Finding A Celtics Challenger in Atlantic Division
Posted by Brian Robb on Aug 20, 2012
To say the teams within the Atlantic Division have reloaded might be a bit of an understatement. With a varying influx of talent headed to Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New York and Toronto for this coming season, the C’s could be challenged more than ever for what had become an annual Atlantic Division crown in the coming 2012-13 season. Brendan Jackson joined Chris Forsberg and a host of other informed panelists on the ESPNBoston.com Summer Forecast to give his two cents on what team Boston should worry about the most for next year:
I really think this is the year the Raptors will finally take control of the Atlantic Division. And by “take control,” I mean “take control of last place”. Andrew Bynum, Jason Kidd, and Joe Johnson have all relocated north and aim to give the Celtics their toughest competition for divisional supremacy since Kevin Garnett arrived back in 2007. It’s easy to look up and down the New York rosters and wonder how the Celtics will deal with some of their new opponents. It’s comforting, however, when you remember the fact that these newly fashioned powerhouses-in-waiting will surely undergo some growing pains implementing new offensive and defensive schemes with new teammates.
With that said, I believe that it’ll be the Philadelphia 76ers that will find themselves in familiar territory at the end of next season as they battle the Celtics in the playoffs. While it’s true that the Sixers traded away their defensive anchor and the face of their franchise in Andre Iguodala, they received a player in Andrew Bynum that is totally ready (at least from a talent perspective) to take hold of that place on the team. Besides, an elite center like Bynum is far harder to replace than an athletic wing stopper with some offensive capabilities. With veteran coach Doug Collins at the helm, I think the Sixers have enough pieces in place to maintain their defensive prowess while introducing a 7-foot tall wrinkle to their offense that the Celtics won’t be able to guard.
In case you missed it, here are additional takes from everyone here at CelticsHub for the last week from the Summer Forecast:
Who will be MVP for the Celtics?
Hayes Davenport, CelticsHub (Rajon Rondo)
If Rajon Rondo doesn’t end the season as team MVP, something went horribly wrong. Prior to this coming season, the title probably belonged to Kevin Garnett: he’s been more essential to the defense than Rondo has to the offense, and the defense has been more essential to their winning games. But Rondo’s working with a lot of new pieces next year, and their success depends on how effectively he incorporates them into his system (recall that Avery Bradley was totally irrelevant offensively until Rondo started seeking him out on cuts). Rondo’s also the one truly irreplaceable player on the team: even though the roster is suddenly spilling over with guards, Rondo is still the only pure point, and most of his teammates have now grown accustomed to being spoonfed shot opportunities rather than creating for themselves. KG could easily lead the league’s best D next season, with Ray getting beat off the dribble in Miami and Chicago losing a step. But Rondo will still be most valuable: he’s the one with the ball, and he’ll have to deal with more teammates than ever asking for it.
Expectations for Jeff Green
In an ideal world, flipping Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green would have gone down as Danny Ainge’s fourth greatest achievement as a GM, behind the Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen offseason, making the draft-night trade for Rajon Rondo, and signing Jermaine O’Neal for two years at the full mid-level exception (OK, one of those moves was not good). Unfortunately, Green struggled to gel with the Celtics at the end of 2011 and missed last season after undergoing surgery for an aortic aneurysm. The hope this season is that the Celtics have a young, athletic small forward to back up Paul Pierce. I’m here to temper those expectations. The truth is that Green has never been particular effective at playing the small forward position. In Green’s last two full seasons, he posted a PER lower than league average for small forwards (albeit in limited minutes). The good news is that Green has also limited his small forward opponent’s production to a PER around league average. At best, the increase in minutes at the small forward position will prove that Green was originally miscast as an undersized power forward. At worst, he’ll be an athletic wing defender able to run with Rajon Rondo. I expect he’ll be somewhere in the middle.
Expectations for Avery Bradley
Bradley improved his PER by a factor of five from his rookie (2.23) to sophomore (11.31) campaign and still looked like he had considerable potential left to tap. It may not be realized in Year 3 because it’s impossible to gauge how his shoulders will hold up once he starts slamming into opposing guards and trying to repeat the form on his jumper. So, I’m trying to temper my expectations. If Bradley’s able to return to full health, I like him to step up into the league’s defensive elite. I also think he can make moderate leaps as a transition player, shooter and scorer, the latter of which is the most intriguing but least certain possibility. Of course, he won’t be 22 until late November, so if the Celtics are cautious with his post-recovery usage, we may have to wait until 2013-14 for these things. Which leads to my actual prediction for Bradley: reclamation of his starting spot by the All-Star game, a burgeoning rep as a spot-up shooter by season’s end, and a far more breathless predictions from me this time next summer.