Boston Celtics: Predicting the C's Rotation for the 2012-2013 Season
What a difference a couple of months makes.
But the look of the C's roster since that night in June has changed dramatically, to the point where it's legitimate to wonder out loud exactly what their rotation will look like come Opening Night in South Beach.
Including draft picks and Jeff Green, who sat out the entire 2011-2012 season, there are eight new faces on the Celts' roster with training camp coming up in late September. When he returns to the States following his NBC Sports Olympic broadcasting duties, Doc Rivers will have some work to do to sort out all these new names and faces.
In the meanwhile, here's an educated guess on what the Celtics' rotation will look like when the season gets underway on Oct. 30.
With Avery Bradley expected out for up to two months to start the season following a couple of shoulder surgeries, the guard rotation will be a bit of an in flux type of situation probably until around Christmas.
Once he gets healthy, Bradley will almost definitely be re-inserted into the starting lineup. Until then, it will likely be newcomer Courtney Lee flanking Rajon Rondo in the backcourt.
Another newcomer, noted bench sparkplug and former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, seems the most logical candidate to be the first player Rivers calls on off the pine.
After that, more so with Bradley recuperating and rehabbing, comes Keyon Dooling, Rondo's backup. The Reverend, as Brandon Bass dubbed him last season, will probably not play as much after Bradley returns thanks to the C's new found depth in the backcourt.
As far as Summer League standouts Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith are concerned, their invites to training camp may be their biggest prizes. It stands to reason that both might fill out the roster and maybe see some garbage time while Bradley is out. But neither is likely to crack the regular rotation.
When the Celts shifted Kevin Garnett to center at the midpoint of last season, they moved Brandon Bass permanently into the starting lineup and promptly took off.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Though a bit undersized, Bass should remain the Celts' starting 4, pairing with Paul Pierce to comprise their first forwards. The Celts were never better last year than when those two combined with KG to man the frontcourt and with Bass back in the fold, there's no reason to mess with success.
On the bench, Green, who is still not officially re-signed, will combine with Terry to lead the second unit. Those two will probably be co-sixth men, with Green seeing time at both the 3 and the 4 as the first forward off the bench and playing 25-30 minutes per night.
Next comes the first of the C's two first-rounders, Jared Sullinger. Sullinger will be a key member of the second unit, counted on for inside scoring, rebounding and physical play. He will immediately be an integral part of the team's rotation for somewhere around 20-25 minutes a game.
Also, don't count out Chris Wilcox, though he's likely to see more of his time at center, and perhaps even rookie, second-rounder Kris Joseph, who is likely to make the team and gets some run at the 3, though probably not regularly.
Let's say it again because it can't be stressed enough. When the Celtics moved Garnett to center last season after Wilcox went down and Jermaine O'Neal suffered his annual major injury, their season turned around.
Needless to say, Garnett will be back in the pivot this season in another example of it's it ain't broke, don't fix it. The position has evolved to the point that players like KG are the standard. There are far fewer old-fashioned, giant, low post only centers of any real import at this point than there are 5s like Kevin Garnett.
So pencil KG and shiny, new contract into the starting lineup. Then, insert Wilcox, provided he's all the way back from his heart condition that forced him to the sidelines last year. He'll be the primary backup.
Rookie first-rounder Fab Melo is more of a question mark headed into the season. There's no question that he's a project and when you add to that the fact that rookies, someone like Sullinger notwithstanding, don't play much on Rivers' teams (hello, JaJuan Johnson!), it's unlikely Melo will see too much run this year.
In fact, don't be surprised if journeyman/veteran Jason Collins is third on the center depth chart, at least to start the year. Collins won't be in the rotation either. But in dire situations, it's not difficult to see Rivers turning to him before Melo.
What's indisputable is KG's presence at the top of the list.
Here's a circumstance in which you may see KG back at his usual 4 spot.
The Celts, provided everyone stays healthy, will at times be able to trot out a lineup with both Garnett and Wilcox on the floor, along with Bass or Green at the 3, and Pierce at the 2.
There would be some limitations with this combo, obviously. Pierce can't guard 2s that much anymore, if at all, and the Celts aren't the kind of outfit that knowingly goes long stretches with defensive mismatches.
Another interesting angle to when the C's go big is whether they will feel like they can produce with Sullinger seeing any time at the 3. Both Bass and Green will fit into that slot more comfortably. But imagine for a second how much damage the Celts could do with KG, Wilcox and Sullinger knocking heads down low.
Boston has done a great job building up depth in its frontcourt. We should get to see that depth when they decide to play big.
Check this out.
Rondo, Terry, Lee/Bradley, Pierce, Green/Garnett.
If you like speed and athleticism, or as some people like to call it, where the NBA is headed as a league, you must love the look of that lineup. If you put Green in either Pierce or Garnett's spot, the C's would be able to run with anyone. Even if Wilcox was out there at center, with the rest of that crew, the Celts could still turn game into track meets.
The severe lack of depth on the front line last year forced the Celts to play small more than they probably would have liked. But they figured out how to do it productively. The only question surrounding whether they can repeat that when necessary this year is whether the new personnel fits its respective roles or not.
It's a safe bet all the new faces can handle it, with some solid practice time. The fact that there will be time for a full training camp this year as opposed to last, thanks to the lockout, is huge.
The C's will be able to things with their rotation that will allow them to beat teams a variety of ways. All they need is to stay healthy.