I knew I was going to have to write this article eventually, but I was hoping it would not be so soon. Actually, I was hoping to write this article with a title involving "Title 19," instead of "Title 18."
The Celtics, one full season removed from a championship, are entering an off season where there are more questions, than answers.
Who will they sign?
Who will they let go?
Can so and so get healthy and stay healthy?
I will try my best to acknowledge the top five things I feel the Boston Celtics need to deal with in order to make a title run in the 2009-10 season.
5. The Bench (Future Players)
The Celtics need to add some more help to their bench. They need a back up point guard, back up small forward and a back up big man.
As far as a point guard, I hope Marbury is resigned. However, if he is not, they definitely need to address it. Eddie House is a two guard and his value is at that position. If they play him at the one, he loses the ability to run off screens.
The Celtics definitely need a perimeter player, to take minutes off of Pierce and Ray.
Last year, they let James Posey go. While it was the right move financially, it hurt them in the end this season.
I thought the Celtics should of went after Matt Barnes big time last off season. Phoenix ended up signing him for a mere $1.2 million per year. A Barnes type player would be a huge fit for the Celtics. He can play defense, guarding two or three positions. He can score from the post and the perimeter too.
Also, they need to address a back up center. Perkins may or may not need off season surgery to repair his troubling left shoulder, again. This is going to be a concern for the rest of his career most likely. The Celtics need an insurance policy in case he went down for a long stretch.
Marcin Gortat of the Orlando Magic is a free agent I believe. They could use him or someone similar too him. He is a legit seven footer. He is a force down low. He rebounds, he defends and he makes his presence felt. He would look great in Celtic Green.
4. The Bench (Present Players)
The Boston Celtics need to address their bench big time. Not only do they need to address it, but they need to do so during the actual off season, rather than waiting until the trade deadline, which they have done the past two seasons.
By waiting until the trade deadline, they put themselves in tough situations. During their title run in 2008-09, they were successful for the most part. Cassell wasn't huge in the playoffs, but P.J. Brown was beyond huge.
However, this year they were not as lucky.
Mikki Moore was a HUGE disappointment. Because they were approaching the trade deadline so quickly by the time they signed him, they missed out on Joe Smith, their first choice who went to Cleveland and on Drew Gooden. Both much better players than Moore.
Moore says he wants to comeback, but I do not expect it.
The other part of the Celtics trade deadline moves was Stephon Marbury.
Personally, I want Steph back 100 percent. Also, I expect him to be back. He does not have many options out there. He was a great teammate for the Celtics on the court and off the court. With their veteran locker room and his low price, the Celtics would be fools not to re-sign him.
For more on my thoughts on Marbury, read my article on him.
For the rest of the bench players, Eddie House, Tony Allen, Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt in particular, some questions are bigger than others.
House has a player option. I think he will take the option and remain with the Celtics for next year. I certainly hope he does too.
Tony Allen is awful. He has shown no improvement over his career. He has been injury riddled. He has a bad head, in terms of confidence. He came in the league with no jump shot and I think it has gotten worse. He is the most overrated defender in the league.
Leon Powe suffered a huge heartbreaking moment vs Chicago in the first round of the playoffs. Entering his free agent year, he tore his ACL and lost all hopes of a huge pay day. One he would have received.
Powe is a banger, a hard worker and one of the nicest people in the game. Coach Doc Rivers has been openly campaigning for his resigning. I fully expect that too happen. This will be a big signing, especially if Big Baby is lost to free agency.
While he is under contract through next season, I expect the Celtics to shop him. Hopefully they are successful too.
Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt are two young guns on the Celtics bench.
Walker is extremely athletic. The most athletic player the Celtics have had since Gerald Green. Walker guarded two's, three's and four's in his rookie season this year. He was successful for the most part, in limited minutes.
I expect the Celtics to work him out extremely hard this off season, to see if they think he can help them or not. I believe he can. If he can, he would be great to relieve Pierce for 10-15 minutes a night.
Pruitt will be entering his third season and his final year in his contract. While he has a ton of talent as a pure point guard, he is at the make or break point as far as his career with the Celtics.
He needs to come into this off season with a mind set that he is going to turn the corner and become a part of this team and contribute. He has the talent to do so, but now it's time to put that talent to work.
3. The Big Three
Entering next season, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett will all be one year older. Pierce and Allen will be coming off a season in which they logged a ton of minutes, probably too many. Garnett will be coming off an injury plagued season.
While all three are great players, the window is closing with each passing year.
