(The NBA lockout isn't going away soon, and it'll be a while before teams get a chance to upgrade their rosters. Still, it gives us plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with the players we'll want to target before (or if) the lockout ends. Some of these players may be on different teams by the time the season starts, but hey, that's the risk that comes with any prediction article. Today, we look at the Boston Celtics.)
It's hard to believe, but last year's Celtics team may have sported the most star-studded starting lineup in NBA history. That's not to say it was the best ever, because their second round defeat to themade that painfully clear. But can you think of another starting lineup with five future Hall of Famers in it? Pierce, Allen, Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal are all getting in, and Rondo probably will too if he can have a long and productive career. This year's Celtics team will look a little different now that Shaq is gone, but the core remains essentially the same. The question, though, is if they can continue to challenge the younger and more athletic and Heat as they continue to get older and older and older.
-- If you're going to draft Rajon Rondo, be prepared to sacrifice a few offensive categories, something you don't normally do for point guards. Rondo is an atrocious outside shooter and shot just 23.3% from three-point range and 56.8% from the foul line. His field-goal percentage (47.5%) was actually pretty good, but that's because he shoots almost exclusively within 15 feet and is hesitant to hoist a three. The pay-off is that his 11.2 assists per game were second-best in the league last year; his 4.4 rebounds per game were excellent for a point guard, as were his 2.3 steals per game. He's a triple-double threat every time he steps on the floor, but his lack of scoring and prowess at the charity stripe keeps him from being an elite point guard. If you are willing to take the hit offensively, Rondo is a bargain.
-- Defying all expectations, Pierce had one of his best statistical seasons yet last year. He posted career-highs in field-goal percentage (49.7%) and free-throw percentage (86.0%), and was one of the only players in the NBA to exceed the league averages of the eight major statistical categories -- nine if you include turnovers. His days of challenging for a scoring title ended the moment Garnett and Allen arrived, but he's still a terrific player and is a godsend for rotisserie leagues. But be warned that like Garnett and Allen, there is a distinct possibility that he'll get shut down before the end of the season.
-- Caveat Empor. Though he's slowing down before our eyes, Garnett is still a productive player. He's evolved into an excellent outside shooter, and shot an impressive 86.2% from the free-throw line last year. He can still get 8 or 9 rebounds a game, and he can still get a steal or a blocked shot or two. But his scoring average has dwindled to the 14's and can only go down from here. Entering his 16th season, the 35-year-old will be practically free in auction leagues. He's by no means unworthy of being owned, but the enormous likelihood that he'll be shut down for the final games of the regular season make him a risky add to say the least.
-- Allen continues to be a bipolar entity with the , flip-flopping between stretches of absolute brilliance and offensive ineptitude. The bad Ray Allen reared its ugly head at the worst possible time last season. Over the Celtics' final 14 games, Allen averaged just 12.3 points per game, never scoring more than 15 and sitting out the final two games of the year. His excellent percentages make him a fantasy asset, enough that he might just be worth the risk. But it cannot be understated how critical it was for him, Pierce and Garnett to miss the final two games of the season, which coincided with fantasy basketball's postseason. If you draft any of them, I strongly recommend selling high prior to the trade deadline. If you're not willing to trade them, at the very least be prepared to find a replacement on the waiver wire come April, as there's a chance they won't be able to help you when you need them the most.
-- After three solid seasons in Oklahoma City (one was technically in Seattle), Green hit a wall in 2011, playing very inconsistently with the before getting traded to the Celtics and losing all semblance of his former self. His ineffectiveness even carried over to the postseason, where he appeared downright frightened against the Heat, losing the ball time and time again. He played massive minutes in OKC and was barely rosterable, so don't expect much as long as he's coming off the bench. Green can be safely passed in all but the deepest of leagues.
(PENDING FREE-AGENT) -- He was surprisingly effective coming off the bench last season, scoring 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Playing behind Kevin Garnett and either Jermaine O'Neal or assures that he'll see plenty of minutes should he return to Boston next season. Either way, he's at best only a fringe fantasy option.
The Forgettables: Jermaine O'Neal,, , Nenad Krstic, , .