5 Things Boston Celtics Must Do to Reach Full Potential
The Boston Celtics had high expectations to start the 2012-13 season, but have yet to reach their full potential midseason. The Celtics need to get their act together if they want to be seen as a true contender.
The Celtics are one game under .500 with a 20-21 record. For a team with as much talent as this year's Celtics, their performance has been disappointing, to say the least. On paper, the team has the perfect blend of experienced veterans and hardworking newcomers. However, something just isn't clicking.
If the Celtics want to reach their full potential, they must drill these three words in their heads: Defense. Cohesiveness. Consistency. Those are the keys to the Celtics turning their season around.
All stats used are accurate as of Jan. 23, 2013.
The Celtics' biggest problem is their lack of consistency. Even when the team shows a glimpse of its full potential, they seem to regress shortly after.
For example, following the return of Avery Bradley, the Celtics went on a six-game winning streak. During that run, they defeated top-tier Eastern Conference teams, such as the Knicks and Hawks. However, the Celtics have lost four straight, including losses to the Pistons and Cavaliers.
If the Celtics want to reach their full potential, they need to be consistent. Individually, the players can't afford to make inconsistent contributions. When Boston faced Cleveland on Jan. 22, Paul Pierce missed 12-of-15 shots. Kevin Garnett only took five shots in the second half. As veterans and top contributors, Pierce and Garnett must lead by example.
When the Celtics learn to play well on a nightly basis—and not just occasionally—they will find success.
The Celtics are at their best when they are a defensive-minded team. When the team puts significant attention to its defense, the occasional offensive lull isn't a real problem. However, when the team struggles defensively, its offensive struggles are also intensified.
The Celtics must return to their defensive roots. Sustained defense leads to improved offense. Defensive stops help facilitate the offense going in the other direction.
Boston was blessed with good defensive players like Kevin Garnett, Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Courtney Lee. Garnett's long limbs and intimidation helped him become the defensive leader of the team. On the other hand, Bradley's lockdown perimeter defense is one of the league's best. The Celtics need to utilize their defensive talents to reach full potential.
Coming into the 2012-13 season, there was much hype surrounding the Celtics' secondary unit. With players like Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee coming off the bench, the Celtics were supposed to be one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
However, the team's bench has not lived up to expectations at all. Terry is having the worst statistical season of his career overall. Green is not the same jack of all trades that played alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Lee is still struggling to find his role on the team, and his three-point percentage fell from 40 percent to 34 percent.
Every once in a while, the bench will show us how great they can be with an amazing game. For example, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green lit up the Barclays Center on Christmas Day with 16 and 15 points, respectively. In the first half alone, Sullinger had 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and a block.
The Celtics need contributions from unfamiliar places on a regular basis. The bench needs to be just as productive as the stars.
Start Jared Sullinger over Brandon Bass
Jared Sullinger is only a rookie, but he is outperfoming Brandon Bass at the power forward position. The Celtics need to make changes to their starting lineup if they're serious about turning the season around.
In the last 10 games, Bass has averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds over 25.9 minutes of playing time. During that same span, Sullinger has averaged 8.9 points and 9.0 rebounds over 26.3 minutes. Based on the numbers, the rookie should clearly get another shot at starting power forward.
Sullinger leads the team in offensive rebounds with 3.3 per game. On a nightly basis, he provides the Celtics with second-chance opportunities to score. If the Celtics want to reach their full potential, they need to take advantage of Sullinger's ability to rebound effectively by starting him.
There is no doubt that the Celtics are loaded with talent. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are both starters in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game. Paul Pierce is a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Jason Terry is a former NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger excel in their respective areas of specialty.
However, the Celtics have been unable to click as a team to get the job done. Sure, individual players have great statistical games, but the team rarely plays well together as a whole. Every player must know and master his role if the Celtics want to win consistently.
To this point, the Celtics have relied on its stars to carry the team. The Celtics are the third-best defensive team with Garnett on the floor, and the fifth-worst when he steps off the court. No team should rely that much on one player.
When the Celtics find a way to utilize every player's individual talents, the team will find success.