With each injury that comes along, it's going to take longer for their aging bodies to heal. With each minute logged, their aging bodies are going to ache that much more than they used to.
Pierce is signed through the 2010-11 season. Not much concern in terms of his contract, because he will retire a Celtic. The concern is all the bumps and bruises he takes during each game.
No KG really put Pierce at risk this past season, with all the extra minutes logged and the extra weight of the teams offense on his shoulders. I do not know how well he would do, if next year the same situation were to happen. Hopefully we do not have to find out.
Ray Allen is entering his last season under contract with the Celtics.
The Big Three have an amazing relationship. They are extremely close on and off the court. I would fully imagine the Celtics to talk extension with Ray at some point, with Pierce and KG pulling for the front office to get it done.
With Ray Allen already 32 years old and with two not so good ankles, the most important factor in an extension, would be his willingness to accept a smaller contract.
I do not think it will be an issue. He understands at his age he isn't going to get $16 million anywhere else. So why not accept, say, $8 million here, with a chance to win, over $10 million somewhere else?
Garnett's new extension kicks in this season.
This is great for the Celtics. His contract will go from $24 million per year, to just over $16 million per. That additional $8 million can go toward extending Rondo's and Perkins' contracts.
For the rest of KG's situation for the 2009-10 season, read below.
2. Glen Davis
I knew coming into this season Big Baby would be play a huge role in the Celtics quest for another title. I didn't know how big though.
Davis was nothing short of phenomenal in his sophomore year. He exceeded all expectations with ease.
Celtics fan expected a solid big man, coming off the bench, relieving KG for 12-15 minutes a night. While it may have started that way for the first two thirds of the season, it most certainly didn't end that way.
Davis filled in for KG when he went down beautifully. While he did not give the same defensive numbers that Garnett gave or the consistency, his numbers were much closer than anyone ever thought.
In the playoffs, particularly early on in the Orlando series, he carried the Celtics in certain stretches. He provided tough defense on the much taller Dwight Howard, while extending the floor on the offensive end by knocking down jumpers.
Davis is a restricted free agent. While it is a known fact that he loves the city of Boston, the Celtics and their fans, he is still going to want a pay day. A pay day that he deserves too.
Will he give the Celtics a home town discount, because of his feelings towards the team? I do not know. I hope so, but I do not know.
If that is the upside, here's the downside to his free agency.
For the Celtics, Davis is a bench player, when everyone is healthy. A player that will play 15-22 minutes a game going into next season. The Celtics will pay him as such. They aren't going to give him "starter" money, when he isn't starting for them.
Other teams may and probably will.
There is no doubt that Davis can start in this league. If another team offers him starter money, the only thing that will keep him in a Celtics uniform is if Davis just wants to play here that badly, over a huge payday.
I want him to stay, but I can't fault him if he went for the cash.
1. KEVIN GARNETT
By far and away, the biggest offseason question, not only for the Celtics, but in the entire NBA, is can Kevin Garnett be healthy for the start of next season?
The answer should be yes. However, nothing is guaranteed as we all know. Especially when it comes to knee surgery, on an aging veteran, who has put in 13 seasons, at the intensity level that KG plays at.
The bottom line is that with out a healthy Garnett, the Celtics will always be delaying the inevitable—a season without another title.
Sure, they can compete without him at a high level, they did it this year. There is no way that they can win a championship without him though. He's just to valuable to this team, in ways that we couldn't imagine prior to this postseason.
Garnett is the Celtics leader on the defensive end. Tom Thibodeau maybe the defensive mastermind, but KG is the man that makes the defense go.
Without him, the Celtics were exposed big time in the playoffs. Their perimeter defense was exposed without him behind them, cleaning up their mistakes, with blocked shots and altered shots. They allowed way too many offensive rebounds, that normally don't get pass KG's long reach.
Even though he is known as one of the best defensive players in NBA history, we cannot forget about what he brings to the offensive table.
Without KG, the Celtics only consistent post game, came from Paul Pierce. While Pierce is a very solid perimeter post player, championship teams need that post player who works on the block.
Whenever the opponent is on a run, the Celtics used to be able dump the ball down to KG and get a premium offensive possession. Whether is was him going to his fade away or him passing out of the double teams. Whatever it was, they did not have it and it cost them dearly in the end.
So, those are the top five concerns that the Boston Celtics have ahead of them this offseason.
For a team that just won a title in '08-09, they certainly have a lot of questions. I just hope they have the right answer for all of them.
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