NBA Roundtable

2010/11 Boston Celtics

In General NBA on October 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm

The Roster

  • PG – Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson, Avery Bradley
  • SG – Ray Allen, Delonte West, Von Wafer
  • SF – Paul Pierce, Marquis Daniels
  • PF – Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Glen Davis, Luke Harangody
  • C – Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O’Neal, Semih Erden

Strengths

  • Power, size, length and strength on the interior. A formidable amount of size with Garnett, Perk, Jermaine and Shaq. A lot of quality rebounding and defensive contributions. Low post options offensively. Very difficult to matchup against.
  • The all round brilliance of the emerging Rajon Rondo
  • Spectacular shooting and quality two way basketball from their starting wings Paul Pierce (All-Star) and Ray Allen.
  • Exceptional depth with Nate, Delonte, Marquis, Jermaine, Shaq and BBD. 
  • Strong rebounding team
  • Defensive ability – I have the Celtics ranked as the best defensive team in the league. Their defense will once again be a great strength for the side.
  • The shooting ability of their supporting cast.

Weaknesses

Not many … and the ones that are there are mostly minor in nature compared to their strengths.

  • A lack of a true go-to scorer.
  • Age and health. An older team that has several players who have had injury concerns in the recent past and possibly in the future.

Smaller weaknesses

  • Kendrick Perkins is still out with a long term injury and isn’t expected back until February. The team has good cover for Perkins thought – Jermaine, Shaq and BBD to play alongside Garnett.
  • Shaq is vulnerable in many team defensive sequences, especially the pick and roll, but once Perk comes back they can drop Shaq from the rotation and use BBD and Jermaine as the backup bigs when facing a squad that poses. So a problem but an avoidable one if need be.
  • Tony Allen has left the club which takes away the team’s best wing defender. That will put more pressure on Paul Pierce defensively + we’ll have to watch for Ray Allen and see how he does defensively with another year on his belt (below par regular season last year defensively but very good in the playoffs so who knows?).
  • Marquis is a poor shooter which is a bad fit with Rondo’s lack of a jumper. Could cause some problems. The Celtics do have great shooters in Pierce, Ray and Delonte and a good shooter in Nate Rob though. So they should be able to handle this well enough.
  • A lack of depth on the wing. No true backup small forward. A lack of size, length (small wings) and defensive ability (Marquis solid defensively not a standout like TA) with their backup wings.

Notes

Rebounding

Rebounding was a weak point for the Celtics in the regular season last year but they turned that around in the playoffs, well, until Perk went down with an injury. This season, with Shaquille O’Neal (excellent rebounder) replacing Rasheed Wallace (very poor rebounder last year), the Celtics should be one of the best rebounding teams in the league.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce seem to have taken that rebounding issue to heart and have rededicated themselves to picking up those extra rebounds on the perimeter in pre-season. If that continues, or more importantly if it shows up in the playoffs, the Celtics should be the top rebounding team in the league.

Supporting Cast’s Jump-Shooting

Delonte West and Nate Robinson are both quality perimeter shooters. Glen Davis and Jermaine O’Neal have good to solid jump shooters for their respective positions.

Marquis Daniels is the only perimeter player with a suspect jump shot in the supporting cast although he too has shown good form with his jumper in preseason. Also important, gone is Tony Allen who couldn’t shoot the ball to save his life.

It’ll be a lot easier for the Celtics to space the floor this season + with Nate and Delonte firing off a good number of three pointers, the side looks closer to the 2008 team with Posey and House that was so lethal from the outside than either of the two previous teams (2009 + 2010).

This is a good improvement for the side too.

Lack of Go-To Scoring

Paul Pierce has slowed down offensively. He has lost some of his athleticism and is more vulnerable to top defenders on opposing teams these days . Not as dependable as he used to be in those situations. No longer able to get as much separation from his defender as he was when he was younger.

Pierce will still light up mediocre and below par defenders with frightening efficiency (20-25ppg 60+ TS%) + will be a good to very good scorer (18-20ppg 55-58% TS% depending on quality of opponent) against tougher defenders … just not the all world scorer he once was that could get whatever he wanted, against whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted.

Rajon Rondo’s athleticism and ball-handling allows him to create his own shot better than anyone else on the team but he hasn’t shown inclination in stepping up as a go-to scoring threat + with a supporting cast full of offensive talent, he is unlikely to do so. Rondo enjoys his passing too much.

Kevin Garnett continues to be extremely passive as a scorer although remains very capable once he decides to attack.

