Forward: Kevin Garnett
The Celtics’ success in the 2009-2010 season may hinge on Kevin Garnett’s ability to return from a lingering knee injury. A year after helping to lead the Celtics to their first championship in decades, Garnett’s knee caused him to miss the bulk of the last two months of the 2009 season as well as the playoffs. If healthy, Garnett automatically gives the Celtics a strong interior defense and a great scoring option in the post and mid-range.
Forward: Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce has been a beacon of consistent excellence for the Celtics throughout his career. Pierce has scored at least 19.6 points and grabbed five or more rebounds per game in each of his last eleven seasons. He continues to be one of the best swingmen in the league whether he is slashing, scoring from the high post, or shooting from the perimeter. The Celtics’ captain remains the center of their offense and with Garnett, comprises one half of the best forward combo in the NBA.
Center: Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins is coming off of a career year in 2008-2009, posting career highs in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots. Perkins is a huge defensive presence in the middle with an improved post game on offense. He knows his role on a team full of stars and he plays it very well.
Guard: Ray Allen
Ray Allen remains one of the best shooters from all distances in the game. Allen drained 199 three point shots last season, good for second most in the league. The main concern for Allen is his fading endurance. During the first half of last season, Allen shot 49% from the field; he dropped to 46% in the second half and only 40% in the playoffs.
Guard: Rajon Rondo
One of the top point guards in the league and entering only his fourth season, Rajon Rondo has become a floor leader for the Celtics. Rondo ranked among the league leaders in assists and steals in 2008-2009 and all but carried the Celtics in the playoffs. He has become one of the biggest triple-double threats in the game and he has done so with great and improving efficiency (50.5% field goal percentage, 3.15 assist-to-turnover ratio). Rondo’s inconsistency on defense is his weak point; he has the ability to be a great defender, but he needs to cut down on his lapses.
The top of the Celtics’ bench will be comprised by two key offseason acquisitions, Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels. Wallace gives the Celtics a defensive presence in the post as well as a big man who can shoot and spread the floor on offense. Daniels will primarily serve as the backup point guard, allowing sharpshooter Eddie House to play off the ball to his strengths.
Glen Davis, after making a name for himself in the absence of Garnett last season, will also see significant minutes from the Celtics bench. The remaining bench spots will be occupied by guard Tony Allen, forward Shelden Williams, and forward Brian Scalabrine. Rounding out the roster will be Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens, and Lester Hudson who are unlikely to see any significant playing time.
The Celtics will once again return the core and entire starting lineup of their 2008 championship team, this year adding a pair of excellent reserves to combat the lack of depth that plagued them in the 2009 playoffs. If they are able to keep their big three of Pierce, Garnett, and Allen playing reasonable minutes, the Celtics are favorites to win the east and an NBA title.
Projected Record: 63-19, NBA Champions