Why are the Celtics struggling?
Performances To Date
Well, let’s start by taking a look at what level of performances they are getting out of their players.
Note: Only judging the players on their performances on the season to date (15 Jan).
- PG – Rajon Rondo – playing at a very high level, top five PG in the league
- SG – Ray Allen – also playing at a very high level, top ten SG
- SF – Paul Pierce – missed the first few games with injury, when he returned Pierce played well at first but quickly fell apart and has been a large liability in most of the games since. When Pierce has been unavailable, Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels have filled those minutes. Overall, the Celtics have received very little contribution out of their starting SF this season. The equivalent of a low level starter (bottom five).
- PF – Kevin Garnett – has been a bit inconsistent to start the season and has clearly declined physically. Still an average starting PF.
- C – Jermaine O’Neal – has been lousy on regular basis with only the odd flash of solid play. Also a low level (bottom five) starter at his position.
- PG – Keyon Dooling – has played reasonably well by his standards but is still a highly erratic offensive PG. A poor decision who does a poor job of running an offense, has too many turnovers and is a streaky shooter. His defense has been good to very good at both guard position. A below average contributor.
- SG – Avery Bradley / Sasha Pavlovic – the Celtics have gotten very little out of this spot. Bradley has given some terrific defense in bursts but has been an abomination on offense. Pavlovic has given them serviceable defense and been invisible offensively. One of the weakest backup SG rotations in the league.
- SF – Marquis Daniels to Mickael Pietrus – Marquis Daniels is clearly struggling following his frightening injury last season. He hasn’t gotten his legs or his timing back yet and that is eviscerating his impact on the court. Daniels has been one of the weakest backup SFs in the league to begin the season. Pietrus has recently taken over the slot now that he is healthy enough to play and has shown positive play in his first 2-3 appearances. He should become a high level backup wing for the Celtics as the season progresses but for the season to date, the C’s have had one of the least helpful backup SFs in the league.
- PF – Brandon Bass – Bass has played very well and been the C’s sixth man. He has given them major scoring punch off the bench and been a serviceable defender/rebounder. He is a top ten borderline top five backup PF.
- C – Chris Wilcox / Greg Stiemsma – aside from the odd encouraging display from Stiemsma, the Celtics have gotten absolutely nothing out of their backup five spot. Again, one of the weakest backup slots in the league (so far).
- The Celtics have one starter playing at an extremely high level (PG), one at a high level (SG) and another at an average level (SF). The two other starters (SF,C) are amongst the weakest in the league.
- The Celtics bench has one high level bench player (PF) and one below average but serviceable bench player (PG) while the three other spots (SG, SF, C) are giving them very weak production relative to their position/role.
Given those levels of contribution – with so many positions underperforming relative to their spot/role – one would expect the Celtics to be a slightly below average team somewhere in the 16th to 21st range.
The good news is that the C’s can expect a lot more out of a few players in the future
- Paul Pierce should regain his place as a top five or at least a top ten (age, decline?) small forward once he gets fully healthy and in proper condition.
- Mickael Pietrus will give them a high level backup wing
- Marquis Daniels, if (and it’s a major if) he can get back to full health this season, will give the a major upgrade at one of the backup guards spots. He would be an above average backup SG.
Note: The Celtics also have the option of using Marquis as their main backup guard in a combo guard role similar to the one he had two years ago here in Boston. His ability to create matchup problems offensively would give the C’s offense a small boost and his added size and nose for the ball would help improve their rebounding too. This would also allow Keyon Dooling to move down into a third string role (defensive orientated combo guard) which is his best role and a role where he is an elite player.
- Chris Wilcox has had some bad luck with injuries and is poorly conditioned + Doc has used him in some bad lineups which has limited his effectiveness. Wilcox is capable of giving the C’s a good bit more in the future especially in terms of complementary scoring (more playing time alongside Big Four please!).
- Greg Stiemsma is still a bit of an unknown and could give the C’s a small increase in production at the backup five spot going forward.
- So the combination of Stiemsma and Wilcox should give the C’s a below average but serviceable backup five slot.
Note: The Celtics could move Jermaine O’Neal into this backup center slot where he would likely be an average player and move either Wilcox or Stiemsma into the starting lineup. Stiemsma would give them more rim protection while Wilcox would give their offense a boost with KG sliding over to the five spot.
Okay, so without a change along the lines of the suggested notes, and figuring Pierce for some decline down to a top ten SF instead of top five, I would expect that Celtics lineup to be the equivalent of a slightly above average basketball team.
Something in the 10th to 14th best team in the league. A non-contender but a solid playoff caliber team.