Assistant Sports Editor
The NBA Lockout is finally over and the dust has started to settle, but before the free agent frenzy begins on Friday, let’s take a step back and look at what we have in Boston for the upcoming season.
Currently the Celtics have six players under contract for the 2011-12 season. Those players are Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal and Avery Bradley. While the “Big 4” are still around, those other pieces are not enough to get this team where it needs to go.
Jeff Green, the “prize” of the Kendrick Perkins trade, is a restricted free agent meaning that other teams can attempt to sign him, but the Celtics will have a chance to counter those offers. If Danny Ainge wants to do right by Celtics fans, he has to either keep Green or turn him into another productive piece or two.
The Celtics picked up two former Purdue players in the NBA Draft back in April. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, both played four years together, are familiar with each other and will bring an element of chemistry right into the team. At 6-foot-10, Johnson will bring size and a power-forward presence off the bench that was sorely missed last year.
Moore is a 6-foot-4 combo guard who does not have any glaring offensive weaknesses. Moore took on a lot of responsibility last season after the injury to All-American Robbie Hummel and responded wonderfully. That type of experience is invaluable and he will bring a lot to this Celtics bench unit.
Delonte West, Glen Davis, Troy Murphy, Sasha Pavlovic, and Carolos Arroyo are all unrestricted free agents and will enter into this whirlwind free agent market where every team will be looking to spend money just to reach the 85% salary cap minimum.
The Celtics should prioritize resigning West and Davis, in that order. Rondo has his share of health issues and foul problems so having a reliable backup will be a must. Davis would be nice to have back, but with his performance last year, he will demand more than the Celtics can afford to pay him. If he wants to take less, that’s great, if not? Well that’s fine too.
That gives the Celtics a roster with 11 players, meaning they will need to grab a few more players off the free agent heap to get to that 15-player limit.
Now that we know who is on the team, let’s take a look at what I believe to be the three can’t miss games of the first half of the season.
Christmas Day at New York Knicks 12 p.m.: The season opener will give us an idea of what we are in for with this year’s team. A rematch with the athletic Knicks will show us a lot.
December 27th at Miami Heat 8 p.m.: The Celtics face the best of the Eastern Conference in just their second game. Two games in just three days is a tough start for the Green and White.
January 11th vs. Dallas Mavericks 8 p.m.: The Champs come to town in their first real Western Conference test.