The Heat are getting all the buzz with their New Big Three, putting the Celtics once again in the underdog position amongst the top teams. Will they defend the title of the Eastern Conference Championship? Perhaps even lift Banner No. 18? Here is my take.
Let's start off with some context
While their regular season regular season record was not top notch due to being plagued by injuries, they made it to the playoffs at fourth seed.
Many speculated that the Celtics would not make it past the tough competition of the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first two rounds.
However, jaw dropping performances from the C's brought them to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would go on and avenge against the Orlando Magic led by Dwight Howard. The Celtics have exceeded expectations over and over.
In the Finals, there was a lot of talk. Some predicted a sweep by the Lakers, some say that the Boston cannot possibly last until Game 7 because of their veteran-studded roster (spawning some ageist jokes).
The Celtics once again fought until the very last quarter of the very last game of the season, but was unable to come through to win the championship.
Then came the 2010 off-season. This was crunch time for many GMs as this was the greatest free agency by far in the NBA. There were also many exciting future superstars in the Draft Pick such as John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
The highlight of this off-season has to be the Miami Heat's acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, forming their own trio of All-Stars.
The Celtics meanwhile had made some changes of their own. They lost Tony Allen and Rasheed Wallace, both key pieces to their 09/10 run.
Despite the losses, the Celtics acquired Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody in the Draft and signed Forward/Center Jermaine O'Neal to a two year deal and Von Wafer.
Perhaps the biggest pickup for the Celtics is signing veteran Center Shaquille O'Neal.
A brief look at the biggest playoff threats to the Celtics
I cannot begin this article without at least once mentioning the Miami Heat. Almost every team in the Eastern Conference who wants a run at the Finals will have to find a way to slay this three-headed behemoth.
Not to mention the fact that there is a great chance that in the Playoffs the Celtics would face Miami.
The Celtics have faced all the three players separately last year and have had great success with it.
Against the Toronto Raptors, Kevin Garnett dominated the paint against Chris Bosh in their meetings while in the playoffs, Tony Allen did a splendid job in guarding Wade and James.
While Tony Allen did a great job, it took many double teams to take care of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
While the Celtics handed it to the Cavaliers in the previous Playoffs, LeBron James was essentially absent in some of the games. This is another really key factor to consider when looking at the Miami Heat through the eyes of the Celtics.
The fact is, the Celtics simply cannot handle the aforementioned duo. One thing for certain is the Celtics will sorely miss Tony Allen.
I think the Frontcourt and Point Guard of the Celtics would really play a big role in this match up and realizing that would contribute a lot to a win.
The Celtics: position by position
There are simply not a lot of good classic low-post Centers in the NBA currently. Centers with good back to the basket games that I could think of off the top of my head would be Yao Ming, Andrew Bynum and Al Jefferson.
The addition of the Shaq gives the Celtics offensive low-post presence, which they have never really got. The Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal, Big Baby and Perkins (who will be back for the playoffs) quartet create a very desirable rotation.
The loss of Rasheed Wallace has some positives and some negatives. Rasheed was an extremely unreliable player.
On one night he would be contributing big, and on the next, he would start bricking many threes. He is the reason I watched the 09/10 season with my fingers crossed.
On the negative side, we lose his experience, his ability to stretch the floor and, whenever he decides to, his decent low-post game. However, almost all three aspects, whether intentionally or not, are covered fairly well.
First, the Celtics have experience to spare. In short, they are a veteran team.
Secondly, the addition of Jermaine O'Neal and Luke Harangody force the opponents to come out and defend them, much like what Rasheed Wallace did (Jermaine O'Neal is a somewhat decent mid-range threat 16-23 feet).
While in the low post, the O'Neals provide consistent low post play.
In the Power Forward position, there is the addition of Luke Harangody. Many criticize that Luke Harangody will not fare will in NBA basketball. If I had to compile a list of "The good, the bad and the unknown," I would put Harangody in the unknown section.
Many anticipated draft picks have fallen to dust and many unnoticed draft picks have went on to achieve greatness. I think the least that Harangody would bring to the table is his 3-point shooting and some defense.
One great thing about Harangody, however, is that he has been praised for his work ethic, which blend well with guys like Kendrick Perkins and is a great start. We can only hope that he is not a draft bust.
Continuing on the Power Forward position, we have one of the new Big Three Kevin Garnett. When talking about the Boston's Big Three, we will always have to deal with their age. Yet another year has passed.
However, Danny Ainge once again came out strong in recruiting Jermaine O'Neal and Luke Harangody to back up the Power Forward position.
The Celtics have a four man rotation with Glen Davis, Jermaine O'Neal, Luke Harangody, and Kevin Garnett.
The Point Guard position essentially remains the same with Rajon Rondo starting and Nate Robinson as his backup. They added Avery Bradley, who I think will be a big question mark like Harangody.
I would expect to see more needed resting time for Rondo now that Avery Bradley and Nate are backing him up, especially in the regular season.
There is much dispute of whether Rajon Rondo is, in fact, one of the top Point Guards in the league. Top Point Guard or not, he clicks with the Celtics's system.
Danny Ainge has contemplated most of Rondo's weaknesses filling up the roster and allowed Rondo to get big time assists.
I think the Small Forward and Shooting Guard position are the weakest links at this time largely due to the loss of swingman Tony Allen.
The addition of Von Wafer to the roster provides offense off the bench but does not help on the defensive end.
While on the Small Forward position, Marquis Daniels, who was away for a large chunk of the season, showed some promise in the little he played last year.
Two of the Big Three, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, are expected to come back to do essentially the same things. Again, another year has passed and they must be able to stay away from injury.
I expect the whole team to get more of an offensive spark from the bench this season. While Guard/Forward Tony Allen had premium defense, his offensive skill set is lackluster at best.
The addition of the O'Neals certainly provides much more consistent offense. While losing Tony Allen, I believe the Celtics will still be one of the top defensive teams due to their overall culture.
Doc Rivers's return
Doc has successfully motivated the Celtics last year and allowed them to go far. Suffice to say without Doc, the Celtics might not even have went past the Cavaliers.
Doc is definitely a welcome addition into the 2010/11 Championship run. What I think Doc has on his plate now is sorting out the rotations.
Danny Ainge recruited a lot of talent and the roster is packed tight. I think experimenting with different combinations will spawn very interesting rotations.
I hope to see Doc use the bench a lot more than last year as, at times last year, I found Doc could have looked to the bench more.
The 15th Spot
So far, the roster is looking very good. Once again, Danny Ainge has created one of the deepest benches in the NBA to support the aging talent. However, there is the question of the 15th player in the final roster. There are many options.
So far, Rudy Fernandez seems to be the most probable option. While the 25 year-old guard was unable to shine among the guard ridden Trailblazers, he certainly shows some potential and certainly has more NBA experience compared to the other candidates for the 15th spot.
There is also the option of Larry Hughes, who is another veteran that can come off the bench and give you some points.
There is also Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney who have non-guaranteed contracts. Oliver Lafayette clocked in productive minutes against the Bucks in the final regular season game.
Some articles even brought up the possibility of signing Allen Iverson.
Like what many other articles say, the Celtics's greatest move this off-season was retaining the Big Three and building around them. In the off-season, the Celtics added more depth to their bench and backed up their big men.
While they have lost Tony Allen, the addition of Shaquille O'Neal and Von Wafer, along with the return of Marquis Daniels should bring some offensive spark from the bench.
Most of the players are also able to play decent defense. I believe that the Celtics will make it deep into the playoffs and perhaps raise Banner No. 18.