Boston Celtics: How Would Player Injuries Affect Their Game?
The Celtics haven't been able to catch a break these past few seasons.
After winning the NBA Championship in 2008, Boston has had to deal with injuries for the past two-and-change season. In 2008-09, it was Kevin Garnett and his bad knee, which kept him from being totally effective last season. In 2009-10, the Celtics battled injuries for much of the regular season after Christmas, and lost Kendrick Perkins to a bad knee injury in the Finals, and lost a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Lakers.
This year, the injury has once again bitten the Celtics, although to this point, it has been nowhere near as bad as it was last year or the year before. So far, despite a new string of injuries, the Celtics are 17-4 and riding an eight-game win streak.
Among all of the players currently battling some kind of injury, which would hurt Boston the most if they were to sit out for an extended period of time? How would the Celtics be affected?
Let's take a look.
* For the purposes of this list, I will only cover players currently battling injuries and are still playing. Therefore, I will leave Delonte West and Jermaine O'Neal off the list. While they are certainly missed, the Celtics are getting along fine without them.
Fear Factor: 2/10
Semih's playing with a bad shoulder for some time, but continues to provide a few minutes off the bench. Unfortunately for Erden, he's struggling to find his role amid a crowded frontcourt that has Kevin Garnett, the O'Neals, Glen Davis, and Luke Harangody. When he does play, he can play the post well for a few minutes and get a few defensive stops, allowing KG and Davis to recharge and back in the rotation. Still, Semih has to yet to latch onto a defined role, and has (literally) big shoes to fill.
If Erden's injury were to progress to the point that he couldn't play, don't expect the Celtics to hurt too badly; they're phenomenally deep in the frontcourt, with KG, Shaq, and Glen Davis more than able to play a few more minutes to fill the gap.
Fear Factor: 5/10
After being acquired from the Knicks this past February, Nate has played a sort of shooting guard/point guard hybrid, and is now the de facto backup to Rajon Rondo. Robinson has slowly but surely found his place in the Celtics' rotation, playing valuable minutes and finding ways to keep Boston's offense moving. Even though he's not on Rondo's level as a playmaker and facilitator, he's still a key part of the Boston Bench Mob.
Were Robinson to go out with an injury, the Celts would be left without a reliable backup at the point, with Delonte West gone indefinitely with a broken wrist. The Celtics would probably be forced to go with rookie Avery Bradley, or get creative and go with Von Wafer or Marquis Daniels if the situation was dire. Robinson is clearly Boston's best backup at point, but his loss would be fairly muted if the rest of the backcourt stayed healthy.
Injury: Calf muscle
Fear Factor: 6/10
Shaq came to Boston after a year in Cleveland with LeBron James, and was widely expected to come off the bench for Jermaine O'Neal, who arrived from Miami. However, with Jermaine O'Neal out with a multitude of injuries, the Big Green Shamrock gained a spot in the starting lineup, and he has certainly proved his worth, averaging 11.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game in an average of 22 minutes. After all of these years, Shaq can still use his size to create space in the low post and get some easy points and grab rebounds. And it seems that Hack-a-Shaq is alive and well, too; he can still draw a ton of fouls and get opponents in trouble.
As stated on Semih Erden's slide, Shaq is part of a loaded frontcourt, and even though he's a critical piece of the puzzle, the Celtics would probably survive at least temporarily without him, again assuming that KG and Glen Davis stay healthy at the very least. Because of Shaq's presence in the post, his absence would definitely create a void in the offense and take away some Boston's size advantage.
Injury: Flu/Intestinal Virus
Fear Factor: 7/10
Finally, Glen Davis has come to his own as a part of this team. After a preseason filled with questions about his role on the team (and my own advice in a previous article to "shut up and play"), Big Baby is now a huge presence down low, with his ability to muscle his way to the hoop on offense and take charges on defense coming in handy when KG or Shaq are on the bench. Not only that, but he's been working on a nice mid-range jumpshot that's also paying dividends on offense.
I realize he'll probably bounce back from this bug quickly, but if he were to be lost for an extended period of time due to illness or injury, the Celtics would be without a major contributor at both ends of the floor. Davis gets great minutes off the bench, and his scrappiness would be missed for sure. He takes a lot of pressure off the starters, and his absence would force more minutes from KG or Shaq, who could probably handle it, but would leave them more susceptible to injury.
So far, so good, but it's a long season.
Injury: Plantar fasciitis, hamstring
Fear Factor: 9/10
Seriously, do we even need to go over this again? I, as well as many others on this site and in the media at large, have sung the praises of Rajon Rondo over and over again. He makes it all happen: he's the playmaker, the facilitator, the leader on the floor. He may not score as much as some, but he makes up for it by getting others to score. Without him, it's hard to imagine this team being anywhere near as competitive as they are now.
When Rondo doesn't play, the offense slows down, and the Celtics suffer as a result. They can survive in the short-term, but against other high-powered offenses, like Heat or the Lakers, they're nothing without their starting point guard. The only thing keeping this from being a 10/10 is the fact that they actually have other guards who can play.
I realize the situations summarized are often contingent on other players staying healthy, and that there can, and will, be multiple injuries at once, or the Celtics might find ways around injuries. These are just best guesses based these guys' bodies of work. Whatever may happen, let's hope there are as few injuries as possible for the Celtics. We need another shot at L.A. before these guys retire.
Go Green 18!