The Rebirth of Nenad Krstic

When Danny Ainge decided to send off nearly half of the active roster at the trading deadline, a lot of skeptics were shocked at the decisions that were made, especially the deal that sent dedicated big man Kendrick Perkins and energetic little man Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Supporters of the trade tried to assert that the acquisition of Green as a sixth man made the Celtics get the better end of the deal, however with the consecutive losses to the Clippers and 76ers, it was starting to seem as if the loss of Perkins had created a hole too deep for Boston to overcome. Luckily for the C’s, Krstic, who many would consider the least significant player in the OKC deadline deal, has showed nothing but hustle and dedication while challenging his skeptics with consistent and solid play, as well as double-doubles in the past two games.

He has proven that he can be as valuable to the Celtics as he was to the New Jersey Nets five years ago now that he’s back on a squad that revolves around team basketball rather than relying solely on the scoring of superstars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. More importantly, by helping the Celtics hold Andrew Bogut and the Milwaukee Bucks to a franchise-low 56 points allowed, Krstic has proven he has the potential to fill the colossal shoes of Kendrick Perkins while Shaq continues to rest up for the playoffs.

While Krstic’s production has flourished since the trade, and he is averaging nearly 14 points and 8 rebounds since joining the Celtics, my biggest concern about losing Perkins is 6’11, and he plays for the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard’s offense and ability to score in the post has dramatically improved this season, and no matter how well Krstic plays and works himself into Boston’s lineup, he does lack the athleticism that is necessary when facing dominant big men in the playoffs such as Howard and Pau Gasol. Boston will need Shaq to be healthy for the postseason, as his presence in the paint and ability to body up on Howard to help halt his production is crucial to the Celtics’ physical style of play. Shaq’s return would also allow Krstic to log some big minutes and big boards off the bench as a very capable veteran backup big man comparable to P.J. Brown, rather than criticized as just another weak starting center like he was in Oklahoma City.

With Perkins still injured and yet to play a game in his Thunder uniform, Krstic has transcended expectations while proving he can be used for more than just offensive rebounds. As the Celtics try to move forward in the post-Perk era, Krstic has proven he has the awareness, dedication, soft hands, and basketball IQ to be a very valuable asset to the Celtics, making smart plays and cuts while putting up valuable points from the center position. While some of the moves made over the past couple of weeks have been very questionable, leaving us to wonder whether we really want some of the newer guys that have been acquired, Krstic has surpassed expectations in his rebirth as a Boston Celtic, ready to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since leaving the Nets. It can’t be easy filling the shoes of a dedicated player and fan favorite like Kendrick Perkins, but Krstic is doing a great job thus far, and has already found himself more within Boston’s versatile offense than he did in nearly three full seasons with the Thunder. Hopefully once Perkins returns, he can find himself being valuable to his new team as well.