NBA Trades: 10 Bold Predictions for the Boston Celtics with Jeff Green
Finally, the NBA trade deadline has passed, the dust has settled, and we can now look at how teams' rosters have changed and how these changes affect the push to the playoffs, now only a few months away.
Amid a myriad of injuries, the Boston Celtics are looking to make themselves more competitive in the Eastern Conference. Battling with the Miami Heat for the top seed in the East, Boston shipped Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Jeff Green and Naned Krstic.
Despite Perk returning from injury and Nate doing a good job temporarily filling Rajon Rondo's shoes earlier this season, Boston traded for an arguably more versatile player in Green. Averaging 15.2 points per game with the Thunder this year on a team dominated by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Green is a solid power forward who can shoot well from the outside as well as maintain a presence in the low post. However, the Celtics lose a big interior defender in Perk who matched up well against Andrew Bynum of the Lakers, and although undersized, managed Dwight Howard of the Magic.
Clearly, the important player in this trade is Jeff Green. He's clearly poised to be the most productive new addition to the Celtics. But how does his presence and the loss of Perk and Nate affect the Celtics on the way to, and their performance during, the Playoffs?
Here, I'll offer 10 predictions for the Boston Celtics for the rest of the season, especially in terms of how Jeff Green affects the team.
1. Celtics Post a Losing Record for the Next 10 Games Amid Chemistry Issues
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The Celtics are undergoing a major restructuring, replacing their perennial starting center while having to integrate two more players into the system mid-season. Word on the street is that veteran players were none too pleased to learn that Perk and Nate were traded, and although they may not have anything personal against Jeff Green, they're going to have some issues in terms of how this team comes together.
Doc Rivers will have to decide his new starting lineup and how the bench is structured. Glen Davis was a starter against the Nuggets on Thursday night, and he may become a regular starter. KG will probably move to center, but Doc will have to decide who starts at power forward. The Celts will definitely struggle to find cohesiveness for a while as they find how this team works without Perk.
I wouldn't put it past the Celtics to have a losing record over the next 10 games. I realize they play some soft teams, but they're still reeling from player moves, and it's rare for a team to jell right away. I'd say no worse than 4-6, but it'll be enough for fans to worry about the teams playoff chances.
2. Glen Davis Steps Up as a Starter as Jeff Green Tries to Find His Form
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Back in 2009, when Kevin Garnett went down with that disastrous knee injury, Glen Davis was forced to become a starter in KG's place. After playing a huge role in the Celtics' 2008 Championship run, coming off the bench for key minutes and serving as a strong complement to the Big Three's efforts, Big Baby had an even bigger role to play: the Celtics' newest starting power forward.
Davis kept us in a lot of games that year, and we still managed to finish 62-20 and take the far healthier and younger Orlando Magic to seven games in the second round of the 2009 Playoffs. Big Baby may be seen as immature and more of a comic relief figure, but he knows how to play with the big boys when called upon.
Although the Celtics will lose some games, Glen Davis will definitely put up some big numbers as a starter. Jeff Green will probably come off the bench for the time being, allowing him more time to figure out his role on this team alongside the Big Three and the other established players. No doubt that Big Baby will be a big factor in Boston for the rest of the season.
3. Boston Sports Radio Bashes the Celtics While Never Criticizing the Bruins
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Okay, okay. I know this doesn't DIRECTLY relate to the Celtics and their progress with Jeff Green, but I have to throw it in. It may not be bold either, but I'll add it anyway, because it happens all the time.
I listen to a lot of sports radio, namely WBZ-FM, or to locals, 98.5 The Sports Hub. It's no secret that people bash the NBA regular season as meaningless, since 16 of 30 make the playoffs. But if you listen to the Sports Hub for a few minutes, namely Felger and Mazz on weekdays beginning at 2 PM, it seems as if the NHL regular season is the most important thing in the minds of everyone in the Boston area.
