by Dave Fuller
Current Record: 30-5, 1st (Atlantic), 1st (East)
Predicted Record: 67-15, 1st (Atlantic), 1st (East)
Predicted Playoff Outcome: Eastern Conference Championship loss to #2 Detroit Pistons in seven
The big question for this team heading into the season was chemistry. Would they be able to gel together immediately and dominate the East? Or would they take a while and experience growing pains while the rest of the league awaited their true arrival? Well, they've turned the doubts into The Truth and have shown the league that a team headed by three classy all-star veterans is one of the most potent combinations you can have on both sides of the ball. Throw in Doc Rivers' defensive influence and this is one team that is nearly impossible to beat. They should continue to cruise past the competition and seal the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The only thing this team needs is a deeper bench. Yes, Glen Davis is beginning to play a little more consistently and Eddie House is a nice reserve as a bomber/scorer, but admittedly they have one of the weakest benches in the league. After starters Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins (neither of which are true centers), the only relative "big man" doing anything is the aforementioned Glen "Big Baby" Davis. He is their only physical presence in the post for the second unit. Perkins can only play about 25 minutes a game, and Kevin Garnett won't be able to play 48 minutes a night in a seven game series in the playoffs.
Boston's next (or perhaps more important) problem is their point guard play. Rajon Rondo is beginning to develop consistency, but their deficiencies at the 1 truly stood out in their last game against the Washington Wizards. The C's put up 98.7 points a night, and the Wizards allow 96.9. The final score of that game? 85-78, Washington. Tony Allen was miserable starting at the point, and the other Celtics starters displayed how costly it can be to not have a true ball-handler bringing it up the court.
In summary, Boston is one of the top teams in the league solely because of strong offensive and defensive play by their triumvirate of Garnett, Allen, and Pierce, but without more depth at their weaker positions, they will not be able to handle the depth that is the Detroit Pistons in a seven game series. To address such problems, the Celtics must explore trades that allow them to acquire ball-handlers to come off the bench and rebounders to give them extra offensive possessions.
Potential trades (in order of relative likelihood):
Miami Heat :: PG Smush Parker
Boston Celtics :: PG/SG Tony Allen, C Scot Pollard
The C's would probably rather have Jason Williams from the Heat assuming he can stay healthy, but Williams is just owed too much money right now and Boston would not be able to rid of any expiring contracts that they could afford losing to make up for the payroll difference. That said, Smush is capable of handling backup duties while rarely used Scot Pollard and expendable combo guard Tony Allen are in the last years of their respective contracts (giving the Heat needed cap relief in the off-season).
Indiana Pacers :: C David Harrison
Boston Celtics :: PG/SG Tony Allen
This could happen, but is very unlikely to. Both teams get an expiring contract, which is always incentive to make a deal, but a one-for-one trade probably would not happen if it means the C's lose a guard and don't get one back. Harrison can rebound for the second team and spell Perkins while allowing Davis to play at a more natural position (likely power forward), so it is a legitimate trade. They would just need a separate trade to get them a ball-handling guard to make it work.
Either Damon Stoudamire or Sam Cassell would make nice additions as back-up point guards with playoff experience (something the Celtics also need if they want to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Championship), but with their massive contracts, neither of them are too enticing for the Celtics. Boston would basically need to give up Scot Pollard, James Posey, and Tony Allen to acquire Cassell. A bit too much if you ask me. And Stoudamire? Those two years on the contract are very repellant. The C's are best served to acquire Parker's relatively small (and expiring) contract to shore up their back-up issues at the point, but serviceable big men are difficult to find and Harrison may be one of the only ones available for trade. Samuel Dalembert could be another option, but his contract is just plain massive. Don't be surprised if Boston's roster stays put past the deadline.