Final Offseason Grade for the Boston Celtics
It's safe to say that the Boston Celtics offseason is finally over. Then again, we thought it was over about a month ago before the Celtics signed Darko Milicic. We also thought it was over last week, but then Boston went out and signed Leandro Barbosa. But now, the Cs appear to have filled any possible holes and have trimmed the roster to 15, so unless GM Danny Ainge has any other tricks up his sleeve, it looks like it's done.
So, with that, what is the final offseason grade for the Celtics?
It is an "A." It seems inappropriate for it to be any less.
A banged up Boston team took the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals this past year. Albeit, Chris Bosh was not available for part of the series, but nonetheless, even when Bosh did return, the Cs played the eventual champions tougher than any other ballclub did. The Celtics then entered an offseason full of questions.
Would Kevin Garnett retire? Would Ray Allen return? Would Paul Pierce potentially be trade bait?
Well, once Garnett decided he was going to come back, the message was clear in Boston: The Cs were going to reload rather than rebuild.
The rest of the offseason was an absolute coup for the Celtics, as they did things that no one thought they could possibly do given the NBA's salary cap restrictions. First, they used their MLE on Jason Terry. That wasn't really a big deal. But then they finagled a sign-and-trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire Courtney Lee. They re-signed all three of Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox. They went out and got Milicic for the veteran's minimum and then somehow convinced Barbosa to come over despite the glut of guards Boston has.
Not only that, but the Cs picked up Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, and Kris Joseph in the draft.
To keep things organized, let's go through each area the Celtics needed to address over the summer and examine how they went about doing so.
Size and rebounding
Boston was absolutely horrific on the glass last season, and other than Garnett, the team didn't really have any interior intimidators. As good of a shot blocker as Greg Stiemsma was, he hardly struck fear into the hearts of opposing wings when they drove the lane.
The first thing the Cs did to fix this problem was draft Sullinger and Melo. While the seven-foot Melo might need some time in the D-League to develop, Sullinger certainly won't.
Sully looked incredible in preseason, averaging 10.9 points and seven rebounds over 26.1 minutes per game, shooting 56.1 percent from the field in the process. He effectively used his 6'9", 260 lb. frame early and often to get positioning and to bull his way around in the paint. The Ohio State product looks to be an absolute steal at No. 21 for the Celtics.
Boston then re-signed Wilcox, a player who was doing great things for the team before going down with a heart ailment in March that would require surgery. The 6'10" big man does not only bring size, but he can run the floor, as well.
The Cs also added centers Jason Collins and Milicic, two brutes who play extremely physically and will certainly be used to defend the likes of Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard and the other talented centers in the league. Don't underestimate the importance of these two. They could mean all the difference in how fresh K.G. is come playoff time.
Ainge did an incredible job of going out and acquiring affordable talent for the frontcourt. The Celtics have gone from being relatively soft inside to now just being downright mean.
Replacing Ray Allen
Allen bolted for Miami this offseason, opening what some thought would be a gaping wound in Boston. Well, not so much, as not only did the Celtics sign Terry prior to Allen leaving, but they made the sign-and-trade deal for Lee and later went out and got Barbosa. Not just that, but Avery Bradley is making his way back from surgery on both of his shoulders.
The Cs now have what is arguably the deepest guard rotation in the NBA with the likes of Rajon Rondo, Lee, Terry, Bradley and Barbosa. It's pretty clear that Ainge did a more than adequate job in filling Ray's shoes with the moves he made this offseason.
While guys like Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus did an admirable job in bringing energy off the bench this past postseason, they are not guys that you want to be your primary options off the pine. Ainge and the rest of Boston's front office knew this and addressed it fully.
Instead of Dooling, Pietrus, Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins being the main guys off the bench, the Celtics will now have Terry, Lee (when Bradley gets healthy), Green, Sullinger, Wilcox, Barbosa, Milicic, Collins, Melo and Joseph. Talk about doing a 180.
Now as mentioned, Melo might spend some time in the D-League and Joseph's playing time will likely be scarce, but the rest of those reserve options must be making Doc Rivers salivate. This isn't just "depth"; this is a bench that can beat some starting lineups.
One of the things that killed Boston against the Heat in the playoffs this past year was a lack of consistent production off the pine. The Cs should have no such problems this season.
Despite having the likes of Garnett, Rondo and Pierce in the starting lineup last season, the Celtics still struggled to score and were very prone to droughts. Why? Because they were rather one-dimensional offensively, relying far too heavily on the halfcourt set to generate points.
Now, with the infusion of younger blood and athleticism into the lineup, Boston is well-equipped to get out and score in transition. Rondo is at his best when he is able to make plays in the open floor, and now he has plenty of teammates at his disposal who can help maximize his talents in that regard.
We already saw some of this in the preseason with the likes of Terry, Lee and Green. That's only a taste of what we are likely to experience over the course of 82 games and then the playoffs.
The Celtics had four areas that they really needed to patch up this offseason, and somehow, they were able to remedy each and every weak spot. Outside of 2007 when Ainge traded for Garnett and Allen, this is probably the best offseason he has had as Boston's GM. He brought in a wealth of talent at affordable rates that should help the team win this year, and he also started to form a solid core for the future.
There is absolutely no way anyone should give the Cs anything less than an "A" for their efforts this past summer (and autumn). They had things they needed to do to seriously contend for a title again, and they did them.
Ainge has also positioned himself to make a midseason trade with all of the talent he has accumulated. When Bradley returns, the Celtics are going to have five guards. Let's say Ainge decides to make a run at Josh Smith around the deadline. He can now stand to give up someone like Lee or Bradley to bring Smith aboard.
You can't help but marvel at Ainge and the rest of the Cs' front office right now. What they were able to do this offseason exceeded even the most optimistic individual's expectations.
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