Every year, Jeff Clark from Celtics Blog puts together a very crafty preview series for the upcoming NBA season. Last season, we were lucky enough to be involved in our first year as a Celtics blog and now this season we are honored to be welcomed back!
Team Name: Boston Celtics
Last Year’s Record: 50-32
Key Losses: Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Shelden Williams, Michael Finley, and (yes) Brian Scalabrine
Key Additions: Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Von Wafer, Delonte West, Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody, and Semih Erden
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
Oh man… where do we start? I guess we’ll start with the BIGGEST addition this offseason; I’m talking about the seven-foot, 325 pound monster that won four NBA titles on a team that all Celtics fans would like to spit on. There’s no doubt that the Shaq signing took all by surprise this summer. After all, we just brought in a guy whose best known for being a star on teams we’ve learned to hate.
Shaq was not the only O’Neal signed this season; however, the Celtics made it double-trouble by signing free agent center Jermaine O’Neal. With Kendrick Perkins out until at least February, Danny Ainge felt that it was necessary to establish a deep front court. He did just that by adding the two O’Neals, as well as signing 2008 second-round draft pick Semih Erden, who had spent the previous two seasons playing in Turkey.
In addition to loading up on front court talent, Danny Ainge also made enough moves to establish a pretty deep backcourt to enter the season with. By resigning Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels, and bringing in free agents Von Wafer and Delonte West the Celtics look to have one of the deepest all-around rosters in the NBA this season.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
On paper it looks as though the biggest strength on this team is going to be their depth. We said the same thing last year, but I would even go as far as to say the depth this year trumps that of last year’s. If you go down every NBA lineup from 1-12 you will find it very difficult to find a team that matches this team’s depth. With an over-whelming amount of talent this team should be able to put a solid team out on the floor no matter the scenario.
Another strength for this Celtics team is going to be experience. No team in the league, outside of maybe the Lakers, has as many players with playoff experience. 9 out of 15 players on the roster have played in an NBA Finals game, with many of those players having played in the Finals multiple times. This type of experience will help them succeed when the going gets tough.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Last season at the time of this preview, I struggled to find weaknesses for the Celtics. I was neglecting the fact that the Celtics were one of the older teams in the league, and tried to ignore the fact that players might end up injured. This season I’m not going to do that. I’m going to prepare myself for the worst, and prepare for the best. With that being said, the obvious weakness for this team is their age. There are going to be times during this season when Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, or Kevin Garnett need to sit out a game or two due to some sort of minor injury. What’s important for this upcoming season is not letting those minor injuries turn into anything major (See: Kevin Garnett’s ’08-’09 injury). If the Celtics can do that, and enter the playoffs as a healthy unit, I think they’ll be alright.
The second weakness I’m going to list here may or may not be a weakness. It’s going to be a “wait-and-see” game. With the additions of Shaquille O’Neal and Delonte West there will be a lot of concern about possible chemistry issues on this team, and rightfully so. It’s going to be in Doc Rivers’ hands to make sure these personalities are kept in check, and it is his responsibility to make sure that these strong personalities do not turn into a weakness.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Fill the blank banner; it’s as simple as that. For those of you not familiar, there is a blank white banner hanging at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham. The goal this season is to put the words “2011 NBA Champions” on that banner. Anything else is a complete failure. Danny Ainge did not go out and assemble this team the way he did to just escape the first or second round of the playoffs.
As much as I’d like to sit here and say that this Boston Celtics team will be competitive for the next five years or so, I can’t. The team as it is assembled is not assembled the way it is to be competitive in the future. It is built to win now. Danny Ainge didn’t sign Shaq, resign Paul Pierce, and resign Ray Allen because he was thinking about the future. The time is now!
5. What happens when Kendrick Perkins returns from injury?
Depending on how Kendrick Perkins returns from his injury, Doc Rivers is going to have his hands full trying to work Perk back into the lineup. A big question surrounding his return is: Should he get his starting spot back if he returns healthy? I say yes, as long as he can play at the level we are used to him playing at. So that brings up another question, if he does come back healthy, and does get his starting job back, what happens to the bench?
If this happens the Celtics will have Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, and Glen Davis coming off the bench. Unfortunately, Glen Davis really can’t play small forward, so that leaves three guys battling for two spots off the bench. Either Doc Rivers is going to once again prove he’s a mastermind, one of these guys are going to be traded, or whoever gets the short end of the stick is going to be very disappointed and could end up a locker room distraction. Time will only tell what really happens!
Predicted Record: 52-30