Terry can accomplish the same thing—only he can keep it going throughout the entire game.
Terry shot 11-of-16 from the floor and led the Mavericks in scoring with 27 points.
It’s that leadership and talent that Rivers hopes Terry can bring with him to Boston.
Early signs are looking good.
In two preseason games with the Celtics, Terry is averaging 11.5 PPG on 8-of-15 shooting—6-of-8 from three-point range.
Jared Sullinger (right) and his low post ability will be a valuable asset to the Celtics
While the Celtics’ scrappy play helped them keep up with the Miami Heat during last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, it overshadowed one important factor—the Celtics were severely outmatched when it came to the frontcourt.
It got to the point where the team constantly relied on Garnett at both power forward and center.
That’s a strategy Rivers hopes he doesn’t have to revisit this year.
With Sullinger and Melo, the Celtics have two young players who should be able to fill in successfully and provide the starters with some much-needed rest.
In two preseason games thus far, Sullinger has averaged 12.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG. More impressively, he’s averaged four offensive rebounds per game, providing the Celtics with numerous second-chance opportunities.
Melo, on the other hand, hasn’t seen much time during the preseason—only averaging 7.2 MPG—but he was always considered a work-in-progress.
According to Rivers, Melo has been working closely with Garnett and is making quite the progress.
If he keeps it up, he has the potential to team up with Sullinger in providing a huge impact for the Celtics this season.
We could very well be looking at the faces of this franchise for years to come.
Darko Milicic might be looking at his last chance at proving he can play at this level
All three are considered elite in today’s NBA—all three were drafted after Darko Milicic.
It’s a mistake that still haunts the Detroit Pistons, who chose Milicic with the second-overall pick in the 2003 draft. Since then, four other teams have tried their luck with the Serbian to no avail.
The Celtics have decided to be the fifth.
In nine seasons in the NBA, Milicic’s numbers are a far cry from what is expected out of a second-overall draft pick—6.0 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 18.5 MPG.
However, Rivers seems to believe he has what it takes to break the mold.
It’s an experimental endeavor that provides no risk, but only possible reward, as Milicic was signed to the veteran’s minimum.
Thus far, Milicic has shown some signs that there just might be something left in the tank.
In two preseason games, the 27-year-old has averaged 7.5 RPG and 3.0 BPG in 17.1 MPG. He’s only averaged 2.0 PPG, but the Celtics were fully aware of his lack of offensive production when they brought him in.
They need depth at center, and Milicic fits the bill.
All stats and information provided by ESPN.com
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