2007-08 was a dream season for the Boston Celtics and their fans. The team won a league best 66 games en route to the 18th NBA Championship for the storied franchise. The old mystique had returned to Bean town and the Celtics were once again the top team in the league. Entering the 2009 NBA season, the Celtics are arguably the favorites to get back to the Finals out of the Eastern conference, but every team will be targeting them all year long. The loss of defensive star James Posey wonít help in the conquest for back-to-back titles, but the Celtics still look just as deadly and hungry as they were last year. The rest of the teams in the East certainly look like they have caught up with the rest of the league, including the Celtics, so the path to the title will be much more difficult this year, as it always is for a team hoping to repeat as champions.
Offense: With the Boston Celtics, the offense will always seem to run through the Big Three; Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. With great role players surrounding the three superstars, the Celtics managed to average over 100 points per game and blowouts at the TD Banknorth Garden were a weekly occurrence. The Celtics live by a one for all mentality that focuses on pure team play and even with Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, everyone plays a vital role to the team and each player shares the limelight. This team might not be the most deadly offensive squad in the league, but the teamwork makes them a near unstoppable unit on offense as well as defense. There really is no weakness on offense for this team and the story likely wonít change this season.
Defense: The Boston Celtics won their games by a margin of over 10 points per game. They held opponents to 41.9% field goal shooting and 31.6% three point shooting, leading the league in both defensive categories. When Kevin Garnett joined the team last season, the entire philosophy of the team had changed and defense became top priority for every player on the Celtics. The team would shut down the perimeter and anyone who managed to get near the post would be gobbled up by the monstrous defenders in the paint. Players like Ray Allen, who had never been considered a solid defender, became a reliable stopper on the perimeter as did just about every player on the team for their position. This is where the loss of James Posey will hurt most, as he is one of the toughest perimeter defenders in the game and many times he was defending the opposing teamís best scorer and doing a pretty good job of it. In the Playoffs, however, Paul Pierce showed that he could handle the perimeter with the best of the best and that ultimately made Posey expendable. His loss will be felt early on, but the Celtics will probably be able to move on and should be the best defensive team in the NBA once again.
Strengths: Having three superstar scorers, three Hall of Famers, makes the possibility of playing effective team basketball difficult, but the Celtics make it look simple, and accomplish the feat every night. The team concept suits the Celtics perfectly and they make every team suffer with the great teamwork. Solid team play may be the greatest strength a team can have and the Celticsí team play is the best in the league.
Weaknesses: The loss of James Posey and P.J. Brown lowers the depth of Bostonís bench, and both players were extremely valuable in the Playoffs. Other players will likely fill their roles to an extent, but the team will miss the toughness these two players brought to the team.
Five Players to Watch:
Kevin Garnett - The 2008 Defensive Player of the Year had the biggest effect on the Boston Celtics. The intensity and team mindset he brought to the Celtics had ramifications on the entire league and the team became instant title contenders. This season, Garnett will be expected to follow up on his performance from last season and once again be the anchor for the teamís defense. Kevin Garnett is now a role player in the NBA, but this role player is a top MVP candidate, and his value to this team is immeasurable.
Paul Pierce - This past offseason, The Truth stated that he was the best player in the game. That may or may not be true, but in the Finals, he sure as hell looked like he was. His performance garnered him the Finals MVP award and he is looking to carry that play into the 2009 NBA season. From the looks of it, there seems to be no weakness to Pierceís game and he is one of, if not the most dangerous players in the game and can kill the opposing team in so many ways. After suffering for so long, Pierce has finally tasted success and this year he should be just as driven as he was for the Boston title run last year.
Ray Allen - Ray Allen was in a scenario he was not used to when he became a role player for the Boston Celtics. Though his game looks to have digressed, he is still one of the most focused and reliable players in the league. He may have struggled in the Playoffs, but when the big games came around, he was there to hit the clutch shots and step up for the team. Also, his shooting touch has not wavered and he is the best pure shooter in the game, perhaps all-time, so his value to this team will not diminish.
Rajon Rondo - Other than Chauncey Billups, there may be no better defender at the point guard position than Rajon Rondo, and he is just entering his third NBA season. His offensive skills are still raw, but he had shown a nice progression as the season and looked very solid in the Playoffs. His defense, however, is his strongest asset and has made him a player the opposition fears. His offense is coming along nicely, though, and he has the potential to be a star. Perhaps as soon as this year there could be a Fantastic Four brewing in the Walking City.
Tony Allen - Though the loss of James Posey will have an affect on the perimeter offense and defense, the Celtics should be able to cope and a player could emerge to take his former spot in the rotation. That player could be Tony Allen. Allen has looked phenomenal in the preseason for the Celtics and in the past he has shown strong defensive abilities. He isnít the greatest shooter, but he attacks the basket like thereís no tomorrow. If Tony Allen can finally live up to his potential and prove that he has matured into an NBA player, the loss of James Posey wonít seem so bad and the Boston Celtics might have the Most Improved Player of the Year for 2009.
Title Hopes: 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of the last Boston Celticsí repeat as NBA Champions. Can they celebrate the occasion by duplicating the feat? The Eastern conference is better this year than they were last year, but the Celtics still look like the best team out there and will probably see themselves back in the Finals in June. If they meet the Lakers again, though, it should be a lot tougher to decimate their squad this year than it was last year. The magic in Boston will certainly be put to the test in 2009.
Prediction: 1st Place, Atlantic Division