Last week, we took a poll about who you guys think has been the biggest star of the pre-season for newcomers, and I included Jeff Green because he was injured last season. Jared Sullinger won with over 50% of the votes, and Jeff Green was tied for second with Courtney Lee and Jason Terry, all with roughly 12% of the votes. Everyone keeps going on about how good our team is going to be because of our depth but here are some reasons why each player will succeed in our system.
Jared Sullinger: Rookie that fell to us in the draft, should have been a high lottery pick if not for an injured back last season. Not too many rookies get minutes in our system, but Jared could be starting some nights. KG and Doc Rivers have both said that he has a very high basketball IQ and does not play like a rookie typically does. He has adapted to the Celtics’ system real quick, and is not timid out on the court. He rebounds consistently and shoots right when he gets the open look, rather than hesitate and up fake 15 times like a lot of smaller big men like himself. And good news for C’s fans: Garnett said he is “giving him the book, teaching him everything I know”.
Although it is impossible to predict the NBA season already, I think it is safe to say that the team that Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers assembled this summer could be the best one that we have seen in at least 4 years, maybe even longer. Sure, we lost the best shooter the game has ever seen and KG and Pierce are that much older, but we brought in the perfect kind of players to fit into our system. Pierce averaged roughly the same PPG last season (19.4) as the year we won it in 2008 (19.6). Garnett’s numbers are significantly different and he is not feared by every player breaking through the lane anymore, but he is still a leader on this veteran team.
In 2008, Leon Powe and James Posey were arguably our best bench players, both averaging about 7.5 PPG. I am willing to bet that Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will all average above 10, or close to it. And with their amount of energy, experience, and Lee’s outstanding defense, they will be one of the most feared guard groups in the league, especially once Bradley is back.
There is one other major difference between the then-and-now teams, and that is Rajon Rondo. He averaged 10.6 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 4.2 RPG in the 07-08 Season. Last year, he averaged 11.9 PPG, 11.7 APG, and 4.8 RPG. He has also developed into one of the best point guards in the league and a leader on a team that is mostly older than he.
Chris Wilcox is a solid bench player who was having a great season before getting injured. Jared Sullinger will play right away, and Brandon Bass will pick up right where he left off last season (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG). Not to mention Christmas, Joseph, Fab, Collins, and Smith who have all had great summer sessions and are prepared to fight for the last few spots. Plus we signed Darko Milicic who is 7’1. For those of you who don’t know him, he was selected #2 in the 2003 draft behind LeBron but ahead of Melo, Bosh, and Wade. Talk about a great pick up by the Pistons…
Although we have clearly re-fueled our roster, other teams have also gotten better. The Heat are obviously the team to beat, the Lakers had a huge summer trading for Howard and picking up Nash, and the Thunder are one year more experienced. The Spurs are always good and our division just got tougher with the new Brooklyn Nets. For anyone who thinks the Knicks are finally going to be good are mistaken. It should be an interesting season, as long as we can stay healthy for a change.
Just when you think things may be turning around for the New Jersey Nets, one of their best players goes down. Brook Lopez is now sidelined with a broken foot, and will be out until at least February, probably even longer. This could be deadly to the Nets, who seemed to be the front runner in acquiring Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. Unless the Magic actually do hold out until after the all-star game that they are hosting to avoid an awkward return of a certain all-star, shortly after they have traded him. Lopez was the centerpiece of this trade, and hopefully they can still make it work, so he doesn’t go to that yellow and purple team in Los Angeles.
As much as I would hate a Deron Williams-Dwight Howard duo in the Atlantic Division with the Celtics, I would rather see them win it than see the Lakers tie Boston’s record of 17 championships, and I hate Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, and dislike greatly Kobe Bryant (hate is a strong word for a player of his caliber… reminds me of rapist version of Derek Jeter).