The Celtics staggered out to a 1-3 start to the 2011-12 season. The early returns are perplexing, if not entirely depressing. The Celtics currently stand:
8th in offensive efficiency at 105.0 points scored/100 possessions.
26th in defensive efficiency at 106.9 points allowed/100 possessions.
4th in eFG% at 52.6%.
2nd in TS% at 57.5%.
4th in assist ratio at 16.0.
16th in defensive rebound rate at 72.7.
22nd in offensive rebound rate at 23.5.
25th in total rebound rate at 47.2.
20th in pace at 93.0.
28th in turnover rate at 28.6.
There are no sea changes from last year in any of the stats besides overall offensive and defensive efficiency, which suggests that those rankings will eventually switch and the C’s will prove themselves one of the best defensive teams in the league and a middling offensive team.
If that’s the case, Boston simply doesn’t belong in any intellectually honest conversation about championship contenders. However, if the offense manages to hang around the top-10 in the league, with a smart tweak or two from Danny Ainge, the C’s could prove a nasty little dark horse come playoff time.
After the jump, a look at the busy January schedule and a few predictions.
January better be a great month for the Celtics.
After tonight’s game in Washington, the Celtics play 8 of their next 9 at home, with only three heavyweight opponents (Dallas, Chicago, OKC) on the docket. There’s almost no travel, and four full days off from January 7-10, which gives Doc Rivers the most concentrated practice time he’ll get the rest of the season. If his knee is healthy, that’ll be a perfect opportunity to work Mickael Petrius into the rotation.
In what’s proving a persistent quirk of this condensed schedule, the Celtics have three home-and-home series this month alone, starting with tonight and tomorrow night against the Wizards, with Orlando and Cleveland to follow at the end of the month.
Safe Prediction: January will be the Celtics’ best month of the regular season. The games will pile up quickly this season but Boston has the chance to run off a nice winning streak this month as a hedge against future back-to-back’s and schedule losses. More to the point, if the C’s stagger their way through the early part of the season, traditionally the strong stretch for this team, roster changes may soon follow.
Bold Prediction: This will be the single-most maddening season of the big-three era. The Celtics will look like championship contenders one night and decrepit has-beens the next. Doc Rivers will go into energy saving mode by the last week of January, with the bench — and even the rookies — getting substantial burn. Of the veterans, Kevin Garnett will generate much of the angst as his game will look calcified some nights and otherwordly the next.
Ridiculous Prediction: Every central Celtics player not named Paul Pierce will be mentioned in trade rumors in January and the Celtics will move one of them by the end of the month. Pseudo-rationale: The David West and Chris Paul rumors were not isolated incidents. Ainge will continue to pursue major, bold moves to makeover the roster for the future. Only Pierce will prove untouchable.
Predicted January Record: 11-5