Should The Celtics Have Blown Up Their Core?
The Celtics' big three, consisting of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, were all top three on the team in scoring. However, they're getting way up there in age, being 34, 36, and 36 years old, respectively. There's a strong chance Allen doesn't even return to the team next season.
After failing to defeat the Heat in the conference finals last year, should the Celtics just give up on their aging core and start from scratch again?
No way. I remember when the Celtics traded for Garnett and Allen, and I was furious. However, my fellow Knicks fans and I figured that there was no way they would stay competitive for more than a few years. That thought was what got me to sleep at night. Next thing I know it's five years later and I'm watching them in Game 7 of the conference finals against the Miami Heat. How could you blow up a team that was a single win away from a finals appearance?
A big thing people like to bring up is the "luck" the Celtics had in the playoffs. "Yeah but Rose was hurt and Bosh got hurt and blah blah blah." Don't bring that garbage round here. Everyone faces injuries, it's part of the game. The Celtics were missing their best perimeter defender in Avery Bradley, and one of their best bench players in Jeff Green. Plus, Ray Allen missed a couple games and obviously wasn't at full form in the playoffs, shooting less than 40% from the field and only 30.4% from three. Sure, they don't make up for the absence of a guy like Rose or Bosh, but injuries are a part of the game. The Celtics made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and that's that. No excuses.
Another reason people cite for blowing up the team is that they're only getting older, which many interpret as "they're only getting worse." Not so fast. In case you were unaware, Pierce and Garnett not only maintained their play of the past few years, but they improved.
Pierce averaged his best point total since '08, his best assist total since '07, and averaged the same amount of rebounds he had over the previous four years. It would be unfair of me not to point out that his shooting percentage was down about 5%, but regardless, this guy can obviously still ball.
Garnett also averaged his highest points total since '08 and highest assist total since '07, while also averaging his highest block total since '08 and continuing to shoot over 50% from the field. His rebounds were down from last year, but still were higher than his average in '09.
So now that I've established that Pierce and KG very well may continue to play at the same level, let's point out how the team could improve.
Rajon Rondo was the best player on the team through all of last season, and he seems to impress more and more every time he takes the court. Keep in mind that he's still only 26 years old. He's got a lot of room to get smarter and, therefore, better.
One of the most promising things I saw was an improvement in his abysmal jump shot down the stretch of the season. If he can get a consistent jump shot he'll be one of the best players in the league.
Getting back two of their young players, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley, from injury will help the team improve. Only 5 players averaged more than 7.6 points per game for Boston, but Green should give them another double digit scorer.
Bradley is one of the league's top perimeter defenders and would have been huge in guarding Dwyane Wade in the playoffs. Bradley also may hit double digit scoring numbers in his third year after improving from 1.7 to 7.6 points per game last season. He's proven himself as a solid spot up three point shooter (40.7%) and shot the ball 49.8% from the field.
The Celtics also made some good moves in the draft. The Celtics were dead last in rebounding last season, so they added big men Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger to improve their weakness. Though Melo never put up good rebounding numbers at school, he is a 7 footer who should improve after spending the preseason with Kevin Garnett.
Drafting Sullinger was a huge win for the Celtics. He's a top 5 talent whose stock dropped quickly when it was reported his career would likely be shortened by a back injury. Well, the Celtics have a small window to win, so the longevity of Sullinger's career isn't as much of an issue for them. He should be the best player who was left on the board for the Celtics while his career lasts, so they really added a player who could be great while they have a chance to win.
Finally, we've got the signing of Jason Terry. This was a heavily criticized signing because of the fact that the Celtics added an old player to an old team. I don't understand why anyone says that's a bad thing.
The Celtics' time to win is now. They need players for now. They can't go out signing some young guy who's still developing who will be ready to contribute heavily by the time Paul Pierce is at home in a rocking chair. They also will have a hard time signing young guys who are already developed, as they'll want long-term, big money deals and likely would be hesitant to play for a team that's best players will soon retire.
What the Celtics need is a player who's already developed, but doesn't need the big contract. Jason Terry is the perfect fit. Terry came off the bench for Dallas last year scoring 15.1 points per game. Though it was his lowest scoring average since '04, he will still be a solid contributor to the team. By the way, Ray Allen scored only 14.2 points per game.
If you think I'm saying that the Celtics will make the finals next year, think again. There's no chance in hell I pick them to knock off the Heat. All I'm saying is that when you were just one single game away from making it to the NBA FInals, and you have legitimate reasons to believe you could improve the next season, there's no reason to blow up the team.
I know everyone says "well you gotta start over some time," but that time has not yet come in Boston.