Looking back from the beginning of the season to now, I’m going to grade different parts of the Celtics so far and then decide whether they are over-achieving, under-achieving or just right where they should be for each category.
When you put three perennial all-stars and potential Hall of Famers on the same court, the offense has a chance to flourish. When they are all capable of scoring 25+ points a night, perhaps there is potential for egos getting in the way and disrupting the flow of the offense, especially with the sophomore point guard. That hasn’t happened at all this year and, as sad as it may seem, I still think they could be a little better.
Sometimes it pains me to watch the Celtics’ offense for long stretches of a game where the Big Three decide that they are just going to take the first shot they see down the court, maybe because they haven’t gotten a touch in a few possessions. Of course it will happen with every team, but at those times, I would love to see Rondo take over and call Ray or Paul or KG’s number instead of them doing it.
With that said, you have three great scorers on the floor at almost all times, a point guard who is capable of blowing by most every point guard in the league (finishing is a different story) and a young center that thrives off the passing of the rest of the starters. Did I forget to mention we have two formidable three-point shooters coming off the bench as well as two young bigs that can carve out some space in the paint? We shouldn’t have to worry too much about the offense this season.
As we all know, defense wins championships. Just look at the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons this millennium. Nobody has made a bigger impact on this team’s defense than Kevin Garnett, but assistant coach Tom Thibodeau is a very close second.
Garnett just brings an absolute fire that is unmatched by any player in the entire league. He truly gives his all on every possession on both ends of the floor. Not only does his defensive skill set disrupt the opposing offense, his intensity is a deterrent to many that choose to intrude on his paint. Also, with the offensive load spread out through so many players, everyone can give that much more energy on the defensive end (see: Pierce, Paul).
Thibodeau has been a defensive genius in this league for a few years and it definitely shows with the Celtics. He is far and away the most valuable coach we have on our entire staff and would hate to see him leave any time soon. One thing that I don’t like about our defense is that we tend to take off an entire half on the defensive end because we just expect to walk into the building and get a W. Usually, we show up in the second half and win anyways, and I do realize that it’s a long season and you can’t expect them to play their hearts out at all times the whole year, but to take off an entire half is inexcusable. With the Celtics near the top, if not the best, in many defensive categories throughout the entire league, there’s not much of a choice for what grade they get.
What was seen as this team’s weakness has definitely shown quite some strength thus far through the season. Eddie House has the quickest trigger in the league and is lethal from beyond the arc (too bad he can’t handle like a point guard). James Posey brings great defense and can cover three and maybe even four different positions on the floor as well as shoot the three. Glen Davis could be perhaps one of the steals of the draft as he has shown that when given minutes, he can produce. Prime example for that was the second meeting with the Pistons in Detroit when he went on to score 16 points in the 4th quarter, finishing with 20 in the game (most of which was against Rasheed Wallace). Tony Allen, well, is Tony Allen. He has his games where he decides to play up to his potential. Then there are many more where he is the human turnover and gives zero to the squad. If Tony can become fully healthy again, I think he can turn some of those horrible games to more productive games. Brian Scalabrine and Scot Pollard are two big men that can spell KG and Perkins for a couple minutes here and there, but neither are really going to give much to this team.
The two wild cards right now are Gabe Pruitt and Leon Powe. Gabe Pruitt was another one of Ainge’s second round potential steals of the draft. He has shown flashes of being able to stroke it from deep and perhaps be that second ball handler we need behind Rondo. Eddie House has shown he can’t be a point guard against elite defensive teams like Detroit, but has already carved out his minutes in the rotation. Pruitt could be an emergency point guard when need be.
Leon Powe has always been one of my favorite players on this roster. He came in last year and played great when given the minutes. Sure, we were the second worst team in the league last season, but he was also a 20/10 guy in a very good Pac 10, so he’s got to have some skills. In his first game with meaningful minutes this season, Powe put up ten points and six rebounds in 15 minutes. He followed that up with only six points and three rebounds yesterday in New York, but the energy is always there. He could prove to be a valuable player the rest of the season, even if it is to only give KG a rest down the stretch.
Celtics could potentially add a veteran point guard to round out the roster, which would definitely solidify the bench.
I think it is pretty clear that the Celtics look well set to be a legit title contender come June and July. They just need to stay healthy and continue to gel as a team to keep the dream alive.
Total Team Grade: A