The Celtics have Kendrick Perkins going into his 4th year. Tony Allen, Delonte West and Al Jefferson are going into their 3rd year. Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green are heading into their second year. We also have 4 rookies added to the mix this year: Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Allan Ray, and Kevin Pittsnogle.
We have seen steady improvement from Perk in spite of no playing time his first year and very little his second year. Just as he was starting to get regular playing time last year after Blount was traded, he went down with the shoulder injury. Perk has been working hard in spite of the shoulder surgery. Danny said that he expects him to be cleared this week for full basketball workouts. This means he will have a month and a half of work outs and working with Clifford Ray before training camp. As hard as he works, I expect him to come back this season improved and ready to man the middle very impressively. He may move from solid to impressive this season.
I expect Al to have a break out year this year. He has shown brilliance in flashes but has been hampered by the ankle injuries. Just as he started to show promise and play like he was expected to, he went down again and never was able to get back. We know now, that it wasn't just a sprain, but a bone bruise and bone chips that were causing the pain to linger. Now that the chips have been removed, Al is healing quicker than expected. He has a lot to prove and is determined to quiet all his detractors who have called him soft and were ready to write him off this past season. I expect him to come into camp ready to play and he will have a stellar season.
Delonte West did a great job last year learning the point position. He did all that was asked of him and went into the off season as the presumed point guard for next season. Then on draft night, Danny added 2 pure points to the mix. Delonte now is third in line to start at the 1. Of course, his natural position is the 2 and if Doc goes with Telfair and Rondo at the point, expect to see Delonte at the shooting guard position playing along side of the points. He could be the 6th man coming. Delonte has a great work ethic also and should come in with something to prove. I expect him to have a great year as long as Doc sets a position for him and he gets the playing time.
Tony Allen came on like gang busters the last part of the season. His knee was finally healed for the most part and we saw the explosiveness that made him a starter in his rookie year. He had minor surgery (according to Danny) on his knee again this off season and is reportedly doing well with rehab. Tony's lawyer and Danny have both said that Tony will come out of the trial without jail time but with a supposed video tape that possibly shows the fight, we can't be certain. If healthy and free of legal problems, Tony should have a great year.
Ryan Gomes finally got a chance when Al and Perk went down with injuries. What he did with that chance was to prove that he can play. He has incredible instincts to be in the right place to get rebounds in spite of being smaller than most 4's he went up against. This off season he has been working tirelessly to improve his game and from the looks of him in Summer League, he is ready to come in and make some noise this season. He seems quicker and has improved his outside shot... He should be equally effective at the 3 or 4.
Gerald Green came into the Summer League camp slightly out of shape but looked good by the time the games were played. There have been reports that Gerald was on the trading block and that he isn't Danny's guy but with the potential that he has, I just can't see him being a part of this team. He matured and improved considerably during his stints in the D League. He still needs work, especially on defense but you can see the potential there and the improvement. I think his breakout is at least a year down the road, but he should be improved this year and see some playing time.
Dwayne Jones is a puzzle. The kid is built like a brick wall. He is quick and athletic. He can rebound and block shots with either hand. When given a chance to play, he has looked good. He is a monster on the glass and has a soft touch under the basket for put backs. He led the D League in rebounding and blocked shots when playing there. He had 20+ minutes in two games at the end of last season and responded with 10 and 13 rebounds. I expected to see more of him in Summer League and was surprised that he didn't get to play more. I think all he needs is a chance and would respond with good numbers.
Of all the young players coming in from this year's draft, I am most excited about Rondo. His defense is going to set him apart. I am amazed at how big his hands are... all the better to steal the ball with! He has been turning heads and impressing people wherever he played this summer. I expect him to eventually be the starting PG. He just has the complete package. In watching the SL games that were televised, the team just played more under control with Rondo at the point. If he isn't the starting PG at the beginning of the year, I expect him to be by the end of the year.
Leon Powe is also exciting. Although he is slightly undersized at the 4, his long arms and athleticism make up for it. He has such a strong work ethic. I believe that if given the playing time he will surprise a lot of people. He is strong and can rebound and block shots and is quick and very athletic. I think he will be seen as the steal of the draft if he is given a chance to play. I really like this kid and think he is going to be a very, very good player as long as his knees stay healthy.
Allan Ray is a scorer. He is quick and an adequate defender. I can see him coming off the bench to jump start the offense or to help the second team with offense. I think though that he would be better served by getting some time in the D League.
Finally there is Sebastian Telfair. He was highly regarded when he came into the league out of high school. But he was buried on the end of the bench as the third option in Portland. The system in Portland didn't play to his strengths. His game is running and penetrating and kicking the ball out. That is the system that Boston wants to institute and I think Telfair will do very well in our system. He will probably be the starting PG in the beginning of the year, but I think eventually Rondo will beat him out on the strength of his defense and the fact that he plays more under control.
The key to the development of each of these players is playing time. In each case, I have said, "if they get playing time." It is going to be difficult with all of these young players to give them enough playing time to prove themselves and to improve. One or two players can go to the D League. But Doc is going to have to juggle the players and be sure that the ones who most deserve the time will get it. I believe that several of these kids are going to be stars and I can see at least one or two breaking out this season. Which ones, will depend largely on who gets playing time and who doesn't.
Score another one for FL. You seem to write articles that I love reading. I'm a big fan of our youth movement. They are our future and we need to monitor their development. Patience is the key word here. There's no way around it. Since we have so many young players who came out of high school (4 to be exact--Perkins, Jefferson, Telfair, Gerald), it is important to allow them to develop their games. They are getting their college basketball education during our practice time and in actual games.