Coming off one of the most remarkable turnarounds in not only franchise history but NBA history, the Boston Celtics will try to embark on a second-consecutive championship.
The "Big Three" are composed and have a proven track record—but it may come down to a given few who are new to the league and still raw under their belts.
The backbone of most successful teams is found at the point guard position, and with the Celtics it is guided by the improving play of Rajon Rondo. Drafted out of Kentucky, Rondo came into the league with an upside in athleticism, but a downside in hitting the open jumper and truly having the experience of leading a team.
Coming into the 2007-08 season, Rondo had to learn under fire. Complemented by three future Hall of Famers, he showed glimpses of stardom—but at many times had Celtics followers wondering if he was the true answer to the starting quintet. Rondo quieted the naysayers and put together a fine season. His hustle and quickness proved immeasurable and after help guiding the squad to a championship, he quickly silenced his critics.
Coming into this season, Rondo has a full year under his belt. I expect similar statistics with him this season, with a slight gain in points and assists, as well as turnovers. Not having a proven point guard behind him will be a problem. Second-year player Greg Pruitt is the key. Pruitt, who spent half the season with the team and the other half in the NBDL, must give the Celtics steady backup play to solidify the unproven depth at the position.
Rookies Bill Walker and J.R Gittens will see some time as well. Both of them were role players at successful college programs last season. With the loss of James Posey, Walker and Gittens will both get some playing time.
In this situation, it will come down to which one of the two can act as a defensive stalwart and feed into the system. I believe by the end of the year, injuries withstanding, Walker will go ahead of Gittens on the depth charts and play a key role as a reserve on the defensive side of the hardwood.
Leon Powe comes into this season as one of the first one or two players off the bench. His gritty play last season earned him a big part in the plans of the team this season. I don't see his numbers improving drastically—but once, again he will play a key role as a rebounder and defensive presence.
The last role player who may keep the Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference will be Eddie House. Known more as an offensive player before joining the Celtics, House put together a fine overall 2007-08 season on both ends of the floor. Again, with the loss of Posey, House will need to step up his game, and will be looked upon even more to spread defenses with his long-distance shooting.
The "Big Three" are a year older, but also have a championship ring to their pedigree. Championships are won by not only the core, but moreover the overall team concept. If players like Rondo, Powe, and House continue to buy into the system and rookies Walker and Gittens play beyond their years, the Celtics will once again fight for an NBA championship.