Boston Celtics: Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2012

Boston Celtics: Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings

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    With the Boston Celtics' roster already mostly in place, it's time to rank each player on the team.

    This is no easy task, as there seem to be never-ending arguments about who is better between Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, which of the three shooting guards (Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee) will be the most vital, and whether or not big men like Jason Collins and Fab Melo will ever see the floor at all.

    When one really looks at it, though, it is possible to rank the entire roster from best to worst (or, in this case, worst to best). We've all watched the Celtics, and it's safe to say that most of us have seen at least some of the likes of newcomers such as Terry and Lee.

    So, without further ado, let's get to Boston's player power rankings.

15. Dionte Christmas

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    Let me start by saying that Dionte Christmas has not been assured of anything yet. He was given a non-guaranteed contract by the Celtics, so it is not a definite that he will be on the opening day roster. That said, thanks to Keyon Dooling's sudden retirement, there are now two slots open, and unless Boston goes out and makes another signing, you have to think that one of those spots will go to Christmas.

    Christmas, a guard who graduated Temple in 2009, was very impressive in the Summer League. He displayed solid all-around skills and a knack for getting to the basket at will. Of course, he wasn't exactly playing against top-flight talent, but it is hard to ignore his performance over the course of that league's season.

    What makes the 6'5" Christmas valuable to this Celtic team is the fact that he can play either guard position. While he is naturally a shooting guard, he can run the point, and that could come in handy this season given Dooling's departure. Christmas is also a good defender, something that has become synonymous with the Boston culture.

    Barring any last-minute signings or trades, expect to see Christmas on the end of the C's' bench this season.

14. Kris Joseph

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    Like Christmas, Kris Joseph was not given any kind of guarantee that he will make the Celtics roster. However, it looks like he is safe for a couple of reasons.

    First of all, outside of Jeff Green, Boston does not have any other true small forward to back up Paul Pierce. Second of all, as I mentioned earlier, there are two roster spots open, and I'm sure the C's prioritize Joseph over the likes of Christmas and Jamar Smith because they used their second-round draft pick on him.

    How Joseph fell all the way to No. 51 in the draft is a bit of a mystery to me, as he certainly has the tools to contribute on the NBA level. He possesses great athleticism and a solid all-around feel for the game, the latter of those two attributes leading some to compare him to Pierce.

    What many people also do not know is that Joseph led a very strong Syracuse team in scoring during the 2011-12 season, and he also showed flashes of being a strong defender.

    Joseph might end up being one of the biggest steals of the 2012 draft. Stay tuned.

13. Fab Melo

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    In a couple of years, Melo is likely going to rank much higher on this list. However, at the present time, I can't place him any higher than 13th.

    While Melo is unquestionably talented, he is very raw, and with the depth signings of Darko Milicic and Collins up front, his playing time is likely to be limited this season.

    That's fine, though, because Melo will have a chance to learn from one of the best defensive players of all time in Garnett, plus another fine low-post defender in Collins. At seven feet, 255 lbs., he has the size to be a force defensively. He also possesses extraordinary athleticism and can run the floor very well for a big man, providing us with even more evidence that he could end up being something special down the road.

    It would certainly be nice to see Melo get some burn this season, and when the Celtics first drafted him, it looked like that would happen. However, Boston's frontcourt is now fairly congested, perhaps leaving the rookie on the outside looking in for the 2012-13 campaign.

12. Darko Milicic

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    In case you missed it, the Celtics just signed Milicic to a veteran's minimum deal. While the move came as a bit of a surprise to me at first, this was clearly an attempt at adding big man depth by GM Danny Ainge.

    At seven-feet, 275 lbs., Milicic is certainly big. The thing is, he isn't a particularly good player. It's not that he's terrible, as he defends the post rather well and shoots a respectable percentage (46 percent for his career) from the field. It's just that he doesn't greatly excel in any one area.

    That being said, it's not like Boston is expecting Milicic to come in and be a crucial part of the ball club like the Minnesota Timberwolves did when they signed him to a four-year, $20 million deal two years ago. He will simply be expected to come in, give some hard fouls, grab a couple of rebounds and block some shots here and there.

    One impressive thing about Milicic is that he did average two blocks in just 24.4 minutes per game during the 2010-11 season, and playing alongside Garnett up front should allow him to maximize his defensive performance.

    Darko takes a bit of a bad rap due to the fact that he was drafted No. 2 overall ahead of the likes of Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh (among others) in the 2003 draft. However, the guy can play the game of basketball. Who knows? Maybe the C's uniform will light a fire under him.

11. Jason Collins

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    Some of you might be wondering why I have Collins ranked ahead of Milicic. Well, one reason: post defense.

    Collins is widely regarded as one of the best low post defenders in the NBA. Just ask former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who once said that Collins guards Dwight Howard better than anyone else in the league.

