So far this offseason, Danny Ainge has created a bench that quite frankly is the deepest the Celtics have had in the last five seasons. It’s way too early to make an accurate assumption, but on paper, the bench looks capable enough to compete against the best teams in the league.
Unlike the last few seasons, the Celtics have a combination of experience and youth on their roster. Throughout the Big Three era, except for 2008, the Celtics were never capable of having a second unit that could come in and maintain or extend the lead in games. Factors such as lack of youth, scoring, and height always hampered Boston, and the starters were heavily relied upon. Can this year be different?
With the acquisition of Jason Terry, the Celtics have found their sixth man who can come off the bench and supply the team with points. Just like rebounding, lack of bench points was a weak spot. Terry can be used in many situations. He can play with the second unit, will most definitely get time with the starters when scoring is needed, and we can all agree that he’ll be the shooting guard on the floor late in the 4th quarter when the Celtics need that clutch bucket. Terry will be the x-factor, like he said in an interview, “the Celtics just needed a bit of “Jet” fuel to get back to the Finals.” Hopefully he still has a full tank by the end of the season.
The addition of Courtney Lee was another big signing. Lee can score, play multiple positions, and to the best of my knowledge, is a good defensive player. I can remember back to 2009 when he played with the Orlando Magic, he was always tough to cover, and played Ray Allen very well on the defensive end.
When used, I think Doc will play him with Jason Terry or Avery Bradley. All three of these players can play both guard positions and any one of these combinations on the floor can be deadly.
Keyon Dooling could possibly be a second option at the point guard position, but like I said above, I really think the Celtics will try to utilize their younger guards. Dooling is capable of coming in and giving a good five to seven minutes, but with the depth at the guard position this season, I think he becomes more of a mentor and a player to fall back on if the injury bug starts to bite Boston.
Jeff Green, who according to his agent will be officially signed by the end of this week, will undoubtably be the backup small forward to Paul Pierce. Before last season began, Doc had a plan to give Green more minutes, and also have him play with Pierce which would allow the Celtics to go extremely small, but versatile.
I’m still skeptical of the idea of playing him any minutes at power forward. He’s not strong enough to out-muscle larger players, and personally he’d be better served as a small forward.
Chris Wilcox can play both power forward and center, and depending on what the Celtics need at any given time, he can step in to either role. Last year we saw that he can run the floor really well, which gives Rajon Rondo another option on the fast break. He didn’t put up extraordinary numbers, but Wilcox’s production was missed throughout the playoffs.
Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo may be two wild cards for the Celtics. Doc doesn’t usually play rookies, but looking at our height problems, he will have to play them in games.
Jared Sullinger is primarily a power forward, but Boston is going to try turning him into a center. Just by the way he is built and how the Celtics will try using him, I see him as being the new Glen Davis of the team. If Sullinger can come in and do what Davis did in his first three seasons in Boston, he will become a key player off the bench.
I see Fab Melo more as a center, but I think he’ll see some time at the power forward position. It’s possible that we may see some experimenting going on early in the season, and Melo may be on the floor with KG. If he can develop, I see Melo as a second option at center, but that’s a big if.
The Celtics are still very thin at the power forward and center spots. The development of Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger this season is crucial. Doc Rivers has to play the rookies. Boston’s title chances may depend on these guys, as lack of size and rebounding has hindered us from getting Banner 18 for the last three years.
Besides the game plan of having Sullinger and Melo play at center, the Celtics also have Jason Collins who is a legit seven footer. Collins is an 11 year veteran who doesn’t put up a lot of numbers, but is a good defender.
When Collins was first signed I figured this was merely a filling up the roster kind of acquisition. But after a few weeks, I’m beginning to think he may have a bigger role than I, and maybe other fans expected.
Since he is a veteran, he may be put into more clutch situations on defense. His size alone makes him valuable, as long as he doesn’t get called for fouls on every possession.
When it comes to the center position, I’d like to see Boston try signing another big man. They still have that mini mid-level exception worth around $2 million, and there are still players available. There has been no word if the Celtics are interested in a particular player, but I would keep my eye on this situation. It’s likely that they may wait until the All-Star break to bring in a veteran looking for a championship.
Overall Expectations From The Bench
This year’s bench is deep. On paper it’s hard to tell how much production we’re going to get from these players. In 2008, it was never difficult to find points when the starters came off the floor. Maybe with Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Jeff Green, lack of scoring won’t be a problem.
For the other players that I didn’t mention like Kris Joseph, Dionte Christmas, and Jamar Smith, I don’t see them getting much playing time. Knowing the way Doc Rivers coaches, at most he’d have an 11 to 12 man rotation during the season. What I don’t see happening is these players being sent to the D-League. While the Celtics have good depth, these young guys may have to be relied upon if injuries start to hamper the team. Also with veterans mentoring the rookies, they’ll learn more being around the team, than getting playing time up in Maine.
For the Celtics to get back to the Finals this season, they’ll need a strong bench which is what they have. Let’s see if they can put up the numbers to help carry the team on this journey towards another championship.