Boston Celtics: How Doc Rivers Can Preserve the Health of Team's Aging Core
Barring any further insanity around the NBA, the Boston Celtics’ roster looks to be complete for the upcoming 2012 season. The team has 15 bodies under contract, so the next piece to focus on is how Doc Rivers will go about preserving the overall health of the team, allowing the C’s to remain competitive deep into the playoffs?
No one is going to confuse this Celtics team for one that is bursting with youth; but luckily it’s a team that has a surprising amount of depth to it, despite the losses of Glen Davis and Delonte West, et al.
The acquisitions of Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Chirs Wilcox and old friend, Marquis Daniels aren’t Earth-shattering; but they do give the Celtics a lot of experience and the intangibles to remain competitive deep into the playoffs.
An eventual key to success of the new look lineup is that the Celtics have brought in multiple players who can shift between two or three different positions in the rotation.
This is the first factor in how Doc will go about keeping everyone fresh this season. Expect to see a lot of different on-court combinations, especially at the beginning of the season, since the team is going to be very raw. It has also been suggested by WEEI’s Paul Flannery that KG won’t play more than 30 minutes per game, so this is more reason to believe that a constant rotation of players is a strong possibility during the season.
How everything pans out will depend on a few factors, so the right chips need to fall into place. But at first look, there could be a lot of diversity in the Celtics’ game-planning, something that could confuse opponents while keeping the boys in green fresh.
The center position will offer the most intrigue as we head into the 2012 season. While the Celtics have brought in a bunch of big men, not many of them are true centers. In fact, the team only boasts two legit players to man the middle.
Jermaine O’Neal will most likely get the opening day nod for the C’s, but his minutes will have to be limited to about 20 per game in order for him to stay healthy for the playoffs.
Enter Chris Wilcox, the 6-foot-10 big man from Maryland. Wilcox is earning a good portion of the Celtics mid-level exception, and even though he’s been mostly a power forward in his career, he should be counted on to play down low. The only issue is that Wilcox is not a shot blocker and has never stood out as a rebounding specialist, so he may not be the right man for the job. Still, the Celtics have no other options.
Greg Stiemsma was an interesting acquisition for the Celtics. He was the Defensive Player of the Year for the NBDL in 2010, so while he’s destined for Brian Scalabrine-esque fame, he could provide depth if Wilcox can’t cut it down low.
Lastly, Kevin Garnett may emerge as the best player to be the Celtics' center. Doc Rivers said that KG would get minutes there, so it may open the door for him and Brandon Bass to play together a great deal this season at the same time.
If Jermaine O’Neal is the starting center, Kevin Garnett will remain at power forward. Luckily, the Celtics have Brandon Bass in the fold to pick up the slack when KG is at center or just to spell number 5.
Power forward is easily the Celtics position with the most depth. KG, Bass, Wilcox, O’Neal, Jeff Green and rookie JaJuan Johnson can all play there, so nobody will get worn out because of all the options the Celtis have.
Yup, this is still Paul Pierce’s turf. Pierce may be getting older, but he’s still going to get about 34 minutes per game on any given night.
Jeff Green could see action at the small forward spot, too. Green’s never going to be an exceptional rebounder, plus the Celtics need his perimeter defense, so he may be better suited here, especially with the logjam at the four.
It’s nice to see Marquis Daniels healthy and back on the Celtics. Daniels can spell Pierce, and like Green, he’s another solid perimeter defender. He chipped in 19.1 mpg for the C’s last season, so while he may not hit that number again, he’s capable of handling it.
Sasha Pavlovic was re-signed the other day, so he’s an option to eat up minutes in blowouts.
Ray Allen actually played 36.1 mpg last season, so his going to still get the lion’s share of minutes here. But he may see his minutes drop for the sole reason that he eventually will slow down, right? Allen is known for his superior conditioning, so he’s not a liability or injury risk.
The interesting thing about the Celtics is that they are fairly thin at shooting guard. Daniels can play shooting guard, Pierce, too, so expect a lot of different combinations on the floor if Allen doesn’t play 36 minutes again. The Celtics should match up well against other teams that can throw big lineups onto the floor if Pierce slides over to the two.
Rookie E’Twaun Moore and Avery Bradley can offer two- to three-minute spurts if Doc thinks Allen needs extra time on the bench. But don’t count on either player making any serious contributions.
The Celtics went out and acquired Keyon Dooling, who should be an excellent backup to Rajon Rondo. Dooling filled in as a starter for Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee last season when Jennings was injured, and he averaged 10.0 points and 5.7 assists in those 22 games. He should prove to be a solid contributor.
As long as Danny Ainge keeps Rondo on the roster, he’s going to play a hefty amount of minutes. The hope will be that the Rondo doesn’t suffer any freak injuries this season, because he and Dooling are the only real options at the point.
If catastrophe strikes, all the Avery Bradley fans will shout his name. But he’s still as unreliable as anyone on the roster.