John Hollinger has his Celtics' Preview out and has some good things to say about the team. I have tired of all of the pundits who love to put the Celtics down and won't even give us a chance. Most base it on our 33 win season last year and we all know that the team was much better than that record but because of injuries, early chemistry problems, and the midseason trade, they didn't quite put it together. We are young and many blame their dire predictions on our youth, but we have talented youth that are now veteran youth and many will be taking a big step forward this season.
Anyway, back to Hollinger. He first takes a very analytical look at last year's team and the reasons for their failures.
The Celtics' problem was possessions. They made the shots they got, but because they couldn't rebound and made too many turnovers they didn't get nearly enough attempts. Boston turned the ball over on 17.3 percent of its possessions -- only the Knicks were worse. That was one problem with playing West, a converted shooting guard, at the point, although Greene (who had the worst Turnover Ratio among point guards) was nearly as big a factor.
I can't argue with that in the least. We were a poor defensive team, we didn't rebound well, and we turned the ball over way too many times. But that was last season and we have done many things to turn those deficiencies around this off season.
After looking at last season, he goes on to look at our Off Season Moves. Waiving Greene was a key move.
Actually, this is a good lesson on the dangers of going gaga over a player's potential before he's proven he actually can play. Who knows, maybe Greene will eventually become a player. But in 2005-06, he was in completely over his head.
Danny traded a future first round pick for Rondo and Grant. I wouldn't be so quick to say that Rondo can't shoot. He spent almost 3 hours a day this summer working on his shooting and from all accounts he has good form and just needed confidence in his shot. He should have gotten if from all that work this summer. At this point Grant is good for his expiring contract to facilitate a trade.
The pick Boston traded belongs to Cleveland so it's probably going to be a very late one, while Grant is so battle-weary that he might not be able to suit up this year. Rondo might pay more dividends a year or two from now -- he can't shoot but is a natural at the point and really can defend.
The key off season move was the trade of Dickau and Raef for Telfair and Ratliff.
I thought Telfair made some solid improvements last year, despite losing his starting job, so this could work, but if you're trading a pick this high you really want to know you're getting a good player out of it -- for instance, Houston traded the pick immediately after this one and got Shane Battier. The deal's eventual success will hinge on Telfair learning how to shoot.
Following the analysis of the trades, he moves on to assess our biggest strength which he lists as wing depth. With Pierce, Wally, Tony, West Gomes and Green, we have some great depth here.
Boston has six wing players who could be quality contributors on most teams, but at least one of them might be squeezed out of the rotation because the Celtics have so much talent here.
Of course, if you talk about the biggest strength, you know that next comes the biggest weakness which Hollinger lists as our Point Guard position
Boston spent the offseason cornering the market on point guards who can't shoot, adding Telfair and Rondo before deciding that having Greene too would be overkill. Telfair is good enough now to be a decent backup, but whether he'll ever be more than that depends on him adding some shooting skill to all those slick ballhandling moves. Ditto for Rondo, though he'll at least contribute immediately at the defensive end.
Again, I wouldn't be so quick to write off Rondo's shooting. I believe that all his work in the off season is going to make him a decent shooter.
Now comes the good part.
If you asked me to pick my surprise team for 2006-07, this would be the one. I don't think the Celtics are going to be that much better than they were a year ago, but it will superficially appear to be much greater if they end up winning the division -- something they have a far greater chance to do than most people realize.
He gives us a chance to win the division. Finally a writer who takes a realistic look at the Celtics and their kiddie corps and doesn't condemn them to the basement.
It's always hard to predict how young talent will develop, but Boston has so much of it that you have to figure a couple of these guys will take fairly large steps forward. If so, it's easy to picture a win total in the low-40s and a division title; and if the steps are large enough, they could perhaps be much better.
I expect several of our kids to take a huge step this year and because of that, I expect us to do very well and I am happy to find an expert who finally agrees with me.