2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

2011-2012 Record: 39-27, 1st in Atlantic
Stat Leaders: Paul Pierce, 19.4 ppg. Rajon Rondo, 11.7 apg. Kevin Garnett, 8.2 rpg. Jermaine O'Neal, 1.7 bpg.

Depth Chart

C -
PF - JaJuan Johnson
SF - Paul Pierce
SG - Avery Bradley
PG - Rajon Rondo

Restricted Free Agents: C Greg Stiemsma
Unrestricted Free Agents: F Kevin Garnett, G Ray Allen, F Brandon Bass, GF Mickael Pietrus, GF Marquis Daniels, G Keyon Dooling, C Ryan Hollins, G E'Twaun Moore, GF Sasha Pavlovic, FC Sean Williams

The Good: The Celtics started the season looking like they could miss the playoffs, but ended it one game away from this current group's third trip to the NBA Finals. Future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce had another fantastic NBA season. The best Celtic since Larry Bird led the team in scoring. Rajon Rondo continues to be the best point guard in the NBA that everyone says is not great. He can't shoot, yet he averaged 17 points per game in the playoffs with some monster scoring nights sprinkled in. He can fill up the stat sheet and is a great leader. Kevin Garnett needed to play about 8 minutes less per night during the regular season, but stepped his game up big time when the playoffs rolled around with more then a few vintage KG performances. As far as young guys the team could build around, the team's only real youngster, Avery Bradley, had a nice stretch when Ray Allen went down during the regular season. He looks like a keeper.

The Bad: This team was very old and needed size in the worst way. That was Boston's undoing in the playoffs, as they could not keep up with LeBron James in the playoffs. Ray Allen really showed his age with a terrible performance in the playoffs, and the rest of the Celtics role players were past their prime, low upside veteran backups. The Celtics need to get younger and more athletic this off season. The teams lack of height killed them as well. Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett were the teams only real options down low. Garnett willed out some great performances as did Bass, but both guys are too small to play minutes at center. Greg Stiemsma was the only guy on the roster with any type of size, and all he can do is block a couple of shots.

Key Free Agents: The decision on what to do with Kevin Garnett will shape this off season and beyond for the Celtics. If they resign him they will probably fill out their roster with veterans again and go after a championship for the next year or two. If they let him walk then it is obvious it is time to rebuild. Brandon Bass had his best season and could be brought back as the starting power forward. Ray Allen's career isn't finished but he is a backup at this point. The rest of the guys are weak veteran bench guys who will not be missed.

Projected Cap Space: $27,458,415. Brandon Bass recently opted out, leaving the Celtics with only four players under contract. Paul Pierce is making over 16 million dollars but is still very valuable. Rondo will bring home 11 million next year due to the very team friendly contract he signed a couple of years ago. GM Danny Ainge will have a boat load of money to spend if he chooses.

Amnesty Possibilities: Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are the only two players on the roster making any kind of money. Both guys are All Star level players and will not be released.

Free Agency Possibilities: If the Celtics resign Garnett that would leave shooting guard and center as huge holes. The Celtics will have the money to sign a solid player for each spot. Chris Kaman will be a very popular free agent and should have his choice of contending teams. Unlike virtually every other starting caliber free agent center, Kaman is unrestricted. He can create his own offense down low and rebound, though he is not much of a shot blocker. The Celtics may struggle to find an upgrade at shooting guard over Ray Allen. They might want to bring him back, and maybe sign another shooter who can come off the bench. Someone like Jodie Meeks or even Nick Young if they want to aim higher. Depth all over the place is needed as well. Also, we cannot forget about Jeff Green, who may be ready to return to the NBA after a year layoff.

Draft Possibilities: The Celtics have the 21st and 22nd picks in the upcoming draft, and possibilities are endless as to who they can select. Boston basically needs young depth everywhere and could take the two best players available. I think they should definitely go size with at least one of their picks. During my recent mock I had them taking Jared Sullinger and Andrew Nicholson. Sullinger might drop like a rock due to a myriad of issues, but he would be a good player for the Celtics to gamble on. Other big men who could be available are Fab Melo, Arnett Moultrie, Perry Jones and Royce White.

Rebulding, Contending or Status Quo?: The Celtics might be the only team in the NBA that you can't put in any of the three categories. It all depends on what direction the team wants to go. They could very easily trade Pierce and go with a flat out rebuilding plan with two first round picks, a good point guard and tons of cap space. Or they could resign Garnett, add some veterans and give it one more shot. Boston could be the center of the NBA Off Season universe this summer.

All logos courtesy of www.sportslogos.net

Jonathan Carrano

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