    Collins will bring a brand of size and physicality to Boston that was sorely missed this past season, as K.G. was truly the only player in the frontcourt who demonstrated any kind of ferocity. A pairing of Collins and Garnett up front should be a defensive juggernaut.

    What really makes Collins all the more valuable to the C's is Andrew Bynum's arrival in the Atlantic Division. The Celtics play Bynum's Philadelphia 76ers four times during the season, and don't think for a second that Doc Rivers will not throw Collins in there to body up the second-best center in the game.

    I really liked the signing of Collins when it first happened, and I still do.

10. Jared Sullinger

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    There is a lot of excitement surrounding the rookie from Ohio State, and deservedly so. Jared Sullinger looked very good in the Summer League, and he probably would have been a top-five pick had he entered the draft after his freshman season.

    Sullinger has the ability to develop into one of the game's best low-post players, as he has the frame (6'9", 265 lbs.) and the touch around the basket to do just that. He also possesses outstanding footwork and great basketball smarts, not to mention the knack for being a very good passer out of the low block.

    In addition, Sullinger will help the Celtics on the glass, an area where they struggled mightily last season. He is one of those players who simply has a nose for the ball, and that was on full display during the Summer League.

    Where Sullinger needs work is on the defensive end, as he lacks the athleticism to be a plus-defender at the power forward position. However, having Garnett around to tutor him could very well turn his game around on that end of the floor. K.G. did it for the likes of Glen Davis and Brandon Bass, so why can't he do it for Sully?

    Every Boston fan should be looking forward to seeing Sullinger this season.

9. Chris Wilcox

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    The Celtics really missed Chris Wilcox in the playoffs last year, as the 6'10" big man was forced to miss the remainder of the year when he was diagnosed with an enlarged aortic root in March. Wilcox underwent heart surgery, but he is now fully recovered and ready to retake the court.

    Wilcox provides Boston with plenty of flexibility, as he can play either frontcourt position. His athleticism also allows him to get out on the break and give Rajon Rondo a great running mate, something we saw a lot during Wilcox's time in green last season.

    The 30 year-old Wilcox will never stuff the stat sheet, but he is the type of player that every contending team would love to have. He is more than adequate on both sides of the floor, and he is a very good locker room presence.

    Expect to see a solid dose of Wilcox in 2012-13.

8. Courtney Lee

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    The Celtics made one of the best moves of the offseason in acquiring Lee for virtually nothing. That is, unless you seriously think JaJuan Johnson or E'Twaun Moore had any kind of future in Boston.

    Lee is a very solid all-around guard. He is an excellent three-point shooter (as evidenced by his 40.1 percent shooting clip from downtown last season), he can slice through the defense and get to the rim and he can play stingy perimeter defense. His style of play has "Celtic" written all over it.

    With Avery Bradley likely to miss a chunk of time early in the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, Lee will be the C's' starting shooting guard. It should be a lot of fun watching him get out in transition with the likes of Rondo and company, as that is something the 26 year-old excels at.

    Lee's arrival in Boston also marks the arrival of a new Celtics philosophy, one that involves running. For the first time in a while, the C's have a group of guys that can do damage on the fast break, and that adds a very important dimension to what was, at times, a stagnant offense in 2012.

    Lee may very well be the player who puts the Celtics over the top this season.

7. Jeff Green

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    By the end of the season, there is a very good chance that Green will be much higher on this list. However, as of right now, you have to take a wait-and-see approach with the 26 year-old. Like Wilcox, he is coming off heart surgery, so you have to hope that he is going to be alright over the course of an 82-game campaign.

    To put it plainly, Green can do everything out there when healthy. He can shoot, he can handle the ball, he can pass, he can rebound and he can play defense. He is a Swiss army knife-sort of player who can really give the Celtics an enormous lift this year if he remains healthy.

    What makes Green so valuable is his versatility off the bench. While he is primarily a small forward, Green can also play the four, giving Rivers even more options in the frontcourt. Should someone get into foul trouble, Green can come to the rescue to play some spot minutes. He shouldn't be playing big minutes at power forward, but he certainly has the capability to play it here and there.

    Green is the biggest wild card for the C's this season. Will he play well and affirm Ainge's decision to trade Kendrick Perkins for him, or will the heart condition prevent him from reaching his potential? Let's hope it's the former. Not just for the Celtics' sake, but for Green's.

6. Brandon Bass

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    Bass etched his name into Celtics lore with his monstrous Game 5 performance against the 76ers in the second round of the playoffs, and he was rewarded with a nice contract in the offseason thanks to his solid 2012 campaign.

