Last night Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce didn’t play, so we got an extended look at the Celtics second unit and supporting cast, and what they displayed on the court should encourage fans heading into the season. The question has been asked since the beginning of training camp: Is this the deepest bench Boston has had in the Big Three era? After last night’s game maybe we finally have our answer. It’s clear that this team is deep, and they have multiple scorers off the bench who can supply instant offense when the starters are out of the game.
Being down by 20 points in the second quarter, Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo, and Jared Sullinger lead the charge and successfully overcame the New York Knicks in Albany. Terry and Green combined for 47 points, and while Terry consistently knocked down three point shots, Jeff Green did everything from scoring in the paint to hitting shots from the perimeter. Having players who can produce numbers like this will definitely give the Celtics the advantage heading into games.
When looking at how deep this roster is, you really can’t compare this team to the championship year of 2008, just because of the vast differences between the rosters. Considering it’s only preseason and they haven’t played a game that counts yet, it’s probably too early, but needless to say this team may be the deepest team since 1986. The Celtics have veterans who can fill in for the starters, have role players who know their jobs, and they have a rookie in Jared Sullinger who is possibly the steal of the draft.
This year’s backcourt for the Celtics is no doubt the deepest in the league. If Rondo needs a break, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Avery Bradley (when he returns), and newly acquired Leandro Barbosa can fill in to help relieve the point guard duties off of Rondo’s shoulders. In 2008 Sam Cassel was the only other true point guard on the team, and while Eddie House played time at that position, his handling skills were a liability.
But the most important component of this year’s roster is the backups to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. In the five seasons he’s been here, Garnett never really had a reliable replacement, and because of that he had to play a lot of minutes. With Brandon Bass, Darko Milicic, Chris Wilcox, and Jared Sullinger, Doc Rivers has options when taking Garnett out of the game for some rest.
In Pierce’s entire career, he was the main go-to guy. He never had a decent backup, and he really never needed one because in his prime he played 40 minutes a game. But within the last two years or so, the Captain has slowed down a bit, and especially last season when he had no backup to help him conserve energy and rest on the bench. This season Jeff Green, who has already surprised many fans in seven preseason games, is the answer to keeping Pierce’s minutes at a reasonable number. Green has the ability to score 20 points a night, and because he can play multiple positions, Doc can use him in the same lineup with Pierce.
If there is one thing that makes this year’s Celtics team the most unique in the Big Three era, it’s that Boston has players who can play multiple positions and roles. Doc can use many different lineups, and with them being interchangeable, he can confuse the opponents, especially on the defense. Also, the mixture of youth and experience is something that the Celtics have lacked in previous years, and with a good young core, this team can continue to move forward after the Big Three era.
This team has the chance to not only win a championship this season, but for the next few seasons to come. Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee are all signed for the next three years, and if they play to their potential, they could win more than one championship during this window of opportunity. I thought that maybe if the Celtics win this season Pierce and Garnett would retire, but looking at the supporting cast and the team Danny Ainge has built, it’s possible that they will stay until this final window closes.