Seriously. In a league where, just like the NBA, every team plays 82 games, and 16 teams make the playoffs, it's apparently far more important to talk about the Bruins' every game and every event while the Celtics, who have been far more successful and relevant in recent years, are promptly ignored, and when finally talked about it's rarely, if ever, in a positive light.
So while the Celtics figure themselves out, trying to find the right balance of playing time and finding their chemistry once more amid changes to the roster, they will promptly get criticized at every turn. Sure, they may have a losing record over the next several games, but they'll be working toward preparing themselves for the playoffs.
I promise I'm not anti-Bruins, I'm just pro-sorting out your sports talk priorities.
4. Jeff Green Will Have a Triple-Double by April 1st
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Every athlete needs a coming out party. For Michael Jordan, it was dropping 63 points on the Celtics in 1986. For LeBron James, it was simply stepping onto the court in Cleveland and making the Cavs go from the basement to a sub .500 team. Obviously, Jeff Green isn't of the same caliber as these greats, but it's true just the same; he will certainly have a game that showcases his talent as a ballplayer.
This may seem lofty, but I think it can happen. Green is a versatile player who can shoot, pass, and play away from the ball. He's bound to have a breakout game at some point, likely one where his performance is critical to a Celtics victory.
I personally see something on the order of 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Sure, this seems like a Rondo-esque performance, but I think Jeff Green being on this team will make it happen. Boston's built on team play, and that means plenty of passes to create scoring opportunities. That makes this sort of rare all-out performance possible.
5. the Celtics Fall off the Radar While the Miami Heat Get All the Press
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While the Celtics are figuring out who they are, the Miami Heat will be given all kinds of press as they likely solidify their position atop the Eastern Conference, at least for a while. The Big Three, now comfortable with each other, will likely steamroll their opponents down the stretch, mercilessly handing out losses to the bottom half of the NBA. They have a pretty soft schedule coming up, outside of Orlando, San Antonio, the Lakers, and one more game against the Celtics.
While this is going on, and the hubris of the Miami fanbase builds, the Boston Celtics will be quietly holding their own in the East. Even if they struggle for a while, they'll never go away, and despite the belief of many a Miami Heat fan that they are the best team in the NBA and that no one can take them down.
The Celtics, meanwhile, traded down in size, losing a big man in exchange for a shooter. They're arguably better suited now to contend with the outside shooting of the Heat. But as I said, this will all go unnoticed, as attention shifts to Miami and they're seemingly unending success.
6. KG, Big Baby, and Jeff Green Go Soul-Searching and Develop a Bond of Big Men
It's no secret that Kevin Garnett is the emotional leader of the Celtics. It seems that no matter how well or how poorly this team is playing, KG remains intense and ready to play. And when the Celtics hit a bad stretch, he's the one who can rally the troops and get the Celtics back on track.
This year will be know different.
I picture a sort of "Bond Between Bigs" developing here. They're the ones who are going to have to hold down the fort in the paint, so they'll have to find a way to step up their game at both ends of the floor. Over the next couple of months in the run-up to the Playoffs, these guys will become closer as they learn to share the burden and work together down low.
Sorry, Naned Kristic, you're getting left of out of the Big Brotherhood. You've said in the past you don't like playing down low (even though you're a seven-footer), and I mean, come on, I'm still not entirely sure what role you're going to end up playing.
7. Jeff Green Hits at Least One Game-Winning Shot at TD Garden
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One of the most important steps toward initiation into a great NBA team is hitting a game-winning shot that earns you the praise and respect of the fan base. After a tough, grueling game, what's better than getting the ball in your hands, faking out your defender, putting up shot, hearing the buzzer sound, and watching the ball swish through the net?
November 24, 2007. The Boston Celtics were visiting the Charlotte Bobcats and were down 95-93 with just a few seconds to go. Not only that, but the Bobcats had the ball. All they had to do was inbound the ball and hold on, and they would win. But on the inbound pass, Eddie House managed to get a hand on the ball, tipping it to Paul Pierce, who found Ray Allen behind the three-point line, who promptly sank the game-winning shot as time expired, handing the Celtics the 96-95 victory.
