There were two huge holes in the Celtics playoff run this year—starting center and bench scoring. The starters all pulled their weight, especially Rajon Rondo, who performed quite admirably with the use of only one arm. But after that the Celtics had trouble finding help anywhere else on the team.
Shaquille O'Neal? Eight minutes in the playoffs.
Big Baby? Averaged just less than five points and four rebounds in 22 minutes per game.
Nenad Krstic? Fewer than two points in eight minutes and he is going to Russia.
Jeff Green? Less than eight points and averaged almost as many fouls per game as rebounds and assists...combined.
The lone bright spots in these two areas were Jermaine O'Neal and Delonte West—the only two players who saw their per-game averages go up in the playoffs compared to the regular season.
Part of this was the lack of a true starting center and the lack of contribution from Jeff Green. West understood the Celtics offense from playing with them before. J.O. was thrust into the starting center job because there was no one else available.
So what do the Celtics need to address more this offseason?
Every team says they need bench depth but come playoff time, player rotations become shorter, relying on seven or eight guys as opposed to 10, which some teams use in the regular season. For an aging Celtics team this would be vitally important to keep KG, Ray and Pierce fresh.
But let's face it, outside of two or three minutes per quarter, those guys are going to be on the court come playoff time. Bench depth won't be quite as necessary if the right wingman was found. The Celtics will likely add a wingman in the draft and via free agency. That is the easy problem to solve. Wingmen are a dime a dozen in the NBA.
The real problem is finding a starting center. Jermaine O'Neal was good enough in the playoffs, but he isn't the guy that should be going into battle every night. This year has been a frightening reminder of how big bodies react over time. Yao Ming...injured. Shaq...injured. Tim Duncan...worst season ever. Greg Oden...injured, and he only looks old.
The Celtics are limited in their means to add a solid starting center, too. Finding a young big man will prove to be a small miracle. The list of legitimate centers who would provide an immediate impact is small. Nene, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Samuel Dalembert are about the only realistic free-agent options. Tyson Chandler is a free agent but likely re-sign in Dallas.
Bench help is easy to find. Big men are few and far between. The Celtics will need the luck of the Irish and the help of Red Auerbach's ghost to get this problem resolved.