FanHouse Preview: Boston Celtics
The Celtics are a good team. This is, by most accounts, an understatement.
Boston finished with a record of 62-20 last season, despite the fact that the heart and soul of its defense, Kevin Garnett, missed 22 of the team's final 26 games with a knee injury.
Garnett missed the playoffs as well, but that didn't stop the Celtics from taking the eventual Eastern Conference champions to seven games in the second round, before their title defense ended two rounds earlier than they had expected for most of the season.
As mentioned before: good team. But whether or not they can once again make that leap to championship team will depend largely on the health of Garnett, and the prospect of the new additions to the club adding some depth and increased production that the team lacked last season.
Besides the return of Garnett -- which, in all reality, might be all that Boston needs to get back to the Finals -- the Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace to add some depth at the four, and Marquis Daniels, who will attempt to provide more of a spark in the backcourt than the late-season pickup of one Stephon Marbury was able to do a year ago.
The Wallace pickup has its pluses and minuses, but the bottom line is, Sheed is a veteran who should fit in well with the other vets on the squad, and he'll be yet another emotional player on a Boston team that seems to thrive on intensity.
As for the familiar faces, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are as rock-solid as they come, and Rajon Rondo should be even better after a postseason filled with heroics and highlight plays.
On paper, the Celtics appear to be stacked to start the season, and well-equipped to handle the challenges that the Cavaliers or the Magic may present in a seven-game series. But the playoffs are an eternity from now, and whether or not Boston can enter the postseason with its aging roster 100 percent intact will likely determine which team will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
Because if the Celtics are healthy come playoff time, the other teams in the East will likely have very little to say in the matter.
Last Season By the Numbers
Record: 62-20. Finished first in the Atlantic Division, second in the Eastern Conference. Eliminated by the Orlando Magic in the conference semifinals in seven games.
Offense: 110.5 points per 100 possessions, tied for 5th in the NBA. 2nd in shooting, 29th in turnover rate, 7th in offensive rebounding, 7th in free throw rate.
Defense: 102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions, 2nd in the NBA. 3rd in shooting defense, 9th in opponent turnover rate, 3rd in defensive rebounding, 23rd in opponent free throw rate.
Top Performers: Paul Pierce led the team in scoring with 20.5 points per game, and Ray Allen wasn't far behind with his average of 18.2. Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins led the team in rebounding with respective averages of 8.5 and 8.1 per game, while Perkins led the club in blocks per game with his 2.0 average. Rajon Rondo was the dominant assist man, and dished out a team-leading 8.2 per game. He also paced his team in steals, with 1.9 per game.
All statistics via Basketball-Reference.com.
Player to Watch
FanHouse's Matt Moore and Tom Ziller preview one player to watch from each team. Here's a snippet of Moore's post on Marquis Daniels.
The Boston Celtics have tried some different things in building their bench during their very successful resurgence. Bringing in Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown as locker-room leaders was a win. Using Leon Powe, Glen Davis, and Kendrick Perkins as a three-headed big-reserve system? Another win. Stephon Marbury ... yeah, well, you can't be right all the time.
The Marquis Daniels signing, though, looks like a complete win. Daniels represented a unique opportunity for the C's. He's a player that has enough experience to mesh with the above-30 core (and whom Doc Rivers doesn't have to develop), but, unlike some previous additions to the bench, he's young enough to contribute all season without running out of gas by the playoffs.
See Matt Moore's full post on Marquis Daniels.
IN: Lester Hudson (draft), Rasheed Wallace (free agency), Marquis Daniels (free agency), Shelden Williams (free agency).
OUT: Leon Powe (free agency).