It was at this moment that I became convinced that this team was truly capable of winning a championship. The way they stayed cool under extreme pressure, never giving up, and finding a way to pull out a win.
I'd love to see Jeff Green do the same, especially at TD Garden, where the crowd's reaction would be loud and electric, as anyone who has attended a game there knows. But if not at home, I'd love to see one against the Knicks, who the Celtics will play at Madison Square Garden on March 21st. Especially in a game where Carmelo Anthony drops 35 points and Amar'e hits 30 and it's still not enough to overcome Boston. Picture it: say, 110-109, 3.5 seconds left. Jeff Green gets the ball, drives in, does a Paul Pierce pull-back, and hits the game-winner as the buzzer sounds. 111-110 Celtics.
Come on, you know want to see it.
8. the Celtics Finish Better Than .500 for the Rest of the Season
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After last year's second-half stumble, in which the Celtics went 27-27 and finished 4th in the East with a 50-32 record, we learned how important home-court advantage was once the Celtics got to the Finals. Perkins getting hurt aside, many have said that if the Celtics had Games Six and Seven in Boston, things would have turned out differently.
Although I don't know if they can secure home-court advantage for the entire Playoffs, especially with the Spurs remaining hot in the West, I think they can at least improve on their record from last year. At the beginning of the year I predicted 57-25 as a final record. That's very doable considering their 42-15 standing as of February 27th. Jeff Green will show his worth down the stretch, especially since he's a younger player who can come off the bench for valuable minutes.
9. the Celtics Finish Second in the East, but Beat the Heat for a Fourth Time
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Try as they might, the aging Celtics won't be able to overcome the youth of the Miami Heat, at least not in the regular season. The Green will notch a solid second, however, and it will not be a distant second, finishing no more than two or three games behind Miami. This makes sense; the Heat are a young team prone to stepping on the gas pedal, muscling through the first 82 games, while the Celtics conserve their energy and wait for May and June to use all they've got.
Fret not, Celtics fans! There's a bright spot here! The Celtics will play the Heat on April 10th in Miami. Although the Celtics are 3-0 this year against the Heat, I'm sure they'd love to complete the regular season sweep. I'll predict a Celtics victory come April, probably a close game in which Jeff Green scores 20 points and hit clutch free throws late in the game. 99-95 Celtics, I'll call it right now.
10. Celtics Beat the Heat in Seven Games in the Playoffs and Go to the Finals
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This is what we've all been waiting for: the Celtics and the Heat in the Playoffs. It's been talked about since Miami's Big Three was created in the offseason. Could LeBron finally vanquish Boston, who have ruined his dreams of a Championship on two occasions in the past three seasons? Could Dwyane Wade return to the Finals with a few running mates similar to the role Shaq played in 2006? Can the Celtics make one last run for the O'Brien Trophy before the Big Three retire? Can they exact revenge on the Lakers for the heartache of last June?
It all comes down to this.
Boston and Miami will basketball battle this May, with likely four games at American Airlines Arena, and three at TD Garden. This will certainly be a battle for the ages. If these guys one and two in the East, they will be set to meet in the Conference Finals, setting up a battle for supremacy and the chance to take on the winner of the West (I'll predict Lakers here, but the Spurs are also very very good right now).
I'll say the Celtics win it seven and advance to the Finals once more. It'll be a grueling series, one that will feature some emotion, some physicality, and probably some the best basketball the league has seen in a long time. The Heat will give the Celtics all they've got, but by May, Boston will have integrated Jeff Green into the lineup, and he will be HUGE in this series, and will definitely save the day for Boston more than once in the Playoffs, and likely in this series in particular.
In the end, the Celtics' balance of youth and experience will outlast the Heat's starpower, albeit after a tough seven games. What happens in June is, both literally and figuratively, a whole different ball game.
GO GREEN 18!