10 Key Obstacles Facing the 2012-2013 Boston Celtics
In an off season where the Celtics parted with one of the members of their original trio of superstars and acquired many weapons to try and compensate, the verdict is still out on whether or not the Celtics are still a premier team in the NBA.
On paper, the Celtics have all the tools to contend.
They now have depth from the bench as well as a dominant point guard in Rajon Rondo to orchestrate the offense. Furthermore, they have their defensive anchor as well as interior post presence in Kevin Garnett.
Finally, in clutch situations, they still have their assassin in Paul Pierce.
However, in some circumstances, what teams have on paper don't necessarily translate well out on the court. One case of this was the Houston Rockets during the Yao Ming dynasty. A team headed by the duo of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady never made any real waves as a contending team.
However, the Celtics have a proven core and their reloaded roster should push them back into the upper echelon of the NBA if they can overcome ten key obstacles.
Can the Boston Celtics Rebound from a Poor Rebounding Year?
Last year, the Celtics were atrocious on the boards.
With aging veterans manning their front court and a depleted bench, it was no wonder that the Boston Celtics were a poor rebounding team.
Aside from Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, the rest of the roster yielded no real standouts in terms of rebounding effort.
Though they do gather defensive rebounds at a decent 31.1 rebounds per game clip, they are atrocious on the offensive boards.
Averaging only 7.7 offensive rebounds per game, the Celtics did not have a lot of second chance opportunities and the regression in offensive rebounds meant more fast break opportunities off defensive rebounds for opposing teams.
In order for the Celtics to have a deep playoff run like they did last year, despite not rebounding well, the C's will have to redouble their rebounding efforts to compensate for the extra year of mileage on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
The returns of Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green as well as the development of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, the Celtics should have enough big bodies to make an impact on both ends of the court in the rebounding department.
Is Paul Pierce Still the Truth?
Paul Pierce is the glue that holds this roster together.
While Rondo has become the on court leader and Kevin Garnett remains the heart and soul of the franchise since his signing, Paul Pierce has been the constant on the team and provides stability and locker room leadership.
On paper, his numbers don't appear any worse than they were at any point in his career. Still averaging good rebounding and assist numbers as well as scoring close to 20 points a game during the regular season and the playoffs, Paul Pierce seems to be in top form despite his age.
However, one statistic that proves that Paul Pierce may be regressing is his field goal percentage. Averaging his lowest percentage in four seasons during the regular season, Paul Pierce's field goal percentage plummeted to 38.6 percent during the playoffs.
With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both being projected to have some depreciation in skill due to age, Rondo's questionable jump shot up to this season and an unproven group of bench players, it is more important than ever that Paul Pierce remains that constant offensive threat that he has always been during his tenure in the NBA.
For Paul Pierce to continue to deliver the truth, he needs to find his shot, become more efficient and raise his field goal percentage.
Will Avery Bradley Return to Form?
Avery Bradley is the best perimeter defender on the roster for the Boston Celtics.
However, playing through a dislocated shoulder that eventually lead to a premature ending to his personal playoff run, Avery Bradley could only watch as the Celtics were burned by the Heat.
The key obstacle here is if Avery Bradley can return and contribute on the defensive end like he did the previous season.
Although he is only recovering from a dislocated shoulder, there are always the associated risks with injuries that are apparent no matter what type of injury it is.
A player who is returning from injury won't always return in optimum condition. Thus, Avery Bradley's performance will hinge on how in shape he is upon his return or how fast it takes for him to regain his fitness.
Furthermore, another risk that injured players face is returning too early and re-aggravating the injury.
There is no doubt that the Celtics have retooled their guard rotation, but having a healthy Avery Bradley is definitely a necessity due to his tenacious defense.
The obstacle they face here is managing Bradley's minutes and making sure he rounds into form by the time the playoffs roll around.
Can Jason Terry Fill Ray Allen's Shoes?
Ray Allen has been an integral part of the Celtic offense ever since he was signed by the organization.
His ability to move off the ball and slash to the basket was a boon in Doc River's offensive schemes. However, his most prominent contributions were definitely from mid to long range, as he is arguably the best shooter of all time.
Furthermore, his defensive contributions were underrated. Ray Allen had strength in his slim frame and speed as well, which allowed him to be a defensive pest until age and his ankle finally caught up to him in the past two seasons.
Jason Terry comes in playing the same role Ray Allen eventually conformed to last season.
Ray Allen became instant offense off the bench, but still closed out a lot of games with the starting line up due to his clutch shooting and ability to spread the floor.
Jason Terry has to be able to hit the clutch shot and consistently make his attempts from mid to long range in order to replace the void left by Ray Allen's absence.
Furthermore, Doc Rivers has given Jason Terry the added responsibility of being an additional creator on offense. The only other player on the team who can really create their own shot off the dribble is Paul Pierce.
Can the Celtics Thrive Without a True Back Up Point Guard?
There is no doubt that the Celtics have one of the top five best point guards in the NBA today.
However, once Rondo hits the bench, there is no dependable point guard to back him up.
Jason Terry has played the one spot in the past, but he isn't a distributor by nature and will have a hard time orchestrating the Celtics' offense.
Kevin Garnett can orchestrate the offense from the post if Rondo hits the bench, but the offense would still be more efficient if they had a point guard on the second unit to really direct traffic in the same way Rajon Rondo does.
