2009/10 Review:

The Boston Celtics enjoyed a terrific, but highly inconsistent season that ended up with one win away from achieve their second NBA Championship in 3 years.

Publicly they were one of the powerhouses of the league at the start of the season. After all, they pushed Orlando to a grueling 7-game playoffs series without Kevin Garnett in the previous season and with a healthy KG and with the addition of Rasheed Wallace in the free agency, they were a legit candidate to win it all.

Indeed they showed such predicaments early on the season, as in the Christmas day they were carrying a 23-5 record, but since then, the Celtics looked like a mediocre team by playing the rest of the regular season by going 27-27 in the next 54 games.

It’s hard to figure out the reasons for such inconsistency and bad overall play from them. Yes, they are a veteran team and eventually their old guys simply aren’t able to perform at their best in such marathon season, but when you lose at home against the likes of the Nets, 76ers or the Wizards, it is really hard to accept those struggles.

Rajon Rondo was probably the only bright spot of the Celtics during the regular season, as he emerged as a true floor general and was consistent since day 1 of the season.

The Celtics ended up with the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, so they would have home court advantage only in the first round of the playoffs.

However, in the playoffs the “old Celtics” were back and all the previous conversation about their inconsistency during the regular season was really irrelevant.

Their trademark “Celtics defense” was back and on the offensive end, they were a true balanced team led by Rajon Rondo that exploited every possible matchup advantage. In the Finals, the Celtics were 24 minutes away from winning the Championship and eventually with the presence of Kendrick Perkins on the floor the outcome would have been different.

2009/10 Advanced Stats:

Pace 22nd 94.6
Offense 14th 105.0
Defense 5th 100.9
Rebounds 25th -1.48

2010/11 Outlook:

Projected Depth Chart:

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

Going into this season, the formula is basically the same as the last year, as the Celtics retained all of the key players from a season ago, save for the now-retired Rasheed Wallace and GM Danny Ainge added Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal to complete the frontcourt.

The Celtics despite all their struggles during the regular season were a top 5 defensive team, however their rebounding struggles were unexpected: 25th in rebounding differential (-1.5 per-game) and so, Ainge knowing that Perkins won’t be available to play soon, he picked up the two O’Neal’s to improve in such area. Orlando is already a top rebounding team and with Miami emerging, the Celtics will have to improve dramatically in this department.

It is pretty amazing the development of Rajon Rondo as a player and personality in the team. Do you remember of the 07-08 NBA Celtics’ Champs, in which Rondo was the weakest link of the team and every team in the league ignored him, when the Celtics had the ball? Well, by averaging 13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game, he’s emerged as one of the pre-eminent players at his position in the league, and one of the most unique, too. Yes, his 3pts shooting and FT% is still problematic, but Rondo found a way to contribute in every other aspect of the game. With 24-years old, Rondo is the only projected starter that has less than 32 years and unquestionably, he is the face of the franchise for the future.

Paul Pierce got his extension this summer and he is still the go-to player down the stretch for the Celtics and the team’s leader in the locker room. However, “the Truth” looked just a tad slower and less explosive last season and his inconsistency was well documented in his overall numbers: After shooting 52.9 and 50.3% from the field in October and November, Pierce shot 39.5% FG in December. He also shot 36.1% FG in February, so the Celtics must be cautious with his usage rate during the regular season.

The same thing can be said about Ray Allen, although Allen is coming from playing 80 games in the regular season – his personal high since the 2000-01 season! His willingness to sacrifice from a superstar player into a role player in Boston has been notable and the Celtics appreciated that by giving him an extension as well in this summer.

Kevin Garnett made a nice comeback last season, but his physical struggles were well evident. During the regular season he logged 29.9 minutes per game – season low since his rookie season and his 14.3ppg and 7.3rpg are far from the player that once dominated the league in his position. However, in the playoffs he raised his level and completely outplayed both Jamison and Rashard Lewis in key pivotal matchups that the Celtics had against the Cavaliers and the Magic. He’s a smart player and knows pretty well about his body limitations, so we can expect him help the team in other facets – facets that aren’t documented in stats, but that gives the Celtics a mental edge into the games.

While Perkins is out (he is hoping to return in mid-February), one of the O’Neal’s is going to have to start for this team. Apparently, it is Jermaine who will receive the nod of being the starter, who quietly posted 13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a starter in Miami last season, however I just can’t forget how pathetic his play was in the playoffs against… the Celtics! Shaq is in the decline of his brilliant career, but only his presence down low in the floor is enough to give some discomfort to the opponents. It’s quite curious that if you think about the most potent teams going for this season: Lakers, Magic, Heat and the Celtics, Shaq played for all these teams in his career.

With such a veteran roster it is imperative that the Celtics second unit has to be an energetic unit when they are on the court and that’s exactly what they are. Delonte West, Nate Robinson and Glen Davis are energetic players (even Robinson showed some nice things last season with a Celtics uniform) that can change the outcome of the game. Glen Davis is poised to be the 6th man of this team and he simply doesn’t have afraid to pull a jump shot in crunch time.

The Celtics are undoubtedly one of the few legit powers in the NBA, although their path will be different than the Magic or the Heat. It is hard for us to have a real perception of their value during the regular season because they proved wrong all the skepticism created with their inconsistent play in the second half of season before the arrival of the playoffs. However they are one year older and the Eastern Conference has seen one powerhouse emerge in a matter of months. Nevertheless, we just can’t count them out!