Although the Boston Celtics have been lackluster in the preseason, the 2012-13 season will be anything but boring.
The Eastern Conference powerhouse will attempt to reclaim its throne from the Miami Heat, but not without a couple of bumps along the way. The East is no longer the weaker conference, especially with the recent signings over the summer. Andrew Bynum, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have all played a part in increasing the competition.
With the help of its secondary and a rookie named Jared Sullinger, the Celtics will prevail. The team's mix of elite veterans and talented newcomers will propel them to the top, even if it's not apparent yet.
The Eastern Conference is no longer the weaker side of the NBA. With emerging powerhouses like the Nets and Sixers, the Celtics have tough competition this year.
Boston has the talent needed to make another trip to the ECF. Rajon Rondo is the best point guard right now in the East, and possibly the entire NBA. His rare court vision and ability to control the floor give him an edge above Deron Williams. Derrick Rose is still recovering from a torn ACL. In addition, Rondo’s jump shot has improved. Once he fully corrects that weakness, he will be unstoppable.
In addition, the Celtics have experience that the other teams lack. Although the Sixers have put together a solid team, most of the young players haven’t made it past the second round of the postseason. While Andrew Bynum brings a different element to the team, the Celtics are just building off a game plan that already works.
The Celtics will make it back to the ECF to rematch the Miami Heat.
In recent years, the Celtics have been plagued with injuries. Unfortunately, the downside of having well-experienced veterans is that they’re more injury-prone.
The Celtics won’t go a full regular season without a serious injury to a crucial player. Kevin Garnett is not only the oldest player on the C’s, but he’s also the most prone to injury.
Last season, KG was sidelined with a hip flexor problem. This season, don't be surprised if he sits out again for at least a few weeks.
In the event of KG’s absence, Darko Milicic will step up to the plate. Milicic has exceeded expectations so far in the preseason, but then again, most fans didn’t expect much from the former No. 2 draft pick.
Jared Sullinger is a fresh-faced rookie and a budding star on the Celtics. The former Ohio State star is already making a good impression on head coach Doc Rivers, who has been playing the rookie for about 26 minutes per game in the preseason.
Sullinger has a solid preseason stat line right now: 10.9 points, seven rebounds and 56 percent shooting from the field. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he earned the starting power forward position over Brandon Bass. Rivers is already experimenting with Sullinger in the starting lineup, but nothing is definite yet.
Of course, Sullinger still has growing pains. His biggest weakness is his game around bigger players. He has trouble defending taller, more athletic opponents, as was apparent during the preseason game against Spencer Hawes and the Sixers.
Sullinger has a great chance of being Rookie of the Year. He will get an ample amount of playing time this season, enough to showcase his skills. His impact on the Celtics will be greater than most of the other rookies in 2012-13.
The Boston Celtics will have the most productive bench in the NBA in 2012-13.
Doc Rivers will cut his starters’ minutes this season, especially because they were so overworked last year. The Celtics lacked a productive bench, so the starters couldn’t sit during close games. In fact, Rajon Rondo played all 53 minutes of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
Boston’s secondary has a lot more skill than some teams’ entire starting lineup. Jason Terry is one of the best sixth men in the league. Jared Sullinger has been a great help with rebounding. Jeff Green is the second-leading scorer on the team with 13.9 points per game, only behind Paul Pierce.
Last season, the Celtics bench averaged 21.4 points per game, which was 29th in the league. In 2012-13, the Celtics will be able to average more than 40 points per game.
The Celtics will finish ahead of the Sixers, Knicks and Nets to take first place in the Atlantic Division in 2012-13.
Andrew Bynum was brought in to take the Sixers to a whole new level, but he's still recovering from knee surgery. Bynum, along with Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday, are set to lead the new-school Sixers.
However, when matched up against the Celtics, their only true advantage is size. If the Celtics can get over that hump by either going small or utilizing Darko Milicic and Kevin Garnett, they will have an edge over Philadelphia.
Although the Knicks have a fairly deep team this season, they can never seem to reach their full potential. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Jason Kidd, but still manage to seem clunky and confused on offense. They shouldn't be a problem for the Celtics during the regular season.
The Brooklyn Nets have a lot of hype behind their team, and for good reason. The trio of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace is shaping up to be deadly. However, the bench is very thin. The starters would have to log heavy minutes if the Nets want to win the Atlantic Division, and they simply don't have enough depth.
Boston has an edge over all three teams to win the Atlantic Division in a close race.