    Bass isn't flashy; he just does what you ask of him. He is one of the game's best mid-range jump shooters, making him a deadly pick-and-roll partner for Rondo. That is essentially his role offensively, and he does it very well. It would be nice to see him develop some kind of a back-to-the-basket game, but that is probably not going to happen. Regardless, he is still a dependable weapon.

    Not known as a good defender when he came to Boston, Bass also drastically improved his defense in 2012, thanks mostly to Garnett. Bass was even assigned to defend LeBron James at certain points of the Eastern Conference Finals. That shows how much confidence Doc has in Bass.

    I fully expect to see Bass on the floor in crunch time. He is a very important member of this team, and his contributions up front could end up being the difference in many games this season.

5. Jason Terry

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    That brings us to the prize of the Celtics' offseason, The Jet.

    Terry personifies everything a Celtic player should be. He is a hard worker, he has an intense love for the game, and most of all, he is a winner.

    The former Sixth Man of the Year should fit right into Boston's system. He is much more versatile than you might think, as, unlike Ray Allen, he can create his own shot without the need for a screen. He can shoot off the dribble, he can get to the basket, and he is very good in transition.

    Terry may not start for the C's, but let's face it: he is easily one of their most important players, and he will more than likely be one of the five guys on the floor late in games.

    There really isn't much else to add about the one-time NBA champion. He brings a swagger and an energy to the game that few other players in the league do, and he will be a more than welcome addition to an already tight Celtics locker room.

4. Avery Bradley

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    It's a shame that Bradley missed the Eastern Conference Finals, because the Celtics sure could have used his defense against Dwyane Wade.

    It's also a shame that the third-year guard is likely out until December while recovering from surgery on both shoulders. Fortunately, Boston has enough depth at two-guard in the likes of Lee and Terry to compensate for his loss, but he will undoubtedly be missed early on.

    Bradley really has the opportunity to turn into something special. He was seen as a kid who couldn't shoot when he first came into the league, but he silenced his prognosticators by shooting to the tune of a 40.7 percent clip from three in 2012. He also shot a very efficient 49.8 percent from the floor overall.

    Bradley reminds me a lot of a young Bruce Bowen, as he is a tenacious perimeter defender with a knack for knocking down the corner trey. The thing is, his ceiling is significantly higher than Bowen's ever was, as he is much more athletic and, quite simply, much more gifted offensively overall.

    Where Bradley really impresses me is moving without the basketball. There may not be anyone in the league who cuts to the basket as well as the 21 year-old does.

    Get well soon, Avery.

3. Paul Pierce

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    Isn't it a nice luxury when Pierce is your third-best player?

    It seems pretty clear that Pierce has now been upstaged by Rondo, but even taking that into account, he is still "the man" for the Celtics late in the game. You would be hard-pressed to name a more clutch shooter than The Truth.

    At 34 years old, Pierce has plenty of gas left in the tank. His 2012 postseason was a bit underwhelming due to a sprained MCL, but he has had several months to rest that knee and should be ready and raring to go for the season opener.

    There is absolutely no question that Pierce will have his No. 34 hanging in the rafters when it's all said and done, but wouldn't it be nice for him to add another championship (or more) to his legacy? If he stays healthy this year, there is a chance that that may happen.

2. Rajon Rondo

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    Many consider Rondo to be the engine of the Celtics.

    Many also consider Rondo to be the best point guard in the game (so does he), and while he definitely has some competition in the likes of Chris Paul and a couple of others, it's hard to argue against that distinction.

    It took a 44-point outburst from Rajon in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals this year for him to finally garner the respect he deserves, but we all knew how good Rondo was prior to that. The kid is simply amazing with the basketball, so amazing that it seems as if he has the ball on a string. His court vision is truly special and something that cannot be taught. You can say you want your kids watching Rondo so they can learn from him, but that type of awareness cannot be learned.

    Once a certain fiery big man on Boston retires, Rondo will absolutely be the best player on the C's. For now, though, that title belongs to...

1. Kevin Garnett

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    ...Mr. Garnett.

    Say what you want about Rondo's absurd talent, but there really shouldn't be much of a debate as to who the Celtics' best player is. It's Garnett, and Boston's performance when he is on the floor as opposed to when he is off the floor tells the whole story.

    As a matter of fact, during the 2012 playoffs, when K.G. was on the floor and Rondo was off the floor, the C's had a positive plus-minus. However, when Garnett was off and Rondo was on, the Celtics were outscored by their opponents.

    It's also no secret that K.G. can turn any ordinary player into a good defender. I already mentioned Davis and Bass earlier. Perkins should also be noted. Although the torn ACL he suffered during the 2010 Finals hasn't helped, it is blatantly obvious that he was aided significantly by Garnett's presence while he was a Celtic.

    Boston is at its best when it centers its gameplan around K.G.. If the C's do end up raising an 18th banner after this season, you can be sure that Garnett will be the main reason why.

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