I’ve had some time to digest the Celtics offseason moves, and I like what the C’s have done to upgrade their roster. However, it’s not enough to beat the Miami Heat should the teams meet up in the Eastern Conference playoffs next season.
Danny and Doc improved the club by resigning Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and Chris Wilcox. Picking up Jason Terry was a solid acquisition. Trading for Courtney Lee appears to be a good move. The draft picks are what you would expect selecting 21st and 22nd. You’re not going to get any stars picking in those slots. The best of the bunch appears to be Jared Sullinger, but you can’t judge anything from the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues. We’ll find out if Sullinger and the rest of the Celtics draftees have NBA skills when the games start to count in October.
Losing Ray Allen is a loss on offense. He can still shoot the 3, but he’s a terrible liability on defense. Courtney Lee and Jason Terry should adequately fill Rays shoes. When Avery Bradley returns from double shoulder surgery, he’ll bring tenacious defense, an ability to cut to the hoop and finish, and back-up Rajon Rondo at the point.
I’m not worried about the backcourt. Hopefully, Rondo is spending hours this summer working on his jump shot and free throw shooting. If he can get those percentages up, he’ll continue to be a force.
It’s the frontcourt that worries me. The two cornerstones are once again Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. K.G. was unbelievable in the 2012 playoffs, but I thought he would hang them up after the C’s fell to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. But no, the old guy signed a three-year deal and he’s back to presumably play the five spot. At 36, Doc must do a better job limiting his minutes in the regular season in order to have the Big Ticket rested and ready for the playoffs.
As for Pierce, a bum knee limited his effectiveness in the playoffs, especially against the Heat when the C’s needed him most. But even before the knee injury, the Captain showed signs of old age with fewer drives to the hoop because he lacked the foot speed to take his man off the dribble. Of course, advanced age is the issue with both of these guys. The likelihood of serious injury goes up every year Pierce and K.G. suit up for the C’s. If one of them goes down, especially K.G., for any extended period of time, the Celtics are toast. Bass along with Green, Wilcox, and Sullinger can hold down the fort for a while, but the C’s are a much weaker team without their two frontcourt veterans.
The Celtics are undoubtedly a deeper, more talented team heading into the 2012-2013 campaign, just not talented enough to overtake the Heat in the East. The reason is simple. The Heat has a guy by the name of LeBron James. If game six of the Eastern Conference Finals proved anything, it’s that LeBron is the best basketball player on the planet. Not only did he drop 45 points and 15 rebounds in that do-or-die game 6, he also averaged 30 points and 10 boards for the entire playoffs. The Celtics and the rest of the NBA don’t have an answer for LeBron.
Some of you basketball purists argue that one guy can’t beat a cohesive unit of five. Think again. It happened in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and it will happen again should these two teams meet up with a spot in the NBA Finals at stake. The Heat has Lebron and the Celtics don’t. That’s the difference. James can take over a game at anytime, and the Celtics don’t have anyone of that caliber. Green, Wilcox, Terry, Lee, and Sullinger are nice additions, but are they any better than the Heat’s supporting cast of Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Joel Athony? It’s something to think about.
K.G, Pierce, and Rondo will once again be the soul of the Celtics, valiantly fighting to reach the mountaintop. But ultimately they won’t make it because LeBron James will be there unwilling to give up his turf.