Sunday, 30 September 2012

2013 is all about 18

In the summer, the Celtics were one unreal LeBron James performance away from the NBA finals. With no bench, and injuries to key players, taking the eventual champion Heat to 7 games was a pretty amazing feat. No one else managed that. The 2012 playoffs will always have a "what if" asterisk next to it for the Celtics. Without Avery Bradley, they were without their secret weapon in shutting down Wade. Paul Pierce was playing on 1 leg and Ray Allen was missing his ankles.

Since then, the Celtics have had a fantastic off season revamping their roster with bench depth and cover at positions they were lacking in last season. Ray Allen might be gone, but he's been replaced by not 1 but 2 excellent guards. In the draft, the Celtics might have picked up the steal of the 1st round in Jared Sullinger. Assuming his dodgy back holds up that is. Elsewhere, Jeff Green is coming back after his heart problem and Wilcox and Darko are filling out the front court.

There's an argument to be had that the Celtics might have the deepest overall roster in the NBA this season. They might not have as strong a starting 5 as the Lakers or the Heat, but their bench depth could be what makes the difference in another push for their 18th championship.

So, I'm pretty excited for this coming season. Literally counting down the days to the Heat game on the 30th October. I'm even taking the 31st off work so the 5 hour time difference won't get the better of me. I'm hoping for big things. The following is a list of things I'm expecting from Boston this season.

1. Bench scoring

Last season, the Celtics had a starting 5 and a bunch of guys cheering them on from the sidelines. This season, they have a legitimate 6th man in Jason Terry and even more fire power from Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Chris Wilcox and possibly one of Kris Joseph, Dionte Christmas or Jamar Smith. Also to this list you can add either Courtney Lee or Avery Bradley once Bradley gets back from injury. For what it's worth, I expect Bradley to take over as starter once he's fully fit. But Lee has an amazing opportunity to steal Avery's spot in the starting 5. When compared to last season's bench, it's impossible not to get pretty excited about this team's chances. Last year, the main scoring threats off the bench were Mickael Pietrus and...well.. scoring wise that was probably about it. And when Pietrus is your biggest scoring threat off the bench, you know you've got some problems. This year the C's well have a strong 10 man rotation with the end of the bench fluff of Darko and Jason Collins making up the numbers. I can't wait.

2. Rondo is a superstar

The NBArank list was just finished over on ESPN. The Celtics ranked up like this. I must say, I expected Rondo to be a top 10 player this year. I'm convinced that he is now the best point guard in the league. At the very least he should be ahead of serial underachiever Deron Williams and Russell 'what's an assist?' Westbrook. Rondo plays the point like it should be played. Making plays for the rest of his teammates first and shooting second. Rondo was incredible in the playoffs this year and I think his monster game in game 2 was a sign of things to come this season.

3. Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds

Other than the bench depth, a main weakness of the Celtics last season was there inability to rebound the ball. This should improve greatly this year with the addition of Sullinger and also the return of Chris Wilcox. I also expect Collins and Darko to contribute fairly well on crashing the glass. Well, it's probably best not to expect anything of Darko so that any contribution is a pleasant surprise. So yeah. Rebounds will improve. Darko might get a few.

4. ECF rematch. Different outcome.

With Rose down for the bulk of the season, I don't think anyone can really see past another Celtics - Heat eastern conference finals. While the Heat are probably still seen as favourites in this matchup, I think what I've been arguing for the whole of this post will be what makes the difference this year in the Celtics favour. Last year, Boston played the Heat with effectively a 6 or 7 man rotation, with a few of those players running on flat tires with dodgy suspension. This year the Celtics are deep and the Celtics will win. So long as health is kind to them.

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