Question of Power: Who Starts for the Celtics at PF?
When tasked with deciphering the Boston Celtics depth chart at this point in the off-season, it seemed the majority of things fell into place.
The point guard, small forward and center positions would easily remain the same from the end of last year with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett returning.
The shooting guard spot represented a minor question about what to do until Avery Bradley was good to go following two shoulder surgeries. Still, that seems simple enough with Jason Terry signing for the full mid-level exception earlier today. The veteran shooting guard could slide in and start in place of Bradley until the youngster is all healed up.
The one big hurdle in the obstacle course of next year's starting line-up is the power forward position. Right now there are three distinct options at the 4 for Boston.
When Kevin Garnett made that all-important switch to center last season, the door was left open for Brandon Bass to enter the starting unit. Boston's de facto sixth man was pressed into starting duty because of season ending injuries of Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox.
Bass' production fluctuated all season. He hit high points like scoring 27 points in a big playoff win over Philadelphia, and disappeared for stretches, scoring eight or less points in eight of 20 postseason games.
Bass started 39 games at the 4 in the regular season and all 20 in playoffs, but rarely excelled at the spot. His offensive game, like that of Garnett revolves around the perimeter and his ability to knock down elbow-jumpers. While he improved steadily throughout the season on the defensive side, he was too slow to play in crunch time most games and was routinely torched by elite talents, particularly in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Bass was brought to Boston to come off the bench and wound up working admirably as a starter. Still, he is better suited for a reserve role with this team and should return there in the coming season. He will be utilized much more effectively as his value will sky rocket playing on a second unit that will need his offense to succeed as a whole.
The next option comes in the form of one of those aforementioned season ending injuries, Jeff Green.
Green has re-upped with the Celtics after having his contract voided last season. He missed the entire year after undergoing heart surgery, but appears to be back and ready to go. At least one would hope, being that he will soon sign a four-year deal with the team.
Green stands at a surprising 6'9". I say surprising because he does not play like a man with that size. Green's season high for rebounding came in 2008 when he hauled in 6.6 per game. However, in 26 games with the Celtics following the Perkins trade he was grabbing only 3.3 rebounds a night.
What many have blocked out of their minds following the deep playoff run is that the Celtics finished dead last in the NBA in rebounding last season. They took in a minuscule 38.8 boards per game, finishing one spot behind the seven-win Charlotte Bobcats.
This cannot go unnoticed and putting Green in the starting line-up will only exacerbate Boston's inabilities on the glass. Green plays the game more like a small forward and could find a lot of playing time relieving Paul Pierce and picking up extra minutes at the 4 when need be.
That leaves just one option to start at power forward for last season's ECF runner-ups, rookie Jared Sullinger.
I know, I know, Doc doesn't play rookies. However, there were two definitive things last year's Celtics team lacked; Rebounding and interior scoring. Both of which are Sullinger's calling cards.
In two years at Ohio State, he averaged 18 points and nine rebounds per game. In six games thus far participating in the NBA Summer League, he has been the Celtics most consistent performer. Sullinger has averaged 10.5 points and 10.5 boards per game.
His shooting has dipped slightly as he has connected on just 35-percent of his shots. You have to attribute that to rust and adjustments to the new talent level. At OSU he shot better than 50-percent from the field in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
At 6'9" and 268 lbs, he has a size advantage on both Green and Bass. He is not limited to a paint game either. In addition to being the Celtics most talented, young, low-post scorer since Al Jefferson, he has displayed decent range both in college and the Summer League. He hit on 16-of-40 threes his sophomore season and has shown a willingness to put them up at the next level, shooting 2-for-11f from deep this summer.
Sullinger not only adds a missing dimension to the Celtics starting unit, he takes very little off the table.
So, yes while Doc may not have made a habit of playing rookies in the past, he will have to make an exception for one as talented as Sullinger. As long as he remains healthy, he will be a valuable asset for Boston next season, no matter what his role is.
2011 graduate of Marist College.
Won the 2011 Silver Fox Award for Best Feature-Length Screenplay, for Our Father.
Currently I am the voice of the Worcester Wildcats of the New England Football League.
My writing style focuses on sports in a broader culture-wide sense. I incorporate humor and real life into my sports writing.
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