It seems to me that the problem with the Celtics so far is one of chemistry. This is understandable since only 4 of the players on the court were with the Celtics at the end of last year. Back when Doc was able to return the same core group season after season, they got off to a quick start and chemistry wasn't a problem. But players are still learning the system. Rondo is still learning players' tendencies. It will take a few games. 3 games in is definitely not the time to panic.
The starting 5 has just one new player, Courtney Lee, who is filling in at the shooting guard spot for Avery Bradley until he is able to return from shoulder surgery. The starters are coming around. Pierce, KG, Rondo, and Bass have all been playing fairly well. Lee has also been contributing. Sully, when he started the last game, also made some meaningful contributions. The problem, as I see it is with the bench.
On paper, the Celtics have a very deep and talented bench this season. Many of the players have been starters on other teams. Many have the capability of putting up some big numbers. But as I stated, we have just 4 players returning from the end of last season and those 4 have, for the most part, been starters. That means that we have an entirely new group of players trying to develop chemistry on the second unit. It's going to take a little time for them to mesh completely. But the potential to be very, very good is there.
Let's start with Jason Terry. He is averaging 8.7 points so far this season. Last season he averaged 15.1 points per game off the bench for Dallas. He is very capable of averaging that again this season. For whatever reason, he has been struggling with his shot so far. He could be trying too hard and just needs to relax and play basketball. It's only a matter of time until he works out the kinks in his shot and gets back to the level of play he is capable of.
Next, there is Jeff Green, who the Celtics are counting on for big production off the bench. Jeff is playing a couple of different positions and is still learning the system. Green came into the season vowing to be more aggressive and to be a stronger rebounder. We saw that in the preseason, but so far in the 3 regular season games, we aren't seeing the results of that new resolve. Green is averaging 8.3 points and 2.0 rebounds so far this season. He was averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds as a starter at the power forward position in OKC before the trade. Doc is playing him mostly at the 3, which is his natural position. He has an advantage over many other small forwards and should be able to dominate at that position. He averaged 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in his first partial season in Boston after the trade, being thrown into a new system completely. Like Terry, he is underperforming considerably this season so far. Again, he may be trying too hard, overthinking the game and given a few more games to build chemistry and get more comfortable, I expect to see him playing better.
A third player that I expect to pick up his averages is Chris Wilcox. Like Green, he missed much of last season with heart surgery. He is still getting back into shape and his 1.0 point and .5 rebound averages in the 2 games he played aren't indicative of what he is capable of. In the 28 games he played last season, he was averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. I expect that he will get back to that production, or even better, again this season.
If we add in Leandro Barbosa, Darko Milicic, and Jared Sullinger, who should also be rotation players, and what they are capable of, the bench should be outproducing their counterparts on the opposing teams on a regular basis. It may take several more games, but we can be patient. We will also need a few games to regroup once Avery comes back, but that should be an easy transition. It will be then that the team really builds it's strength.
They will then have one of the best on the ball defenders back in the lineup. Courtney Lee will add more firepower and defense to the second unit. Remember, it's not how they look in October or November that will determine the champions. It is how they will look in May or June. And I foresee this team looking very good down the stretch when it counts the most.