Also, on a final note here, the Celtics lack a true go-to scorer but they have several solid go-to scorers + a very talented offensive minded supporting cast. So while this isn’t a strength for them offensively they do still have other good strengths in scoring / shot creation.

Rondo’s Post Game

Most PGs use their size/strength to muscle someone down, like Andre Miller or Jason Kidd used to, but, Rondo relies on that explosive quickness of his. Rondo likes physical play. Very aggressive.

Physicality and explosive quickness is a terrific combination in the paint. An unusual combination for opponent PGs to go up against.

Rondo’s quickness — when he faces up from 10 feet in under, he is one dribble from the rim, and, with his explosiveness attacking the rim there is no way that the defender can stay in front of him. When he puts his back to the basket and then starts spinning left and right, trying to get around his man, there is no way the defender can consistently beat him to the spot. Too quick, too physical, too skilled.

Put him against a bigger PG defender like a J-Kidd. It’s not about strength. It’s about denying Rondo the spin and beating him to the spot. Kidd, more often than not, won’t be able to do that. He has enough strength to fight the back down but not the quickness on the spin move which will allow Rondo to get a good look at the basket with regularity.

You put him against a bigger guy like Kobe, even Kobe will have trouble stopping Rondo from getting to where he want … Kobe’s best shot at denying the scoring opportunity is on the shot when he tries to block it. Either by blocking it, altering it or intimidating Rondo to the point he doesn’t take even take the shot.

Contenders

How do the Celtics matchup against the other big name contenders?

Los Angeles Lakers

The Celtics additions of Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal will go a long way to negating the advantage LA had in the paint against Boston in the Finals last year. Without that advantage, LA doesn’t win.

This would be a defensive minded series with both team’s defensive strengths matching up very well against their opponent and turning one another’s offenses into one of the weaker offenses in the league.

However, the Celtics defense will bother LA a little more than LA’s will bother Boston and that should be the difference maker in a Finals series.

Orlando Magic

The Celtics continue to matchup extremely well with Orlando. They have the post defense to handle Dwight Howard, the versatile defensive play of Garnett to contain Rashard Lewis, the physical defense of Paul Pierce to deny Vince Carter and the quickness of Rajon Rondo to bother Jameer Nelson.

Unless Orlando shows a massive improvement in shot-creation this season, they still aren’t good enough to unseat the Celtics.

It’s looking like Boston has this team’s number too.

Note

The one area where Orlando could get a lot of joy is by shifting Rashard to the three and forcing Pierce to defend him and switch Vince Carter onto Ray Allen. Vince Carter can still create in isolation and especially in the post against Ray + Rashard can score in the post against Pierce. The Magic will likely have to turn to this combination to have any chance of winning the series.

Ryan Anderson would offer the most spacing to Lewis and Vince in the post but Bass would give more defense. I’d go with Anderson.

We’ll have to wait and see how often SVG uses that lineup/combination, particularly when playing Boston, before commenting further.

Miami Heat

The Heat are going to have to give up an advantage in the backcourt. Dwyane Wade can only cover one player, Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen, and, Mario Chalmers has proven in the past that he is incapable of covering either player. Miami should put Wade on Rondo because he can cause more damage than Ray can but Ray’s scoring will give Boston’s offense a big boost in a matchup against the Heat.

Miami will also have trouble in the paint against Boston’s imposing frontcourt. Haslem doesn’t have the size or length to contend with Garnett’s post game and they have nobody who can defend Shaq. However, if Boston uses Shaq, the Heat can get a lot of joy in the pick and roll. In other words, Miami could end up giving up 20+ points a game to Shaq in a series but their offensive strengths versus his weaknesses should allow them to win the game.

Boston also have a big advantage with their depth against Miami’s.

A complete clash in styles with Miami based around quickness, running and a star based offense while Boston bring a lot of power, size and a team based ball movement offense. Consequently, it will be a terrific matchup.

Too early to say for sure who has the advantage here. It looks close. But I am leaning towards Miami.

Projection

It’s all about health with this team. I think they’ll end up winning 58-61 games because of their depth but I do expect them to pick up quite a few injuries again this season.

The Celtics will be right there for the Championship if they’re healthy entering the postseason. At the very minimum, this is a top three team in the league. One of the frontrunners for the title.

Considering the overwhelming talent of the team, the Boston Celtics are flying under the radar as we begin the season. The Celtics might be the best team in the league.

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  1. Do you think the Magic could work with Gortat and Howard in the frontcourt?

  2. Hey Dino Gunners,

    I think they can use them together in short spurts but both players are so limited offensively that it’ll make it difficult to play them together for longer than that. Especially against someone like Boston who is an excellent defensive team + has quality defensive matchups against their perimeter players making dribble penetration difficult.

