Despite coming within a game of advancing to the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics are approaching a potential crossroads this off-season with veterans Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen hitting the free agent market. The question facing the C’s front office is to re-sign their veterans or look towards the future.
Boston Celtics (39-27 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
All season long for the Celtics, it was a matter of getting through the shortened regular season, getting to the playoffs with a healthy roster, and having a chance to win another ring. That is exactly the position Boston put themselves in but they just didn’t have the depth to see that plan all the way through.
Their Big Three did what needed to be done before elevating their play in the postseason. Kevin Garnett proved that despite having a ton of miles on his legs, he still has plenty left in the tank thanks to that always dangerous mid-range jump shot and was especially impressive in the playoffs. Paul Pierce was typical Paul Pierce; being the Celtics number one offensive option and clutch late-game performer. Of the three veterans, Ray Allen showed his age the most. He missed twenty games due to injury and posted his lowest scoring total since his rookie season.
Despite having his name attached to trade rumors after the team sputtered to a slow start, Rajon Rondo dethroned Steve Nash as the league leader in assists. He still struggles with his perimeter shooting allowing defenders to sag off him on the perimeter, but his quickness remains on display and his blow-by ability can seemingly get him to the rim at anytime.
Outside of those four stars, Doc Rivers was forced to juggle a hodge podge of roles players. Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox suffered season-ending injuries and were eventually released which magnified Boston’s already lack of depth inside. Brandon Bass did a solid job of replacing O’Neal in the starting line-up but left the Celtics with an under-sized front line. Journeyman rookie Greg Stiemsma did his best to provide some size inside as did mid-season free agent pick-up Ryan Hollins.
Another major development was the growth that Avery Bradley showed during his second year in the league. Bradley was pretty much a non-factor as a rookie but did a respectable job filling in for Allen at the two when the vet was banged up. Other “old-timers” Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels, and Mickael Pietrus filled out the roster but really didn’t add much pop off the bench.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: *Greg Stiemsma
PF: JaJuan Johnson
SF: Paul Pierce
SG: Avery Bradley/E’Twaun Moore
PG: Rajon Rondo
NBA Free Agents:
PF-Kevin Garnett (UFA)
SG-Ray Allen (UFA)
PF-Brandon Bass (UFA)
F-Jeff Green (UFA)
SG-Marquis Daniels (UFA)
G/F-Mikael Pietrus (UFA)
PG-Keyon Dooling (UFA)
C-Ryan Hollins (UFA)
*C-Greg Stiemsma (RFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $31.2 million
Ummm… yeah, there’s no way in hell the Celtics can head into next season with a starting frontcourt of Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson. The biggest decision will come from Kevin Garnett and how much/long of a contract he is looking for this off-season and whether Boston is willing to bring the 36-year old back. Brandon Bass has also opted out of the final year of his contract leaving a gaping hole up-front. The good news is that Boston has a pair of first round picks as well as the cap space to find some better talent and depth.
2. Re-sign Ray Ray?:
The Garnett decision is much more vital than what to do with the soon-to-be 37-year old Allen, who unlike Garnett, has definitely lost a step. If the Celtics end up parting ways with Jesus Shuttlesworth, they will need to find a replacement; not necessarily a starting shooting guard since Avery Bradley could fill that role, but definitely somebody who can stroke it from deep.
3. Depth All Over:
Besides the aforementioned holes up-front and at shooting guard, Boston really needs to add depth and an upgrade of talent at every position. They have to find a backup point guard for Rajon Rondo and a wing to play behind Paul Pierce.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.