The Atlantic Division should no longer be considered easy pickins for the rest of the league. After several acquisitions, the division is much stronger than last year.
Boston: The Celts took the boldest tact in the division, and probably the whole league. They traded The #5 overall pick, a future Minnesota #1 pick, their 2009 1st round pick, Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff and his expiring contract to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Is this risky? Absolutely. If any one of Garnett, Pierce or Allen break down to a point where they are merely decent players, this could be disastrous for the Celts, as their salary cap space for new players is crippled. But take a look again at what was traded and what the Celtics got in return, and almost any GM would be happy to get that type of quality for those players. Anyone could see that Danny Ainge was under pressure to ‘make something happen’. During post lottery interviews he seemed quite rattled and disappointed. All year, Celtics fans were hoping to get Oden or Durant to place next to Big Al Jefferson and Paul Pierce.
All things considered, plan B looks pretty good on paper right now. The starting 5 looks to be Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Perkins. Tony Allen, Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine off of the bench, with Leon Powe, Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis and Brandon Wallace scrambling for minutes. The 2 big questions on this team are: 1) Can the triumvirate stay healthy all season, as all of them have lots of miles on their odometer already? 2) Is Doc Rivers the man who can coach this team to where it needs to go? I believe they can shoot with anyone, as Allen, Pierce, House and Scal can make threes. Rondo, Pierce and Tony Allen (assuming his knee is healthy) can penetrate defenses. Rondo, Tony Allen and Garnett can defend very well. Garnett and Pierce can score inside and I suspect that Powe and Davis should be able to as well. The real test of this team should be how well Rondo and Perkins will mature. Perkins is a good defender and rebounder, but he need to learn how to stay on the floor. You can give him a pass for last season, as he was hobbled all season with plantar fasciitis. Rondo needs to mature quickly for this team to be what it can be. If those things happen, I see their ceiling at 55 wins. If they can sign another big man for depth, defense, and help with the second squad, they’d be in great shape. Perhaps they can sign Dikembe Mutombo (aka the Cookie Monster) for help and a low price as his last and best chance for a ring.
As for my prediction, I see the triumvirate taking about 15-20 games to learn each other and jell together and for the Celts to see what Rondo can do. I will say they go 49-33, Win the Atlantic Division, and take the #2 seed in the East.