A hard-fought Game 7 with the Lakers, played without Kendrick Perkins, that could have been won. Doc Rivers returning, as well as the team’s core. A point guard who is one of the rising stars in the league and peaking just in time to take over the alpha role from the team’s veterans. Optimistic Celtic fans have a lot to point to for the upcoming season.
Pessimists, however, would say the C’s tinkered too much in the offseason, committing money and years to two major question marks at center (Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal). They’d also wonder if Boston can once again coast, then turn it on for the postseason and roll through an Eastern Conference featuring a new juggernaut in Miami and a potential new one in Chicago. Of course, we won’t really know the answer to all of this until the playoffs. In the meantime, the C’s seem deep and talented enough to chill for much of the year, to the point where the team’s biggest worry might be whether Tommy Heinsohn commits a homicide due to the stricter technical foul rules. From a fantasy perspective, all of this needs to be taken into consideration. The Celtics have big names who won’t return anything close to the value we’ve come to expect from them in their primes, and they’ll do everything they can to assure their stars are fresh for one more run at the title in the spring. Draft accordingly.
Rajon Rondo is one exception to this rule. Still the only true point guard on the roster, he should lead the team in minutes and keep his trajectory pointing skyward. Most fantasy experts won’t nudge Rondo above Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups, but I’m not among them. I’ll choose youth and upside as a tiebreaker and enjoy Rondo’s 2+ steals, 10 assists and 50 percent field goal percentage in the second round.
Boston’s Big Three are now clearly the Big Two Through Four. Paul Pierce has something left in the tank and should once again lead the team in scoring. But rest is as crucial as anything in Boston’s quest for a title and Pierce won’t turn it on until later in the year. Ray Allen is essentially a role player at this point in his career, albeit one who can nail threes and shoot 90 percent from the line. He’s a nice pick in rotisserie leagues if the value is right. Kevin Garnett is a shell of himself, but early reports are that he’s at least over the knee injuries that have plagued him over the last two years. Rivers will be stingy with his minutes and expecting more than 14 & 7 with nice percentages is wishful thinking.
Who else should be drafted? The O’Neals are a great fit in Boston, but more for the area’s famous hospitals than anything they can do on the court at their advanced age. They just need to hold down the fort until Perkins returns from his torn ACL, probably in February. Jermaine is going very late in drafts because he can still block a couple of shots a game. Shaq should be avoided. The C’s do have a deep bench with plenty of potential fantasy options should injuries strike. Nate Robinson can fill it up if need be, but Rondo would have to be hurt for him to be a factor. The Shrek to Robinson’s Donkey, Glen Davis is the first to benefit should Garnett go down again; ditto for Marquis Daniels with Pierce. The acquisition of Delonte West is the single best signing in the NBA this offseason, if you ask me. Yet he’s not worth much in roto leagues unless Allen sits for any length of time. West is also suspended for the first 10 games of the year for his Mad Max routine. There’s a chance both O’Neals could go bad before Perkins is ready. In that case, keep an eye on Turkish signee Semih Erden, a banger with touch around the hoop who has been impressing in the preseason.
PG – Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson
SG – Ray Allen, Delonte West
SF – Paul Pierce, Marquis Daniels
PF – Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis
C – Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins (injured)
Up Next: Minnesota Timberwolves