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2007-08 Record: 66-16
Cool 2007 Stat: Non big-3 contributor Leon Powe averaged 26.4 pts and 13.5 rebs per 48 minutes played. That’s a better scoring rate than 12 2008 all-stars and a better rebounding rate than 21 of the 26 all-stars this year.
Anticipated Starting Five
PG- Rajon Rondo
SG- Ray Allen
SF- Paul Pierce
PF- Kevin Garnett
C- Kendrick Perkins
Bench: Tony Allen, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Patrick O’Bryant
Biggest Strength – Team defense
One of the best defenses statistically in history. Watching this team all last season, the thing that stood out to me was their rotations and relentless contesting of shots. It’s like they have some sort of game of who can contest the most shots because very rarely do they let teams shoot open shots. They have have one of the best defensive big men in the NBA anchoring them and providing unparalleled energy. Then they have Rajon Rondo at the point of their defense causing havoc against opponents’ point guards, disrupting offensive continuity, bothering post players in help defense and getting in passing lanes. They also have arguably the best defensive assistant coach in the game in Tom Thibodeau. I fully expect that to carry over this season. A big question will be whether Tony Allen can provide that defensive stopper off the bench they need with the lost of Posey.
Biggest Weakness - Front court depth
Most people have wondered about the loss of James Posey. But what has gone relatively unmentioned is the loss of P.J. Brown due to retirement. Since the Celtics didn’t bring in any significant pieces, someone or multiple players on the current roster will need to fill their shoes. Because Patrick O’Bryant hasn’t really done much, and I don’t expect him to play I think Leon Powe becomes even more important. I actually think he can fill the Posey role as the energy, hustle guy off the bench and like P.J. Brown be the best big man off the bench in terms of production as well. That leads perfectly into the key player…
Key Player in ’08 – Kendrick Perkins
Because of the aforementioned lack of front court depth, that puts added pressure on Kendrick Perkins to stay out of foul trouble and stay on the court. The Celtics get extremely small behind him with Big Baby and Powe (O’Bryant isn’t going play). Perkins can really be a force on the boards and defensively. He also allows KG to roam and not guard bigger players in the post.
Their Thaddeus (exciting player 22 or under)– Patrick O’Bryant, 22
The Celtics were full of young talent before they traded it all for Allen and Garnett. Now, they have very little in that dept., but they did make an interesting signing picking up Patrick O’Bryant. O’Bryant went to Bradley and is the definition of someone who was drafted entirely on potential. He looks awkward in the paint, and while he has touch around the basket, his footwork can be comical at times. Can he learn from the veterans Boston has? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Pete’s 2008 Outlook: 1st place, Atlantic division / 1st place, Eastern conference / 2nd place, NBA
Just what Boston fans needed. Another championship. This team is loaded and very motivated, especially on the defensive end. They will miss James Posey but not as much as people think. I’m not sure the big 3 (particularly Ray Allen) can put up the same production this year, so some of their bench guys (Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Eddie House) need to step up their game. I have them with the best regular season record, but losing to Cleveland in the conference finals.
Dannie’s 2008 Outlook: 1st place, Atlantic division / 1st place, Eastern conference / 2nd place, NBA
Boston is still the favorite in the East without question. But they are weaker this year than last simply do to attrition. This surprises me because unlike last season when Doc Rivers wanted the Pierce, Allen and Garnett to play a lot of minutes to build chemistry, I would think Rivers would like to limit their minutes a bit this season so they are fresh for another title run. I am not sure they have the quality depth to do that having lost two rotation players in Posey (24mpg) and Brown (more for the playoff run) and not knowing how much they can really get out of 39-year-old-to-be (in November) Sam Cassell (17mpg). They will need two bench guys to step up if they plan on repeating (Powe and Tony Allen).
Philly Connection: Paul Pierce
For the 1996 draft, I was in Nashville, TN on a service trip, and I had no access to TV or (obviously) internet. I was a huge Kansas fan at the time and was upset that the Sixers appeared to be just out of the range to select Paul Pierce. I got a USA Today the day after the draft and immediately went to the sports page where my eyes went right to the Sixers pick: Larry Hughes. Not too bad, I thought, he has some potential. I then scanned up to see where Pierce had gone, and to my surprise didn’t see him there. Upon seeing he was on the board when we drafted, I was incensed. How could we select an unproven freshman over a prototypical NBA SF? Turned out I was right, for once. It would have been interesting to see if Pierce and Iverson could have ever co-existed, but we will never know.