However, the Celtics used to do well with combo guards like Eddie House, Nate Robinson and Stephon Marbury coming off the bench, and if they are able to overcome this obstacle by finding a way to be efficient with Jason Terry running the point on occasion, they should be alright.
Will the Bench Mob Be Able to Generate Enough Offense?
The starting line up for the Boston Celtics has proven itself year after year.
Though they aren't the most offensively proficient bunch in the league, they have proven that they can grind out victories with their tough defense and their inside-out game centered around Rondo's distribution and Kevin Garnett's post ups.
However, last year, the second unit was a big liability on offense. Once Kevin Garnett or Rajon Rondo stepped off the court, the offense suffered in a big way.
This year, the Celtics are bringing Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jeff Green off the bench.
Jason Terry is a proven scorer and clutch shot maker in the league, while Jeff Green and Courtney Lee are both raw athletes with a bunch of potential.
Courtney Lee is a slasher and athletic defender with an accurate jump shot, while Jeff Green is a versatile big man with long range and a decent post game.
If the second unit is able to click on offense, they will be a huge advantage for the Celtics, who would then boast one of the most potent rotations in the league.
Can Jeff Green Live Up to His Potential?
In order for the Celtics to have a really dependable second unit, they need offensive efficiency from their bench.
One of the key members of that second unit is Jeff Green, who was once regarded as a potential star alongside Kevin Durant and Westbrook in the same way James Harden is starting to be regarded as today.
Jeff Green's versatile style of play is both a curse and a blessing.
Obviously versatility is a boon for any offense, but he also possesses that jack-of-all-trades stigma as well.
He is a decent shooter, but not excellent. He can post up smaller guards, but is undersized for the power forward position and has a hard time posting up bigger players.
He has decent handles and an above average face up game, but is a little slower than a lot of the small forwards in the league due to his size.
He is a little to big for the small forward position but a little too small for the power forward position.
If he can find a niche in his game that he can focus on while using his versatile skill set to bolster that niche, he can really contribute on both ends of the court and be a key component of the Boston Celtics—even after the eventual retirement of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Can Rajon Rondo Develop a Consistent Jump Shot?
Aside from a questionable jump shot, there is no doubt that Rajon Rondo has all the skills any point guard could want.
Rondo is a creative and efficient passer with long arms that aid on the defensive end as well as quick feet that help him push the pace as well as get back on transition defense.
His wing span makes him tremendous on the boards for a point guard and his only true weakness is his perimeter shooting.
He can slash and score in a variety of ways, but once the defenses relax on him, his jumper hasn't always been there for him to rely on.
Though he has shown strides, specifically in the past two seasons as well as this preseason, Rondo will have to become a proficient jump shooter in order to really take this Celtics team back to prominence.
When the offense runs through Kevin Garnett, having a player like Rondo be able to hit a perimeter jump shot will allow Kevin Garnett to have another target to kick out to when his post game garners some double teams.
Furthermore, once Rondo develops a jump shot, the starting line up could potentially consist of five players who can all hit the perimeter jumper as well as a bench that consists of at least three consistent jump shooters.
This will lead to excellent floor spacing and a degree of versatility in terms of playing an inside out game that few teams in the NBA are truly proficient at.
Can the Celtics Avoid Major Inuries?
It almost seems like a cop out, posing this obstacle, because all the teams in the NBA face the same dilemma.
However, there are few teams out there that have suffered the same unfortunate injures and maladies like the Celtics have. A few examples of teams that have fared worse than the Celtics were the Warriors and Trail Blazers. However, aside from those two teams and a few others, the Boston Celtics were one of the teams hit hardest by unfortunate injures.
Firstly, they lost Jermaine O'Neal for almost the entirety of the season, which may have been a good thing in the long run because it allowed Kevin Garnett to prosper at the center position. However, his skills coming off the bench would have been a big help to a depleted second unit.
Secondly, Avery Bradley was lost after a quick stint in the playoffs and the Celtics were forced to trudge along in the playoffs without their best perimeter defender.
Thirdly, the Celtics lost both Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, two young and athletic bench players, for the entire season.
Finally, the Celtics had to deal with a gimpy Ray Allen, who was a shadow of his former self due to his lingering ankle surgery that would have required surgery earlier if he didn't have the heart to push himself further in the playoffs.
If the Celtics can stay relatively healthy and dealt with only half of the injuries they had to deal with last season, they'll have a good shot of making another playoff push.
Is Kevin Garnett Still the Big Ticket?
The biggest concern for Boston next season is if Kevin Garnett can keep maintaining a high level of play.
Even if he has to conserve his energy during the season and play limited minutes, the Celtics need a superstar contribution from Kevin Garnett during the playoffs in order to have any chance at success.
Kevin Garnett is, without a doubt, the most important member of the Boston Celtics.
On the defensive end, he is the anchor that guards the paint and is one of the best big men at guarding the pick and roll as well.
His defensive tenacity and intensity radiate an aura that instills pride and intensity in his teammates as well. He is the heart and soul of the franchise, and a loss in his step could potentially lead to a team wide defensive step back as well.
Furthermore, Kevin Garnett is the only real post presence the Celtics have.
He can play on the high post and use his height and length to pass over the defenses as well as dominate on the low post with his simple, but effective post moves and his almost unstoppable turn around jump shot.
He is also a very proficient mid-range shooter and his offensive versatility and essential post up operations are a vital part of the Celtic system.
Kevin Garnett needs to continue playing at a very high level in order for the Boston Celtics to have any hope of having a championship run.