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5-on-5: Avery Bradley Again, Frontcourt Fortitude, and Title Odds

 

Let’s play a little 5-on-5. Matchups include Avery Bradley, the frontcourt, and title contention!

1. With Ray Allen presumably back in the lineup this week, how much will Avery Bradley’s production/minutes drop?


Ryan DeGama: I just can’t shake the notion that Bradley won’t be shook. He’s an NBA starter at this point and his production will reflect that even if the lineup card doesn’t. So, even if Doc Rivers’ sense of propriety protects Allen’s spot in the starting lineup, his willingness to go ultra-small with Bradley, Allen and Rajon Rondo on the court simultaneously suggests Bradley’s production will continue to impress.

Chris Forsberg: If you had asked me before Wednesday’s game, I almost certainly would have expected a pronounced drop-off in his offensive output. So what does Bradley do? He goes out and drops  a team-high 19 points on the Spurs. That’s super encouraging, even if he can simply chip in double figures in scoring on a consistent basis and maintain his defensive intensity. The only question is how does Doc Rivers find 30 minutes per night for him as Ray Allen gets back towards full health and Mickael Pietrus returns to the floor.  Can this team consistently go with smaller lineups?

Hayes Davenport: I have last night’s game to go on, so this is cheating, but I don’t think his minutes will drop even if he vacates the starting spot permanently. If he’s coming off the bench now, his usage will probably go up as he’s proven himself to be the team’s most valuable sub, but his great looks percentage might drop because he’s not going to be playing alongside Rondo as much.

Brian Robb: If last night was any indication, very little. The reality is though the Celtics aren’t going to be able to play small ball like that every night with a three guard lineup, so Bradley will see his minutes fall to 20-25 per game. The exciting thing is the second-year guard is still attacking even with Allen back out there, so I don’t see his production dropping at all really. With the youngest and freshest legs on the team, Doc will continue to give Avery extended run so Rondo, Pierce and Allen don’t overextend themselves. Rivers hasn’t had a consistent impact guard like this off the bench in years, so he’s clearly going to make the most of it.

CelticsHub Reader Kevin Cote:  Neither will drop off significantly. Avery’s production would only drop off if his minutes or role was to change and as of right now Bradley is the top choice at backup PG and SG. There are a solid 25+ minutes a game to had as the backup guard on this team. With Ray still working back from his ankle injury Avery will continue to see more than just those backup minutes. Also, Ray is likely to get shorter bursts to keep that ankle from flaring up, meaning Avery will play plenty of minutes with Rondo and Ray will get plenty of minutes with the bench mob as Doc rotates his players.

2. How many wins would the Celtics have to get from April 1st to April 13th in order for you to believe they are legitimate title contenders?


DeGama: Even if the C’s go 6-1 over this stretch, I wouldn’t consider them contenders for four reasons: 1) their rebounding remains atrocious, 2) the offense struggles to find consistent interior scoring and shot creation in the halfcourt, 3) the roster is shy of bigs and overall depth and 4) the Big Three probably can’t bring sufficient energy game after game against younger, athletic teams. At least not for more than a round or two.

Forsberg: The wins are somewhat inconsequential. If the Celtics can simply play these playoff teams tough — even like Wednesday’s loss to San Antonio — there’s no reason to sweat the outcome of regular-season games because we know now that Boston is capable of hanging with some of the league’s truly elite squads. Sure, winning the next five games would inspire a heck of a lot of confidence, but even going 2-3 won’t detour the idea that this team can hang with anyone in the postseason based on its experience and recent resurgence. In the end, they just gotta get through these games healthy.

Davenport: I’m not sure any number of wins in that period would make me sure they are, unfortunately. The playoffs are just a different affair. For now, I’d mostly just like some assurance that this team can sustain a high level of play for more than a week or two: the way this season has played out, I’m sort of gritting my teeth for the swoon that’s seemed to follow every winning streak they’ve put together. If they can fend that off, I’d be a lot more confident.

Robb: The Celtics need to go over .500, more so for their seeding, but I’m less concerned about their numbers of wins and more attentive to how they are playing. March was an impressive month record-wise but it also showed a cohesive team able to overcome a number of injuries. It’s the little things that matter just as much in that stretch over mostly inferior opponents, things like the role players (Keyon Dooling, Greg Stiemsma) playing with consistency, the emergence of Avery Bradley, the way minutes are managed for the veterans. If I continue to see these positives during this challenging stretch, then the C’s sneak into the back of the line for contenders.

CelticsHub Reader Martijn Fleuren: We know the Celtics can hold their own against the top teams in the league given their recent success against Miami, as well as previous wins over Chicago, Atlanta, LAC, and Orlando (X2). Whether they can do it four times out of seven is another question. Call me superstitious, but if the C’s can win four out of these seven upcoming games, it may be a sign of greater things to come.

