Originally written on New England Sports React  |  Last updated 11/18/14

The Celtics revamped ‘Big Three’ look to build on last season’s impressive playoff run

As the weather starts getting colder, with the Red Sox officially done and the Patriots still trying to find their way early on in this season, it is time for the NBA to return. At the time this was published, training camp has since gotten underway, the regular season just a few short weeks away. The Celtics will try and build on their conference finals finish last season, looking to continue the chase for banner 18. This offseason has seen some radical changes to the team to try and get younger and more athletic, two of the major weaknesses of the team in years past.

Gone is former Big Three/core member Ray Allen, who jettisoned to Miami shortly after the season ended, along with strong locker room presence Keyon Dooling, who decided to retire approximately a week and a half ago. In are former sixth man of the year Jason Terry and shooting guard Courtney Lee, who will assume the starting role to begin the season. Jeff Green also returns to the court after spending last season recovering from heart surgery, and it is astonishing that he was able to return in such a short time frame.

Point Guard:Rajon Rondo is the unquestioned starter here, and quickly becoming the cornerstone of this team. Rondo has improved his game year in and year out, and this season he will once again be asked to shoulder the load of this team. At 26 years old, the best is yet to come from him. One of the weaknesses heading into the year, however, is the lack of a true quality point guard to back-up Rondo, and one could wonder if such a dilemma will cause him to be overworked throughout the year.

Shooting Guard:This spot will be occupied by Courtney Lee to begin the season and, when healthy, will be taken by Avery Bradley, assuming the role that he took over towards the end of last season from the now-departed Ray Allen. Lee brings much-needed athleticism, an ability to score, and is underrated defensively. When Bradley comes back, they will gain the shutdown defender he was last season, and hopefully his offense will continue to improve.

Small Forward:This should not even be a question. Captain Paul Pierce returns this season to fill the position that’s always been his. At 35 years old when the season begins, he also unfortunately is becoming one of the oldest players on the team. If he can stay on the court, he should be able to be a solid contributor again this season, putting up much the same numbers he put up last year. Pierce is still the face of this team, and he will continue to be for as long as he plays. While this may be Rondo’s team in the future, it’s still Pierce’s in the present, and I expect another good year out of him.

Power Forward:Brandon Bass should be able to assume this role. The key word there is: should. With the strong performances by rookie Jared Sullinger in the team’s early preseason games in Europe, there seems to be a good form of healthy competition for the starting position.Bass has shown long stretches of consistent play, though has disappeared at other times. At 27 years old, he will need to put an entire season together of consistency. Sullinger has shown a maturity and understanding of the game early on. Keep an eye on battle throughout the preseason and season. Bass should start the season as the No.1… which one of them finishes the season as the No.1 will remain to be seen.

Center:Kevin Garnett still has that fire burning in him and continues to be the heart and soul of the Celtics, along with the city of Boston in general. At 36 years old, there is still questions of whether his ability on the court can still keep up with his emotional involvement in the game. He is still the anchor of this defense, and Rondo was certainly thrilled KG decided to fight off retirement for the next few seasons. He should be able to mentor their young draft picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, so they will be able to take the reigns when KG’s time is ultimately done.

Bench:With the additions of Terry, Lee, Darko Milicic, as well as the returns of Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, and rookies Sullinger and Melo, the bench should be able to provide a spark when the starters earn a much-needed rest. Terry is a proven commodity off the bench, and both Lee and Green have proven serviceable in whatever roles they have been in. Milicic brings size, but his desire has always been brought into question and Doc will need to make sure he gives it his all game in and game out. Wilcox will simply provide depth, and eat up some minutes. Sullinger has looked impressive so far according to reports, as has Melo, but he seems to be a much longer-term project.

Conclusion:This Celtics team has undergone some major changes, but has still maintained their core for the most part. Last season they surprised many, myself included, with how far they advanced in the playoffs, as everything seemed to have fallen exactly how they needed it to. I still have the utmost faith this Celtic team will be able to win the division even though it will not be as easy as years past, with Philly, and Brooklyn are going to be serious contenders (yes I did not mention the Knicks… they are a joke). In the long run of the playoffs, the elite of the east are still Miami and Chicago (assuming D-Rose is in good health), and it will be tough for the Celtics to beat either of those teams in a seven-game series. Best case scenario, those two end up playing each other in a round. Worst case scenario, the Celtics need to play one of those teams in the opening round. This team has gotten younger, bigger, and a stronger athletic ability. We have counted them out in the past, and they continued to prove us wrong. Maybe that’s what they need: people doubting them. I am going to be as un-biased as I can, though. We should be expecting a playoff-caliber team, and let’s be pleasantly surprised for any advancement passed the semi-finals. Let’s hope they take us on another magical ride and grab Banner 18. Let’s go Celtics!!

- John Calabro

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