This is the second in my review of the NBA Preview magazines. This is the second one that predicts the Nets to win the Atlantic with the Celtics coming in second. Here is their predicted order of finish. Atlantic New Jersey Boston Toronto Philadelphia Central Chicago Detroit Cleveland Milwaukee Indiana Southeast Miami Orlando Washington Charlotte Atlanta Northwest Denver Utah Portland Minnesota Seattle Southwest San Antonio Dallas Houston New Orleans Memphis Pacific Phoenix Golden State LA Lakers Sacramento LA Clippers East Finals Miami over Chicago West Finals Phoenix over San Antonio NBA Finals Phoenix over Miami
It is interesting to see the differences between the Athlon preview and this one. While both see the Celtics second to the Nets in the division and don't see the Celtics getting to the conference finals, Athlon sees the Heat finishing out of the playoffs and CBS see them going to the NBA Finals. Both see Phoenix winning it all this season.
As for the Celtics, this preview gives a grade to each position. They grade the Point Guard position at a C.
Don't lest Rondo's 6-1, 171 pound frame fool you; he is aggressive and his confidence is growing. Rivers will turn to USC rookie Gabe Pruitt off the bench. The 6-4 Pruitt was the 32nd overall pick in this year's draft and is a bigger point who is active on both ends of the floor. He can shoot with range and defend shooting guards on rotations.
Moving on to Shooting Guard, they give the Celtics an A+.
When he's (Ray Allen)healthy though, there isn't a more pure shooter around. His career 21.5 point average should couple nicely with Paul Pierce's 23.6 career average. Allen says he's in Boston to make Pierce and the team better, but one has to wonder if that will be enough. Allen is a class act all around and the Celtics are lucky to have him. Tony Allen will be penciled in to play behind the other Allen. He missed 49 games after tearing his ACL on a missed dunk in a Boston loss, after an official had already blown the whistle. Eddie House and his deft shooting touch come over from New Jersey to add depth.
Small Forward also gets an A+ grade.
The Celtics desperately need Pierce on the court - not only is he a versatile scoring and defensive threat, but he works extremely hard. Unfair or not, heavy expectations await Pierce this season. Can he stay healthy enough to fulfill them? That's where the Truth will be told. With swingman Gerald Green off to Minnesota the backup to Pierce could be a mystery, at least heading into training camp. Brandon Wallace might be in the right place a the right time. Undrafted and signed at the beginning of the summer by the Celtics, the 6-9 forward out of South Carolina is raw and suited for an uptempo game. Chances are he will be right at home in Boston.
Not a big surprise, but the Celtics also get an A+ at Power Forward.
(Garnett) certainly certainly changes the future of Boston's season, but it will be interesting to see who he goes from being the focal point of an offense to having to share the responsibilities. Then again, this is what Garnett has wanted all along. Now he has it in Boston with Allen and Pierce. Rounding out the reserves at the four spot are Brian Scalabrine, 6-8 Leon Powe, and rookie Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Davis was tipping the scales at more than 310 pounds while at LSU; Now he's around 289, which is still big. He has great footwork and a soft touch for a guy his size and will surely leave his mark on the game.
As with the point guard position, the Center position gets a grade of C. Perkins is the safe bet though. He's a hard working defender who at times gets lost in the offense. Perkins is intimidating in the paint and doesn't need to score to be productive. Having him on the block alongside Garnett will make it tough for anyone to have success in the paint, bigs or guards. Scot Pollard is a solid backup center who can rebound and play defense. Davis could be an option, too, and Powe saw time in the middle during summer league play and could get a look in training camp.
They ask if Pierce, Allen and Garnett make the Celtics the team to beat in the East. Here is part of their answer:
But the other top teams in the East have something the Celtics don't: a solid bench. Players like Leon Powe, Tony Allen, and Brian Scalabrine aren't exactly scaring anybody. And that could be the difference when the playoffs arrive.
They project the Celtics to finish with a 45-37 record. This is well short of where most project the Celtics to finish. They question whether they can find chemistry with 3 stars on the court who are used to being the main guy on their team. Although I don't think they give this team enough credit, there is still plenty of good stuff to check out in the magazine including Top 200 Player Ratings, Fantasy Hoops and more.