SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
| In his Boston tenure, Danny Ainge has tinkered with the roster more than anybody else in the NBA, without a lot of progress. The word that comes to mind is potential. Is this corps of young players ready for the next step?
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 9
|Young, fast and wild, plus Pierce and Szczerbiak. It's a strange mix that will produce roller-coaster results. If Al Jefferson or Kendrick Perkins emerges, watch out. But that's a big if. |
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 10
|If Al Jefferson stays healthy, Rajon Rondo matures quickly, Theo Ratliff contributes and Paul Pierce doesn't revert, they're a playoff team. That might just be too many ifs.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 10
|I'm warming to this year's talent-laden crew, despite its youth. A leap forward by Jefferson and Perkins and a breakout performance from either Rondo or Telfair might get the Celtics into the playoffs. The future is bright in Boston.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 10
|I expect the Atlantic to be lousy and a win total in the low-40s to be good enough to win it, and I expect Boston to edge New Jersey for the honor. The young frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins is key.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
|Bassy has to save himself before he can save a team. Wally, Al Jeff, Tony Allen and Delonte West complement P234, but for the Celtics to get back to their glory days, they need Bird, McHale and Parish back through the door.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
|They have a nice combo of vets (Pierce, Szczerbiak, Ratliff) and youth (West, Jefferson, Allen), but their lack of a consistent inside scorer will relegate the Celts to mediocrity and a fight to stay above .500.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 8
|The C's will give the Nets a run for their money if Ratliff stays healthy and Szczerbiak has a big year. Telfair will start early but West will win the point job. Gomes is for real.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 9
|The backcourt could be better with Telfair and ultraquick rookie Rondo, and Pierce will be Pierce. Will Danny Ainge pull off another midseason deal to push this rebuilding effort forward? Or just fire Doc Rivers?
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
|Pierce needed elbow surgery after his futile attempt to carry all of Boston's kiddies last season. I wonder how he'll hold up this season -- $60 million extension aside -- because the Celts don't seem any older, do they?
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 11
|DIVISION: 2.7 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 9.7 | Standings
6-0 | 160
|Danny Ainge sees pure point as big upgrade. Sadly, he is.|
6-6 | 230
|Top-10 scorer is angling for love, and some playoff relevancy.|
6-7 | 235
|If knee is sound, he'll find a scorer's role he never got in Minny.|
6-10 | 265
|Ankle is rehabbed -- just in time for a trade.|
6-10 | 260
|Surgical shoulder won't stop his banging (5.9 rpg in 19.6 mpg).|
|Bench: Delonte West goes from starting PG to sub SG, and everyone wins. Rook Rajon Rondo rests Telfair, while Theo Ratliff swats and Ryan Gomes scores.|
ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.
Player efficiency rating
vs. NBA avg.: +0.76
Scouting report: Perkins is one of the league's most intriguing young big men. He's an extremely physical player who muscles opponents out of the post and uses his wide body to establish rebounding position. Though he plays mostly below the rim he's a fantastic rebounder, and he's also a good outlet passer.
Scouts are fond of Perkins' brute force at the defensive end, as he's a willing enforcer in an era where this type of player is increasingly rare. The challenge is balancing that physicality with some discipline -- Perkins averaged more than a foul for every seven minutes last season, and won't stay on the court for long unless he trims that rate considerably.
Offensively, Perkins can use his size to create space in the post, but shooting over opponents is sometimes a problem because he's short for a center. He creates most of his shot attempts by working the glass, but otherwise is not much of an offensive weapon.
2006-07 outlook: Perkins hasn't seen much action, but he's a young, physical big man who several others teams seem to covet. With that in mind, the Celtics inked him to a four-year, $16 million extension before the season that, in time, could prove to be a bargain. Teams have been throwing ridiculous sums of money at young centers the past few offseasons, and Perkins' per-minute production is pretty close to what those players have done. Additionally, his physical nature is an added plus compared to the timidity of many young bigs.
Perkins should be the starting center this year, as the trades of Raef LaFrentz and Mark Blount leave the starting spot wide open for him. If his numbers improve as much as the projections forecast, that extension price will be a steal.
Who should start at point guard?
41.1% Sebastian Telfair
34.9% Rajon Rondo
24.0% Delonte West
What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Celtics' logo on your chest?
Considering the 16 banners, I should already be a walking billboard. But since we're dreaming here, let Gerald Green become a young Tracy McGrady (he has the talent), let Delonte West become a young Hondo (he has the character), and let Kendrick Perkins become a young Ben Wallace (he has the attitude).
After that just keep Al Jefferson healthy, Sebastian Telfair and Rajon Rondo running, and get Doc Rivers to teach this team to defend. Oh yeah and it wouldn't hurt if Danny Ainge landed KG.
Seventeen won't happen this year, but grant me most of these wishes, and it could happen next year, and the next, and the next ...
• Jeff Clark | CelticsBlog.com
|DOC RIVERS COACHING FILE|
| Experience: 7 years
NBA titles: 0
Doc Rivers has a classic basketball challenge: Who gets the keys to his car?
Does he go with his guy from last year, steady and heady Delonte West?
Does he hand the keys to his pedal-to-the-metal driver, Sebastian Telfair?
Or does he trust his team to true rookie Rajon Rondo, a truly unique talent?
More important, how does he handle the rough patches that each guy will certainly experience in the coming months? Will he pick a guy and stay with him, or give each guy a chance before deciding?
David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst
Everything starts with Pierce, obviously, who had the best season of his stellar career a year ago and once again will be the focal point of the offense.
At the other wing is Szczerbiak, who can space the floor with his shooting and has an underrated post game. In fact, with two big physical wings like these the Celtics may be able to bloody some noses by posting up against opposing guards all nights.
The bench provides a touch of variety. The key player here is Allen, a potentially awesome defender who was slowed by knee problems last year. Allen is a fantastic athlete but needs more offensive refinement, especially in his dribbling skills. Nonetheless, it wouldn't shock me if he and Szczerbiak changed jobs at some point, because Boston might need his defense.
After that Boston has West, who started at the point last year but has more of a shooting guard's mentality. With the arrival of Telfair and Rondo he could play there much more this year.
Another possibility is Gomes, who mostly played power forward a year ago but is only 6-7 and would seemingly benefit long-term from a move to the wings.
Finally, Brian Scalabrine also can back up at the small forward spot, although most Celtics fans really would prefer he didn't.
Sleeper: Delonte West made huge strides from his rookie to sophomore season. Coach Doc Rivers wants to run with his athletic bunch and West should be even better than last season in an up-tempo system.
He shoots the ball well from everywhere and he doesn't kill you in any one area. He rebounds well, provides a fine assist-to-turnover ratio and even will block a shot now and then. Keep an eye on his preseason back troubles, though.
Bust: This time last year, everyone was talking about the potential breakout of Al Jefferson. While he improved slightly, he wasn't worth having on your fantasy roster. The same holds true this year, because Boston's offense will come from its wings.
Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index