    Hell of a defensive + rebounding combination though. Great option, change of game combo. It would really force the opponent to alter their style of play.

  3. Great first half for Boston!! Limiting the superfriends to a combined 7-27. Your analysis of Boston compared to the other top teams was great in the original post.

    I feel that against Miami, if Boston could try to play the 2,3,4 positions to a stalemate (or even be just below average), their huge advantage at the 1 and 5 would slightly tilt the matchups in their favour. Not only does Boston stack up as well as anybody to the Heat, but they also have some quality depth on the bench.

    If the Lakers were to face Miami, I feel the starting lineup should be: Blake, Kobe, Odom, Gasol, Bynum (if healthy). Blake is a better defensive player compared to Fisher (still not great) and he could stalemate Chalmers/Arroyo. If, if, Kobe and Odom could guard Wade/Lebron 1 v. 1, and gasol is at worst a stalement to bosh, i feel the advantage of Bynum would be huge. To me, the center position is a huge liability, why didnt the heat sign Dampier, he’s a much better player to Anthony (poor defender, poor scorer, adequate rebounder).

    Those are the two series I am looking forward to.

  4. One thing which I do not understand is Shaq in the lineup instead of Glen Davis. I know Big baby would be undersized but he provides the same defense (if not slightly better), similar-to-better offense, similar interior defense, is not a liability from the free throw line and does not kill you on the pick and roll defense.

    If you are worried about Joel Anthony or Big Z going off for Miami, that would probably be my biggest hope as an opposing coach. I can’t think of a single positive of having shaq over big baby on the floor.

  5. (1) Miami went to Bosh early in the game trying to establish a low post game. They did this a couple of times in pre-season too. This a mistake. Need to move away from this. Bosh isn’t a low post player + he should be more of a garbage man than a focal point when on the floor with LeBron + Wade.

    (2) Boston up 13 with 4 minutes to go in the third when Pierce left. Miami cut it to 6 by the end of the quarter. They struggled mightily to defend LeBron without Pierce there + Miami used a nice lineup full of shooters with House, J.Jones, Haslem and Ilgauskas to provide more spacing for LeBron.

    (3) Miami have nobody who can come close to defending Paul Pierce when LeBron James rests. This won’t be an issue in a playoff series since James will play 43-45 minutes a night … but they were very vulnerable tonight whenever Pierce attacked James Jones. Just not physical enough or talented enough defensively to handle Pierce.

    (4) Miami played much better with Ilgauskas on the floor. Benefited from his length inside defensively and the threat of his shooting ability offensively. Boston didn’t do the best of jobs attacking Big Z in the pick and roll though.

    (5) Miami did a poor job of attacking Shaq in the pick and roll most of the evening.

    (6) Mike Miller isn’t going to be able to defend Ray Allen or Paul Pierce. There is going to be a lot of pressure on him to supply enough offense and rebounding to make up for it.

    (7) Wade needs to defend Rondo more than he has tonight. And if he isn’t, he damn well do a better job denying Ray Allen. Ray’s shooting has been superb tonight. 17 points through three quarters.

    (8) LeBron hasn’t scored against Pierce since he came back into the game in the fourth quarter. Big factor in Boston building their lead back up. Pierce has done an excellent job on LeBron tonight.

    (9) Kevin Garnett played excellent defense on Bosh + outstanding pick and roll defense. Bosh played very well defensively against Garnett too.

  6. Baby vs Shaq

    A different skill-set depending on what the team needs to match up against their opponent.

    They went with Shaq against centers like J.Anthony and Ilgauskas but used Glen Davis late on in the game when they wanted to shore up their pick and roll defense against a smaller Heat lineup (Haslem + Bosh). Although, Shaq played Haslem well in the second quarter.

    Anyways, defensively, Shaq gives them a 7-1 300+lb monster with a massive wingspan in the paint. Physically, an intimidating force and still very much a shot blocker in the paint. Davis doesn’t give them shot blocking, that length, but, he supplies a lot more mobility and far superior team defense (defensive rotations and PnR defense). Davis’s girth allows him to handle players in the post but doesn’t have the length of Shaq when it comes to altering shot attempts (both at the rim and jump shots).

    Offensively, Shaq is still a quality shot-creator in the low post and if you do not double team … he’ll score at a solid clip + at an excellent clip against weak post defenders. Davis is more of a complementary offensive who plays off of others. Boston’s offense generally declines when he tries to create his own shot especially in the post. Davis does bring more of a jump shot and floor spacing to the table though.

