Roster turnover is a reality on most NBA teams. Contracts expire, valuable chips are traded, rookies are drafted, free agents are signed, and inevitably a sizable fresh batch of players join a squad each and every season.
That formula has held true for the Boston Celtics for the majority of the past five years. While the core four of KG, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo remained firmly in place during that time (along with Perk for three of those years) the rest of the roster was a revolving door. Over that time, Boston had a number of one-and-done C’s, along with a few players who lasted longer (Eddie House, Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels, and Tony Allen being the notables in that group).
Invariably, there are pros and cons to bringing in new blood each and every season in the NBA. Last year for instance, the Celtics overhauled their bench during the offseason, bringing in a less talented group (by Doc’s own admission), but one that ultimately caused far fewer headaches off-and-on the court than did the likes of Davis, Robinson and Delonte West.
On the other side of the coin is, the reality that new faces every year means everyone has to do a lot of learning to get on the same page. At times, players like Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass struggled on both ends of the floor while trying to grasp Doc’s systems. Those issues were further compounded by the lockout-shortened season, giving Boston almost no practice time to hammer home plays and sets.
All factors considered, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of continuity and believe it to be the most important factor with any championship contender. There is really no replacement for a talented group of players building a chemistry with each other over several seasons on the court.
Knowing where your floor mate will be on the court, remembering the play calls like the back of your hand, knowing just how to rotate on defense to cover up for each other’s mistakes. It takes time to build up these skills together and it’s a big reason why the Celtics have remained a formidable foe despite the advanced age of the Big Three over the last few years; their core has that continuity
It’s also why the C’s were able to get away with having virtually no practice time last season, even throughout the postseason, and still managed to give Miami their toughest playoff series. When you have played nearly five years together, practice isn’t quite as necessary.
It’s for this reason I can’t help but be particularly enthused about this Celtics offseason, as the continuity is spreading beyond the starting five. It’s obvious Boston has done very well to update the roster at each position, but pay attention in particular to the length of all of their deals:
Kevin Garnett: 3 years
Jeff Green: 4 years
Brandon Bass: 3 years
Jason Terry: 3 years
Courtney Lee: 4 years
Combine those guys with Rajon Rondo (three more years on deal) Avery Bradley (two more years) and Paul Pierce (two more years), along with the rookies who are all on three-year deals and Boston has got themselves quite the core. Allen is out of the equation, but nearly the entire projected rotation are on long-term deals. Thus it is a core that will be in place for a long time to come (barring any trades).
With a coach like Doc Rivers, along with a point guard like Rajon Rondo who knows the C’s system inside and out at this point, this kind of projected continuity should prove to be invaluable in the years to come.
Instead of having to work to integrate several new members of the roster each and every season, Rivers will likely only have to integrate one or two new rotation bigs each year, along with end-of-the-bench rookies or veteran free agents signing for short money. The familiarity the C’s carryovers will have from year-to-year should be invaluable in allowing Rivers to add useful wrinkles to his schemes on both ends, instead of having to go over the basics time and time again.
With a set roster for years to come, it’s hard not to fondly imagine the possibilities this versatile group will be able to build together over the years to come. Just more reason to give kudos to the job Danny Ainge and company accomplished this offseason.