We’re all excited over here in Celtic Nation, and rightfully so. Danny Ainge has been very adamant about the fact that this is the first offseason that has seen him possess some financial/cap flexibility. And what did he do with it? Introduced an aging (yet defensively sound and talented) team to youth, offensive prowess and athleticism. No huge names were hauled in for more money than their worth and no future was jeopardized (unless you are convinced E’Twaun Moore will exceed a Dionte Christmas protégé one day).
A starter, role players and big bodies to bump with the likes of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum (while they’re on separate teams, respectively) on the inside and assist Kevin Garnett in his 7-footer duties were quietly assembled video game style. Utilizing every trick in the cap master’s book, Ainge made all of our Twitter dreams a reality.
Not too shabby. So, how do they match up with the only team the Celtics couldn’t beat this postseason?
While the Miami Heat made basketball seem like a three person, in no way did they win just because of the Big Three Jr. It was in part of role players like Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and Shane Battier that they were able to settle the debate about their potential to implode instead of garner greatness.
The Celtics were tattered beyond recognition as Ray Allen became a bad free throw shooter and Paul Pierce missed the backboard on some of his Hail Mary attempts. The silver linings were obvious: an incredibly developed leader in Rajon Rondo, rejuvenation for Garnett, and the smartest move Danny made last offseason in trading Glen Davis for Brandon Bass. The bench was off having shoulder surgery or was simply not big enough to impose any defensive will on the Heat.
Barring all healthiness, the 2012-13 Celtics are already above and beyond their predecessors on paper. The guard position is loaded with veterans and competitors while the frontcourt has size (that can handle other size) for the first time since Kendrick Perkins. Not to be left unsaid about this roster…it has promise. Guys like Jared Sullinger, Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo haven’t played with the big dogs yet, but when they do, expect good reports. When the name Fab Melo is your weakest link, Orange people of New York would consider you fortunate.
Miami roster breakdown:
*Still free agents
I don’t think Miami will have any problems shooting threes or running fast breaks (sense the sarcasm here), but there are glaring vulnerabilities. Wade coming off of knee surgery, James coming off of playing extremely competitive basketball for an entire year and a lack of youth. The Celtics get bashed for their average age, yet the Heat’s young players (Chalmers, Cole, Pittman, Hamilton) are not extraordinary or even exceptional talents. Okay, you want me to say Chalmers is an exceptional talent? No, above average is as far as I’ll go.
Once Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra turns to his bench, it’s nothing but 30-plus and up. Seven players over the age of thirty in comparison to Boston’s four.
If I am a Miami fan I wouldn’t worry too much about the center position. Joel Anthony plays his part decently enough while Wade, James and Bosh take care of the rebounding. Still, they are very thin at five and that could be a large detriment as the season progresses. (Ask Team USA).
We can call Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen washed up. Truth be told, they can still play—to what level remains to be seen. And that’s where the difference between Pat Riley and Danny Ainge came in this offseason.
While everyone is praising Riley’s ability to “woo” players into taking less money, the fact of the matter is Ainge took a proven approach.
Ray, how we love thee, it was time to let go. Yes he is a healthy and fit individual who will no doubt be inducted into the Hall of Fame; that isn’t what the Celtics needed. Doc Rivers’ system has always been successful by taking a couple of All Stars and adding some legitimate bench depth. Ray, age ain’t nothin’ but a number, but your bone spurs clearly debilitated you. He can’t really create much of a shot that hasn’t been drawn up his, while his defensive game is progressively getting worse. (And going up against this league’s shooting guards while being a defensive liability is just not worth 27 million, sorry). I’m not even going to comment on Rashard Lewis. He’ll hit some daggers, Miami will erupt and then he will go back to the bench after going 2-9 for the rest of the game.
Now, the Celtics:
**Denotes player who plays multiple positions.
Now, the Celtics have serious questions about their roster, too. Health of the young (that means under 30) guys being the biggest. How will Bradley, Green and Wilcox feel back on the court for the first time since three very serious surgeries. It’s toss up, but as a basketball player, you’d rather almost anything have issues except your knees. (Ask Derrick Rose). For those of you who laughed at the acquisition of Jason Collins, please understand his role is to do one thing only: defend. From an OrlandoPinStripedPost story in 2011:
“Collins, no stranger to Howard, has a solid track record against Orlando’s superstar. Indeed, two of Howard’s worst offensive games as a pro came against Collins: as a rookie, Howard shot 1-of-5 for 2 points against Collins’ New Jersey Nets. Two years later, he missed all six of his shot attempts, managing just 1 point in 26 minutes, against New Jersey.
That success carried into this season as well, and credit first-year Hawks coach Larry Drew for trusting Collins against Orlando. Collins averaged 19.8 minutes per game against the Magic, compared to 11.4 against all other clubs. Though Howard still scored better than one point every two minutes against Atlanta–19.3 points in 37.1 minutes, to be precise–Collins limited his efficiency; Howard’s 43.1 percent shooting mark against Atlanta is his worst against any team this season.”
Jason Terry may not shoot 45 percent from beyond the arc, but he averages just a tick below Ray with 2.2 threes a game. His isolation game is better, his energy level is higher and he can handle the ball.
Courtney Lee is THEE move of the offseason, in my humble homer opinion. His numbers don’t jump off of your screen, but I think most players that come to Boston as formidable assets to their previous team end up tapping into their full potential under Doc. Having Rondo as your point guard helps significantly, too. Both Terry and Lee are coming from less-than-spectacular situations where their contract was playing out and so were their teams. Lee is also dependable on the defensive side of the ball; a place no known Celtic has left unturned.
Yes, Miami has a freak of nature on their team and some of the best individual scorers the league currently has, but Danny just made Coach Spoelstra’s matchup strategy much more difficult.
The Celtics have three superstars: Rondo, Pierce and Garnett. So do the Heat.
The Celtics have a deep, and I mean middle of the Atlantic ocean deep bench. The Heat…do not.
The Celtics got pretty lucky in the draft and have a rookie who will more than likely be ready to contribute by season’s midpoint. The Heat, nope.
The Celtics have no one wasting their time losing to Spain in the Olympics…the Heat do.
Okay, now I’m getting ridiculous.
Point is: Derrick Rose is out until March. Dwight Howard will probably be moving out of the conference. Atlanta….? The Nets are still the same old Nets, for this year at least. The Knicks look decent, but not convincing, and the Celtics are back in the saddle looking like serious contenders once again.
Just stay healthy.