    Rebounding wise, Shaq is still a dominant rebounder. He grabs boards at a great clip and his sheer size eats up space in the paint thus making it difficult for opponent players to steal away rebounds (for example, tonight, first quarter, J.Anthony grabbed 2 boards against Shaq in 6 minutes but 5 boards against JO/BBD/KG in 5 minutes). He has a huge effect on the defensive glass for his teams. Davis is an inconsistent rebounder. He has some good runs (like in the playoffs last year) but most of the time he’s been a below average rebounder. Improving though and will hopefully take another step forward next year.

    In summary, just different skill-sets. Glen Davis gives them more mobility and floor spacing offensively in contrast to Shaquille O’Neal who provides more size/length and shot-creation in the low post. Depends on how the team wants to play or matchup against the opponent.

    ————————————————

    Shaq is going to give the Celtics a huge boost as their fourth big man in the depth chart (once Perk returns). Barely any teams in the league have a second unit center who’ll be able to matchup against him effectively. He is a difference maker for this team.

    So too is Delonte West who is a damn fine role player and should be a starting PG somewhere in the league (Portland, LA Lakers, Miami).

    Both are game changers for the Celtics.

  7. Dave,

    1. The Heat played the worst game they could possibly play against the Celtics … and, were still in a position to steal the win in the final minute, somehow. That’s a remarkable accomplishment, IMO.

    2. Miami is going to get a whole lot better as the season progresses, and E-Spoelstra begins to figure out how to use each of the players on his roster to their best advantage.

    3. IMO, it would be a mistake in judgment to consider the Celtics to be a better team than the Heat, just yet, this season. As was evidenced by the performances of both teams last night, in their respective Game 2’s … i.e. Miami was much better vs Philly; while Boston was much worse vs the Cavs … the authentic ability of each team, relative to the other good-to-very good squads in the league, is something other what they showed in Game 1.

  8. Did you hear over the Chicago game yesterday JVG and Mark Jackson were talking about Chicago trying to acquire Carmelo. And Jackson said something along the lines of:

    “Noah is a great energy guy who can rebound but he’s easily replacable. Anytime you have a chance to get a player like Carmelo you do it. He can score in bunches and carry your offense for long periods.”

    Is he crazy? Assuming the proposed deal of Noah/Deng for Carmelo went through, how bad would Chicago’s defense be? Isn’t rose doing a good enough job creating (and he is improving) plus do they not have the low post option in Boozer now. Noah is their anchor on defense and one of the best centers in the league. I couldnt believe JVG agreed with Mark Jackson.

  9. Link

    Interesting article on the Celtics turnover problems by Zach Lowe for SI.com. Worth reading.

    Great breakdown of Boston’s turnover problems in transition + notes major problems in PnR plays where the ball-handler tries to finish too.

    Hey Khandor,

    Fully agree, it would be a mistake to read too much into Boston’s win at this point in the season.

    Miami are clearly going to be improve a great deal over the coming weeks and months … the next couple of regular season matchups between the two sides will tell us far more than this last one.

  10. Hi Dave!Long time!

    By the way, how come there is no news from you AI transfer to Turkey? Honestly, I just got the feeling that he’s not going to survive there.

    Speaking Turkey, I think Semih ERDEN is a nice addition to Celtics puzzle. I saw him playing at the FIBA Worlds and he showed plenty. I hope he gets some quality minutes as I’m sure with Shaq and Perkins, it’s going to be really tough for him.

  11. Hey John,

    Not as active on the blog these days. Just a post here and there.

    Surprising news about Iverson going to Turkey. I agree, I don’t think he’ll last there either. I would be surprised if he finished out one season there nevermind the second year of that contract.

    I like Erden. He is a good third string center. If he shores up his defense + rebounding, he can become a solid rotation player down the road.

    Offensively; Erden is clever, good hands, good decision maker, finishes well around the rim. I haven’t been impressed with his rebounding but he’s done okay in that regard for the Celtics since the regular season started. I’d expect that to get a little bit worse as the season continues though. His defense, too, a bit better than expected but still below average. Good at drawing charges though.

    The Celtics have been struggling more often than not when they’ve used Erden in their second unit alongside BBD. Erden has done a serviceable job but he still has a ways to go before he’ll be a useful regular rotation player. Third string center for the time being.

  12. I love watching Boston/Miami play.

  13. Dino Gunners,

    Yeah, great matchup. Very interesting games.

    Still too early for Miami though. Too early to read into the result … but there are other smaller issues to discover.

    Boston is easily the best team in the NBA at the moment. With Shaq in the lineup, they should win this game comfortably enough.

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