“Will Avery Bradley’s return give the Celtics a top-2 seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time?”
-Jimmy (Dover, MA)
Before the season began, I predicted that the Celtics would not only secure a top-two seed in the playoffs, but they would also make another run toward the NBA Finals this season. With all their offseason acquisitions paired with the grit they displayed during last year’s playoffs, I thought it was a no-brainer.
However, going off what I’ve seen so far in their 11-9 start, I just might have to retract that prediction.
But that doesn’t mean that Bradley’s return won’t help improve Boston in several categories.
For starters, the Celtics are currently allowing opponents 96.7 points per game. Last season, the team finished No. 2 in the league, allowing only 89.3 points per game. Furthermore, during the 28 games Bradley was in the starting lineup the team allowed only 84.7 points per game.
It’s no secret that Bradley’s perimeter defense could match up with that of any other defender in the league. It’s a huge asset Boston would gladly welcome back to the team.
However, what the team needs to shoot back up to elite status goes well beyond just one player.
Some of that blame can be credited to the underwhelming performances from players who were expected to boost the team’s bench. Instead, Jeff Green has struggled to regain his rhythm and Courtney Lee has been downright disappointing—he currently holds a dreadful PER of 7.2.
Throw in their rebounding woes, and Boston really has some work to do if they hope to snatch a top-two seed this year. Especially when you consider the surprising starts of New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
As it stands now, I think a four or five seed is fitting for the Celtics.
Speaking of rebounding…
“Would you ever consider putting Paul Pierce at shooting guard and Jeff Green at small forward to add more athleticism to the roster? Especially in terms of rebounding.”
-Jethro (Lancaster, MA)
If you asked me this question a week ago, I would of said no emphatically.
However, with the recent strong play of Green, this move could provide some interesting results for the Celtics. Although, I do see any change of this manner proving to be more of a stopgap solution until Bradley’s return than anything else.
At 6’6”, Pierce would provide Boston with a significant height advantage over their current shooting guard, 6’2” Jason Terry. Thus far, Terry has only brought down an average of 2.0 rebounds per game. Pierce, on the other hand, averages 5.4 per game. He would provide the team with both a boost in points and rebounding at the position.
During his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Green served primarily as the team’s starting power forward. He averaged numbers of 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game over three seasons.
His recent run of play—16.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game during an average of 24.2 minutes per game in his last five outings—might suggest that the 26-year-old is returning to his superior level of play.
At the small forward, Green would pretty much make up for the production the Celtics were getting with Pierce at the position.
The only concern comes with Pierce’s declining level of play.
At 35 years old, the miles are starting to add up. Boston wouldn’t want Pierce running around the court with his old legs. Not to mention, in a position that favors a lot of catch-and-shoot, Pierce’s current 41.5 field goal percentage ranks as the second-worst mark of his 14-year career.
Pierce has proven to be more of a wing player who likes to control the ball. So having him coming off screens isn’t the best utilization of his skills.
Considering the impending return of Bradley, this is a move that head coach Doc Rivers is better suited to simply pass up.
Even more on rebounding…
“Should Danny Ainge pursue a trade for a rebounding big man, or should they wait on Bradley’s return and see where they are?”
Let’s face it: The Celtics are downright awful at rebounding.
Boston ranks dead last in the league in the category, averaging 38.3 rebounds per game. In fact, they’ve ranked in the bottom two of the league in rebounding in each of the last three seasons.
Bradley and his 1.4 career rebounds per game average are not going to change that. The Celtics need to bring someone in now.
With the names of Marcin Gortat, Josh Smith and Al Jefferson being thrown around, Boston surely has a number of options.
However, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao should be their top priority.
Varejao is putting up insane numbers, averaging 15.2 rebounds per game to go along with his 14.5 points per game. He’s already posted 15-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in the same game nine times this season. That includes a streak of five-straight games from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3.
At 5-17, the Cavaliers are definitely in the midst of rebuilding. Which makes moving the 30-year-old in favor of some younger players from the Celtics—such as Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and/or Brandon Bass—a very possible scenario.
However, with the center’s stock at the highest it’s ever been, Cleveland could likely demand a steeper price. One that might include Boston giving up the services of Bradley—a move Rivers would likely be against.
If the two teams can come to some sort of agreement on a deal, Varejao might just prove to be the answer the Celtics need under the rim.
Also check out: 4 Players the Celtics Must Pursue Before the Trade Deadline
Comments, suggestions or just want to get your question posted in next week's edition? Just send them along to Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988