Monday, July 23, 2012

Ainge Has Done an Excellent Job of Building the Celtics

There has been quite a bit of world wide web ink spilled at this space over the last few weeks as I have followed every move made by Danny Ainge in his attempt to give Doc Rivers a chance to coach a team capable of winning a championship this season.

So far, Ainge has brought back Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and Chris Wilcox, added free agents Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, and drafted Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, and Kris Joseph.

Over the weekend Ainge completed his summer work, adding center Jason Smith and guards Jamar Smith and Dionte Christmas.  Smith will provide a veteran presence off the bench while Smith and Christmas will likely fight for a spot on the end of the bench with the potential to play a little early in the year while Avery Bradley recovers from shoulder surgery.

Ainge has done his best job of building a deep roster this summer.  Rivers now has the deep and versatile roster that he lacked last year - remember that guys like Ryan Hollins were seeing significant minutes in the playoffs - and it should pay dividends in the regular season and in the playoffs.

Here is the roster that Ainge has built:

Post players: Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins, Fab Melo

Wings: Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Kris Joseph

Guards: Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Jamar Smith, Dionte Christmas

That really is as deep of a team that Ainge has built in his time running the Celtics.  Even the 2008 championship team faced depth issues - does the phrase "Sam Cassell, backup point guard" ring a bell? - and a lack of quality depth has been a factor in the Celtics failure to capture another title since beating the Lakers four years ago.

What Ainge has done is give Rivers the ability to provide rest for his three big guns - Garnett, Pierce, and Rondo - while still putting themselves in a position to contend for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs and home court advantage in at least the first two rounds of the postseason.

Ainge has basically followed the blueprint of the Spurs in bulding the 2012-2013 Celtics.  The Spurs have built a deep roster around their own three stars - Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker - which has put them in contention in the West the last two years.

Doc Rivers will be able to roll out a 11-man rotation of Garnett, Bass, Pierce, Lee, Rondo, Terry, Bradley (when he comes back), Green, Sullinger, Wilcox, and Collins in most regular season games.  In the important regular season games and in the playoffs he will have a core of Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Bass, Lee, Bradley, Green, and Terry and the ability to choose which other big man (or big men) he can use based on the matchup or who is playing the best. 

The likes of Melo, Joseph, Smith, and Christmas are likely to see time in Maine playing with the Red Claws of the NBDL or be used in case of an emergency.  Melo, as well as Jospeh, are assets for the future and this is a year for development.  Smith and Christmas are typical fringe NBA players who will fill out the roster.

While giving Ainge credit for building this team, we also must consider that injuries will probably play quite a big factor.  Garnett (36), Pierce (35 in October), and Terry (35 in September) are not getting any younger.  Green and Wilcox are both returning from heart surgery.  Bradley is already out after having surgery on both shoulders.  Sullinger dropped to the Celtics in the draft only because of concerns about the health of his back.  The Celtics trainers and doctors are facing a long season but the depth of this team should allow them to successfully navigate most injuries.

The beauty of analyzing an NBA team in July is that you don't have to worry about injuries and instead you can focus on the positives.  The positives of this offseason for the Celtics is that they have regrouped and improved their team and will be right up their with the Heat, Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs to win the franchise's 18th NBA championship in eleven months.

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