Depth To Drive Celtics Success
Too old. Broken down. These are just a few of the phrases used by many when discussing whether or not the Boston Celtics have enough juice in the tank to make another run at the NBA title. Even with the departure of the aging Ray Allen, who “took his talents to South Beach” via free agency this offseason, age continues to haunt the Celtics as they are oft reminded that two of the assets they rely on most, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, aren’t getting younger and may not be able to handle the daily grind of an 82 game schedule.
While General Manager Danny Ainge has infused this year’s roster with some youger bodies by adding a immediate contributor in rookie big man Jared Sullinger, along with swingman Courtney Lee, the Celtics will still rely heavily on the presence and experience of Pierce and Garnett. Even as the keys to the car are now in the hands of point guard Rajon Rondo, Head Coach Doc Rivers will have no choice but to turn to Pierce and Garnett for solid production, especially on the offensive end, on a nightly basis.
Should the Celtics hope to have a strong regular season and make a run deep into the playoffs, it will be their depth that gets them there. In order to keep Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both healthy and effective for the duration of the season, Doc will call upon the likes of Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry. It will be essential for these capable players to aid Pierce and Garnett by providing an offensive spark and more importantly, by playing a ton of minutes.
Given the lack of true centers on the Celtics roster, KG has become the designated man in the middle for the Green. As many teams across the league have shifted to smaller, quicker lineups, Garnett seamlessly transitioned to the center positon last season. While Garnett is more than serviceable playing the five, the production of the Celtics front court will lie in the hands of Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger. It is necessary for both Bass and Sullinger to compliment Garnett while on the floor with him, but also compliment eachother in the front court as they will see a lot of minutes together, especially as the season progresses. Rivers knows it is essential limit Kevin Garnett’s minutes throughout the year given his age and nagging knee injuries, placing a heavy burden on Bass and Sullinger to produce at a high level. Outside of Bass and Sullinger, the Celtics are spread thin when it comes to big bodies on the bench. If Bass and Sullinger do not rise to the occasion and play significant minutes, the Celts will be forced to count on a group of untrustworthy players such as Chris Wilcox and the newly acquired Darko Milicic.
With the front court vulnerable, the Celtics will be operating with an undersized lineup at most times. The key to success for this undersized lineup is undoutably 6th year wingman, Jeff Green. Given his 6’9 frame and ability to play both inside and outside, Green posseses the flexibility to play the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions. Despite coming off a scary heart condition, which sidelined him for the entirety of the 2011 season, Head Coach Doc Rivers has not been shy about giving Green heavy minutes in the preseason as he is positioned for a large role in 2012.
Similar to what Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger are expected to do for Kevin Garnett, is what Jeff Green is expected to do for Paul Pierce. While Pierce continues to string together solid season after solid season, his style of play and 14 seasons in league have certainly begun to take its toll on The Truth. Green has shown breakout potential during his previous stint with Oklahoma City, making him a favorable candidate to become the Celtics “do it all” sixth man. It won’t come as much of a surprise if Green finds himself in the starting lineup a good amount with the hopes of offering rest to both Garnett and Pierce throughout the season.
While it is vital for the Celtics to remain healthy across the board should they hope to compete in 2012, they will most definitely need consistent production from those not named Garnett, Pierce, and Rondo. It will be the Jeff Green’s, Jason Terry’s, and Jared Sullinger’s of the world who will play the largest role in the team’s overall success. Danny Ainge knows it, Doc Rivers know it, and soon all of Celtic Nation will know that this year’s roster will go as far the bench will take them. We can count on production from the big names barring injury, but we will need to see consistency from the supporting cast should the Celtics have any hope of bringing championship banner 17 to the TD Garden.