3. How comfortable are you with Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Greg Stiemsma, and Paul Pierce as your playoff front court?


DeGama: Had two or more of David West, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal worked out, we would be looking at a contending team. Instead, the Celtics are going to struggle to rebound against… almost every prospective playoff opponent. There’s something depressing about the prospect of Garnett killing himself on the defensive glass, and the Celtics still getting crushed with second chance points.That’s probably where we’re headed, though.

Forsberg: Well, considering there’s no alternative (short of Danny Ainge jetting overseas with a humongous bag of cash in hopes of prying Nenad Krstic free), about as comfortable as you can feel at this stage of the season. The Celtics went small in Wednesday’s loss to the Spurs and that’s an encouraging sign that they can find creative ways to maximize their available talent. By taking a big man off the floor, you mask the overall thinness of your frontcourt. As Rivers often notes, it’s not like the East is loaded with dominant centers, so the Celtics might be able to get by despite the health woes that depleted them. KG and Bass simply have to be ready for hefty workloads in the postseason (and Stiemsma will log key minutes in bite-sized chunks).

Davenport: I think it’s that lack of frontcourt depth that’s keeping them from being a contender. Last night, for example, the C’s shot a much higher percentage than the Spurs and handily won the turnover battle. That should be a win for them. But they were outrebounded by 14 (even though Ray Allen had SEVEN), and that’s why they lost (not because they made two fewer free throws). I have a feeling we’re going to see more games like that at the end of this season and in the playoffs.

Robb: It is what it is. If Pierce and company continue to attack the glass they should be able to survive, it won’t be pretty though. The nice thing about that foursome is you get a lot more consistent scoring on the offensive end, something this team desperately needs. Stiemsma continues to show himself as a more than capable defender when he is able to stay out of foul trouble, but when the team goes small, the vulnerability on the glass becomes scary.

CelticsHub Reader Kristen Clark: Who said I was comfortable? I’m not comfortable!

4. With the Celtics playing better as of late, has your opinion changed about Danny Ainge’s non-moves at the trade deadline?


DeGama:  Not really. Unless he could have moved Allen for a rebounding big, there was nothing Ainge could have done to buoy this team’s title hopes beyond a Powerball prayer. He just didn’t have the assets. So, I’m okay with the lack of additions. Of course, if Ainge believed the C’s had no shot this season, I still think he had to bite the bullet and sell off current parts for future assets.

Forsberg: No, the smart move all along, particularly in this condensed season, seemed to be keeping the band together. I don’t know if we expected the lack of a move to manifest itself in as good of a month of basketball as the team has produced (Boston is now 15-6 since the All-Star break), but it made sense to set the value bar high and only break up the core if someone was willing to really overpay for veteran talent. Ainge seemingly played his cards right, but we knew that regardless of how this team performed after the deadline.

Davenport: No, I’m still not crazy about it. While I’m glad most fans are happy he sat tight, I’m not sure he made the best basketball decision. Ray Allen appears set to walk after this season, and I honestly believe he could have been traded for more than his value (not for a promising young player and a pick like Danny was asking for, because that’s insane). Now, whether or not he stays with the Celtics, they’re going to end up losing him for nothing.

Robb: I’m satisfied with the non-moves even more now. We all know Danny was exploring plans to blow it up and clear even more cap space in the future, but the appealing package wasn’t there along. And for those who aren’t happy Ainge didn’t do anything to improve the roster for a potential run, we are seeing first hand over the last month why it’s important to hold on to younger potential trade chips like Avery Bradley. For the next two months, we get one last roll of the dice with this shorthanded roster and I think that’s what most C’s fans wanted.

CelticsHub Reader Scott Bishop: No, because I thought Danny made the right move by standing pat. They’ll shed a lot of salary this summer; they have two mid-to-late first rounders in a very deep draft; and there’s the prospect of signing a healthy Jeff Green. Keeping the team intact was about maintaining flexibility this summer; that the team has been terrific since the All Star break is a bonus.

5. What will you be watching for in Bulls vs. Celtics?


DeGama: I’m interested to see how effective Doc’s teeny tiny lineups will be against Chicago’s energetic frontcourt. I also want to see what kind of energy the C’s have against an elite team after the loss to San Antonio and the overnight flight. If they come out and win this, I’ll be surprised. And more than a little impressed.

