Boston Celtics: 3 Biggest Issues Facing C's After Early Season Returns
The Boston Celtics are seven games into the NBA season. Although it may be a small sample size, enough has been seen to point out the issues that have been plaguing the team in the early going.
To put it simply: this is not the Celtics team we all expected to see this season.
This was supposed to be the year that the youth started to lessen the burden carried by the more experienced players on the squad. The year when the bench would prove to be just as deadly as the starting five. The year when those “old guys” could begin to pass the torch onto the next generation of Celtics’ legends.
The early returns are in and, unfortunately, the Celtics have fallen short in just about all categories.
In fact, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in the Bean since last season.
Last season, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo combined for 47.1 of the Celtics’ 91.8 points per game. That’s 51.3 percent of the team’s total output.
This season, those numbers have actually increased.
Through seven games the “Big 3” have combined for 50.6 of the Celtics’ 97.3 points per game—52.1 percent. Not exactly the direction head coach Doc Rivers wanted his team to move in after making quite the splash during the offseason.
However, with 75 games left on the schedule, the team has plenty of time to get back on the right path.
Here are the three biggest issues that the Celtics need to address.
1. Jared Sullinger or Brandon Bass? Pick One.
When you’re juggling more options than you should, a disaster is bound to happen. That’s the scenario facing Rivers as he continues to shuffle between Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass in the team’s starting lineup.
After starting Bass for the first two games of the regular season, Rivers opted for Sullinger in the next three. Since then, Bass has started the last two.
While it’s great he’s giving his two forwards ample playing time, it’s a necessity for his team to get a sense of consistency. That requires the team to settle on only one of the two players.
A simple glance at the game log paints a clear winner.
In four starts, Bass averaged 12.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 30.0 MPG. On the other hand, Sullinger averaged 4.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 24.5 MPG in three starts.
Bass has played with experience and understanding of the offense, while Sullinger’s lack of NBA experience has been obvious. Although the latter provides the better upside, the Celtics need to focus on winning in the present.
That would be easier achieved with Bass in the lineup.
2. The Bench Production, or Lack There of
The Celtics finished last season with the second-worst bench production in terms of points per game. Furthermore, they were also ranked second worst in bench efficiency according to a formula created by hoopsstats.com.
All of that was supposed to change with the offseason acquisitions of Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger, Leandro Barbosa and more.
Instead, their bench still remains a question mark.
As it stands, the Celtics rank No. 22 in bench scoring, while being ranked No. 27 in bench efficiency.
Those are not the kind of numbers Rivers envisioned his team to be producing at the onset of the season.
Outside of the team’s most frequent starting lineup—Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass and Garnett—only Jason Terry and Jeff Green have averaged more than five points per game. However, when you consider that Terry has most likely taken over Lee’s spot in the rotation—he has started the last two games—that number drops down to only one.
That’s a huge fall off for a team that had a total of four such players last season.
The Celtics can’t keep relying on the old legs of Pierce and Garnett—the team’s top two scorers—all season long. There comes a time when the duo will require backup.
Now is a better time than ever.
3. Lack of Production from Courtney Lee
There was much hype and optimism in Boston when the Celtics announced the signing of Courtney Lee.
However, after getting off to one of the worst statistical starts of his career, much of that excitement has fizzled out.
Through seven games Lee is averaging a mere 4.9 PPG, 0.9 APG and 1.2 RPG. All three are career lows for the five-year man.
Most alarming is the fact that Lee has shot only 15.4 percent from three-point range. That’s something that was believed to be an asset for the guard who has a career three-point shooting percentage of 38.2.
Furthermore, since an 11-point output during the Celtics’ opening-night victory against the Miami Heat, Lee has failed to reach 10 points in each of the six games.
The 27-year-old was brought in to provide solid coverage for Avery Bradley until he returned from his injury. However, Lee’s porous play has seen him sent to the bench already.
If he doesn’t turn it around soon the Celtics will be left back where they started: without depth at shooting guard.
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988