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It’s been a quiet coupe of months in Celtics Nation, but with October upon us, the Celtics season will soon begin. Sports of Boston will preview the team from all sorts of angles, giving you everything you need to get ready for the upcoming season. In this edition, we will explore the team’s guards.
One problem with the 2008-2009 Celtics was their lack of depth. This problem held true with the guards, who surely missed James Posey (a guard/forward) when he joined the Hornets after winning an NBA Title with the Celtics in the 2007-2008 season. Rajon Rondo made tremendous strides, and Ray Allen played even better in his second season in Boston, but the team just needed a little more.
Armed with new acquisition Marquis Daniels, returning bench player Eddie House, and starters Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, the guards may be the deepest unit on the team this season.
In his second full season as a starter and with the Big Three, Rondo took tremendous steps in his development.In 2008-09, Rondo averaged career highs in points (11.9), rebounds (5.2), assists (8.2), steals (1.9), field goal percentage (50.5%), and minutes (33:00). He became more confident with his mid-range jumper, he continued to show his fearless attitude in attacking the basket, and he showed a knack for making less mistakes and finding the open man.
He his hard work and improvement culminated in a series of playoff performances to remember. Between the two playoff series with the Bulls and Magic, Rondo nearly averaged a triple double with 16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 9.8 assists in 41.2 minutes per game. With his offensive improvements, his relentless defense didn’t suffer, as he recorded more than two steals per game in 14 playoff games.
At times, Rondo would show that he’s still only 23. His inexperience would lead him to try to be a hero, and oftentimes if he had the ball in his hands at the end of the game, he didn’t know what to do. In the playoffs, he gave us a dunk to remember, and some crunch-time shots to forget. Which Rondo is the real guy with the game on the line?
Rondo should build on his performance in the playoffs in what may be a pivotal season for him and the Celtics. Danny Ainge reportedly tried to trade Rondo in the offseason, but could not find a suitable package in return. Rondo and Ainge are currently in contract negotiations for an extension, but it remains to be seen whether Ainge decides Rondo is worth a max contract in the NBA. Perhaps, Rondo can earn that extension this season.
Allen had a tremendous second season with the Celtics, which led to another All-Star Game appearance, and improved stats across the board. He played 79 regular season games, and improved to averages of 18.2 points on 48% shooting from the field, 41% from three-point land, and a ridiculously sharp 95.2% from the FT line.
In the playoffs, Allen was up and down for the second postseason in a row. He had an amazing game in Game 6 against the Bulls in the first round, when he out-dueled fellow UConn alum Ben Gordon and 1finished with a playoff career-high 51 points in an epic, three-overtime loss. Despite a strong series against the Bulls, Allen struggled against the Magic in the second round, finishing with 13.1 points per game.
Allen, along with Rondo, was apart of offseason trade talks, with rumored deals sending him to the Suns and to the Pistons. Fortunately for the Celtics, neither of those deals actually happened, and there’s a probability that the rumors were just that: rumors.
This season, Allen enters the final year of his contract, and it remains to be seen whether he will be with the Celtics after this season. He has always been seen as the most expendable member of the Big Three, and don’t be surprised if the Ainge dips into the free agent frenzy of 2010.
Daniels had a career year with the Pacers last season, as he averaged 13.6 points per game in more than 31 minutes per game. He finally got his much deserved playing time, and made it count. He was good and bad in two games against the Celtics last season, scoring 26 points in 50 minutes in their first meeting, but struggling in the second meeting (six points, seven rebounds).
Ainge did whatever he could to get Daniels in a Celtics uniform, as he desperately sought other trade partners for Tony Allen’s contract just so he could give Daniels more money. In the end, with no suitors for Tony Allen or even Brian Scalabrine, Ainge signed Daniels for the biannual exception at $1.99 million.
Daniels is the player the Celtics were missing last season: a combo guard/forward that can bring the ball up the court and can help spell Ray Allen or Paul Pierce when they need rests. Pierce and Allen aren’t getting any younger, so if Doc Rivers can limit their minutes, the Celtics will be better off come April.
House improved in his second season with the team, averaging 8.5 on 44.5% shooting from the field. He set a Celtics record from beyond the arc, shooting an outstanding 44.4% on his threes.
In the playoffs, House was used more than in the previous postseason, in part because the Celtics had less depth, but also because Rivers realized House wasn’t as much of a liability as he originally thought. House didn’t play much in the postseason, but managed average more than one three-pointer per game. He had one superb game in the Game 2 win over the Magic, scoring 31 points on 11 of 14 shooting (4-4 from 3pt-land).
House will be in the NBA a long time thanks to his gifted ability to shoot from long range, and will join the Celtics for his third season with the team. Rivers will rely on House for any big shot the team needs, or a key scoring spark off the bench. Just don’t expect House to bring the ball up court much this season.
And I know present to you, the enigma, Tony Allen! Allen has never truly recovered from his torn ACL in early 2007, and his inconsistent play, poor decision making, and lack of confidence in his ability has sent him near the bottom of the depth chart.
Last season, with the Celtics, Allen averaged 7.2 points on 48% shooting. The stats alone seem good, and they are. But, it’s hard to notice Allen’s inconsistencies through statistics. A bad choice for a shot is just 0/1 on the stat sheet, and it seems most of his misses are from poor shot choices.
In the playoffs, Allen was nearly invisible, finishing with nine points (he only scored in four games).
Ainge has never been an Allen fan, and I’m willing to bet that he’ll be a throw-in at the trade deadline. If a deal isn’t made, don’t expect Allen to be healthy for the full season.
In the NBA, late first round picks are usually a crapshoot. It’s hard to judge Giddens because he’s barely played in the NBA. But, with the team lacking a true backup point guard (unless they sign the absurd Stephon Marbury), Giddens may grapple the position with a strong training camp and preseason. With no Gabe Pruitt in the mix anymore, Giddens coudl become the team’s defacto backup at the point.
Hudson recently signed a one-year deal, so he will be on the Celtics…or more likely the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League. He could join in the race for backup point guard, but expect the rookie from Tennessee-Martin to spend much of the year in the D-League, which should help him with his development. The most famous Lester in Boston is named Jon, not Hudson, and expect it to remain that way.
I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t think Eddie House, Tony Allen, J.R. Giddens, or Lester Hudson will be the lone answer at backup point guard. I expect Marquis Daniels and House to help out a bit, but Ainge is probably combing the free agent market for a more suitable veteran solution (maybe Tyronn Lue, Bobby Jackson, or Brevin Knight?).
Not until the playoffs. We know Rondo can play 45+ minutes because he has so much energy, but there comes a time when you need a veteran to take the ball up the court in the playoffs. While Marbury is getting older and is crazy, he’s always been one of the better ballhandlers in the NBA, so you never really needed to worry about him.
Ah, the question of the year. Will they make the playoffs? Yes. Will they win the Atlantic Division? Yes. Will they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals? Probably. Will they win it all? I think so, but come back to me in April when the playoffs begin, and I’ll give you a more in-depth answer.