Forsberg: Boston’s struggles on the second nights of back-to-backs (7-8 overall, 2-8 on the road) are well documented. Having to play the well-rested Bulls coming off a nail-biter with San Antonio is far from ideal. Last time they were in this situation in February, the Celtics dug themselves a huge hole and Chicago managed to hold on for the win. I want to see if the Celtics can avoid that lull this time and not have to resort to junking up the game with a zone to crawl back in. With Derrick Rose still battling that groin injury, there’s a chance for the Celtics to exploit the Bulls at the point guard position. And it’s a national TV game, which means Rajon Rondo will naturally be in the spotlight. The Celtics can win the season series against the Bulls tonight, and there’s something to be said for having that slight bit of confidence if they meet again in the playoffs.

Davenport: Echoing my other answer, I’m watching the boards. The Bulls are the best offensive rebounding team in the league. They win because they steal a lot of possessions that way. Based on how it went down against the Spurs, I’m worried that giving up rebounds tonight might be the continuation of a worrisome trend. If they can effectively box out Noah, Gibson, Boozer and Asik, that would tell us a lot more about their championship hopes than even winning the game would.

Robb:  How the C’s undersized front line fares. Boston has been overwhelmed on the glass in nearly every head-to-head contest this year and with Chris Wilcox out of the equation, the vulnerability becomes even more glaring against the talented Bulls frontcourt. With no reinforcements on the way, tonight should give us a good indication of whether the C’s will be able to keep their head above water on the glass in a potential playoff matchup.

CelticsHub Reader Skeeds:  If Rose isn’t back, then I expect Rondo to dominate, similar to the game against the Heat. He will be by far the best player on the court and should play like it. With Rose back, this should be an amazingly interesting game. Every positional matchup is likely to play itself to a draw, (like Pierce vs Deng has in recent meetings). It will take more than one player stepping up to win, and I could really not predict who actually could against a defense as tight as Chicago’s.

  • Rav

    Regarding your answer to Question 3, Ryan:

    None of those would-be subs you listed are particularly good rebounders themselves. Apart from Garnett, everybody in our current frontcourt, as well as those who could have been, have DRB% below 20% (the kind of rate that Johan Petro, Shelden Williams etc. put up).

    • Ryan DeGama

      Sure, but my point stands anyway. Would you rather have Wilcox and West coming off the bench if KG or Bass gets into foul trouble or needs a breather from the playoff intensity? Or Stiemsma and… Hollins? Or a tiny lineup that won't rebound?

      And then beyond the boards, you'd get more offense out of West or Green (if used properly) than what Rivers has on the bench right now at the big spots.

  • dslack

    Hayes:

    "Now, whether or not he stays with the Celtics, they’re going to end up losing him for nothing."

    Huh?

    • hdavenport

      Danny had a chance to flip Ray for an investment in the future. He didn't, so now Ray will either 1) sign somewhere else or 2) resign with Boston, depreciate to zero value and retire. There's no getting future value for Ray at this point (beyond his potential contributions for the next 2 years, which aren't a given on multiple levels). I believe draft picks or young talent are much, much more valuable than cap space for a team like Boston, so I would have preferred to have seen Allen flipped for long-term value.

      That's what I mean when I say they're going to lose him for nothing. (Much like Boston did with Bird, McHale and Parish, a decision that thrust the franchise into mediocrity for 15 years and which was a mistake Danny had said he wouldn't repeat).

      • dslack

        Gotcha. Well, they always could trade him next year, assuming they re-sign him.

  • sightline75

    The hardest thing is attracting free agents to Boston, and it might have been better for the Celtics to flip Ray for a younger wing player that they could groom. They have a unique team that can still beat the best in the league, but without Garnett and Pierce the advantages they have would quickly fade. For the future, keeping Doc was the best move the C's have made. His presence will stop the team degenerating into a rabble. Resigning Garnett should be made a priority, his presence means more that just 16 point and 8 rebounds.

  • ElRoz

    That loss to SA started a 2 game losing streak as I predicted (easy to do)…now the question is will it turn into a 3 game or 4 game losing streak. Very very bad to be in this funk for Boston with their small lead for the 4th seed. They might end up losing the 4th seed like they lost the 2nd seed last year down the stretch.

    And once in the playoffs, the seeding could mean 1st round elimination.

    • Sid Palaniappan

      That may not be true. I think the Celtics can beat any team in the East in a 7 game series, except maybe Chicago who they won't see unless they drop to the 8th seed which is very unlikely. I think our most favorable matchup would be the hawks, who as of now he are playing. They themselves are the worst playoff rebounding team besides the Celtics and are 22nd in the category. I think the matchups work very well to the Celtics favor with KG on Josh Smith and Pierce/Bradley on Joe Johnson. I also like the Celtics in the playoffs with Bradley starting and defending the ball handler because it gives Rondo the ability to play the passing lanes much more. If they Celtics make the playoffs healthy, they will have a puncher's chance.

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