Because there’s nothing more essential to a professional basketball player than a blogger’s advice, here are some thoughts about what the Celtics should be focusing on during the offseason.
(Note that we’re only harassing those with contracts for next year, or in the case of Jeff Green, someone who is still under Boston’s control).
Now, on with the hubris:
Kevin Garnett – The Boston offense fell apart in the playoffs. But shy a major trade or an amnesty clause in the new CBA that frees up some pricey veterans who might go ring chasing, Danny Ainge will have minimal flexibility to improve it. Which means Garnett’s scoring will be more important than ever.
We know KG will come to camp in incredible shape. We know he’ll be a man possessed on the defensive end. We know he’ll knock down the 20-foot jumper. But if he really wants the second ring that’s eluded him the last few years, Garnett needs to commit himself to delivering consistent offense on the low block.
Time to work that jump hook and that up-and-under move in the gym this summer.
Rajon Rondo – Rondo was consistently impressive the first half of the season, but struggled when Shaquille O’Neal went on the shelf mid-season and his aged all-star cohorts tired down the stretch. This core is only getting older (at least for one more year) which means more of the offense will depend not just on Rondo’s ability to create shots, but to finish them. The resulting action plan amounts, as usual, to Rondo working on his shooting.
There are three possible areas of improvement here:
- 3P%: Rondo shot a horrific 23% from the arc last season. Even though many of those were late-clock heaves, any time he takes that shot, it’s a victory for the opponent. This may be a career-long struggle for competence but if he could reach the league average of 35.9%, it would be a huge win. It just won’t happen next year. Or the year after that.
- FT%: Rondo shot a career worst 57% from the line on a career low 1.9 attempts per game this season. If he can get past the mental hurdles keeping him from attacking the rim, and push himself up into the 70% range on makes, it would open up his off-the-dribble game, from which everything else flows. That’s entirely reasonable, given he shot 65% from the line during his rookie year.
- The Long Two: Rondo made a leap in his shooting on long twos this season, shooting 41% on a career high 3.3 attempts per game, up from 33% on 2.3 attempts in 2009-10. He seemed particularly confident taking them from the elbow. If Rondo can get that number up to 45% by the end of next season — and maintain it as guys actually start to contest his shot — it could make a huge difference for Boston’s offense. That may be optimistic.
Paul Pierce – Go run Pierce’s numbers. He’s proving a textbook example of how to age gracefully in the NBA.
Versus 2009-10, he actually improved his rebounding rate, his free throw percentage, his field goal percentage and he lowered his turnover rate. He’s made himself an incredibly efficient late-career player, even as his explosiveness and speed have waned. For Pierce, it’s all about maintenance now, maintaining his endurance and health, and ensuring he remains a fearsome shotmaker.
Ray Allen – Assume personal trainer and nutritionist duties as noted below.
Jermaine O’Neal – Most Celtics fans were pleased with J.O.’s work in the playoffs, especially on the defensive end. But Doc Rivers did little to hide his irritation with O’Neal’s unavailability throughout the year. And while it was nice that J.O. dropped weight leading up to the playoffs, a guy with his miles and his knees should have dropped that weight long before camp started in October. So, we’d suggest that J.O. model Ray Allen this summer. Eat what he eats. Train how he trains.
Jeff Green – Boston should soon extend a qualifying offer to Green (they have until the CBA expires on June 30), making him a restricted free agent. Assuming Ainge has been truthful about being impressed with Green’s playoff efforts, there’s a good chance he’ll be back in Boston next year. Cost and length of deal will be concerns, but if anything, Green’s weak 2010-11 performance should serve to depress his market value.
So, what does Boston need from him?
The temptation is to recommend assertiveness training for a guy like Green who seemed content to drift. Instead, let’s look at something related, but more tangible: improving his rebounding. In 2010-11, Green was an atrocious rebounder as a power forward, finishing 76th of 79 in total rebound rate (8.8). That number looks only mediocre even when pegged against small forwards, where he’d be right in the middle of the pack.
Avery Bradley – Bradley’s still such an unfinished product, he could and should work on everything. But the two most prominent things that come to mind — observed during his meager 162 on-court minutes — are his handle, which looked shaky against any kind of ball pressure, and his shooting, where he often struggled even to draw iron (on his way to shooting 34% from the field).