With high roster turnover, will Boston hit the ground running?

The last time the Boston Celtics had roster turnover like they did this year, they won a championship.

Now let me just say right away that the turnover going down on the 2007-08 Celtics was a very different situation, and that we should in no way assume it's going to play out the same way. That roster turnover happened because two of the players joining the roster came on board via mega-trades. Those trades - Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West for Ray Allen and Glen Davis in the first deal, and  Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, and Sebastian Telfair for Kevin Garnett in the other - shipped out eight players for just three, seven of whom had played for the team the previous season.

The turnover of that offseason was comparable in that 07-08 Celts only brought back Leon Powe, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins, and Brian Scalabrine, however. Six guys, like the six Boston brings back this season in Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Jae Crowder. The difference, however, is that the incoming players weren't just joining any six guys, they were joining six guys who played a lot of minutes. That is why we should not expect the Celts to start the way they did in 2007, making it into the second week of 2008 before picking up their fourth loss of the season, and finishing the season with a 66-16 record, surprising just about everyone.

That surprise is warranted, as the last two superteams fronted by LeBron James show - even top-tier talent playing together for the first time usually takes a bit of time to gel, so there's good reason to be pessimistic about early success. However, it's important to note that on most teams, the rotation is rarely more than ten players, and in the playoffs, it shrinks even further, sometimes to as few as eight or nine players.

In case that's not entirely clear, look at it this way: the 2007-08 Celts (66-16) had only two starters joining the team (Allen and Garnett), with Rondo, Pierce and Perkins returning. The 2010-11 Miami Heat (58-24) had only Dwyane Wade returning as a full time starter, and the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) had only Kyrie Irving returning as a starter. Notice any pattern in terms of wins and losses?

It's even more apparent if you look at the early-season results: we already know it took the 07-08 Celts until the second week of January to hit four losses; it took the 10-11 Heat just nine games to get there, and Cleveland nine as well, their fourth loss of the season coming on November 11th and 17th, respectively. Given Boston returns three starters (Thomas, Horford, and Crowder) with Smart, Brown and Rozier all starting a significant number of games, I'm going to have to say that at worst, the team has a similar season as last year's (a 53-win team that made it to the second week of November before logging their fourth loss), and quite possibly something closer to that of the Banner 17 Celtics.

I should probably say I am not suggesting they will win the title. The competition in the 2007-08 season was by no means light - that season still had Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in their primes, and formidable San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz squads, after all - but nothing like the Golden State Warriors, nor the strength of competition in either conference as exists this season. But I am saying that any chatter about roster turnover is probably overblown from a minutes-played point of view, and that what we end up getting out of the moves Danny Ainge made this summer may actually end up being a most welcome surprise, or at worst, another showdown with LeBron in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

I kinda think it's gonna go better this time, don't you?

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Data: basketball-reference.com
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