Preseason Auditions for Celtics’ Reserves Provide Promising Returns: Fan’s Take

The Boston Celtics completed a successful, but abbreviated preseason schedule; defeating the Toronto Raptors in successive games. The past two weeks have been fairly challenging for the Celtics; as they have assembled an entirely new reserve unit, along with dealing with the loss of a key returning player from last season.

Team president Danny Ainge masterfully assembled a bench unit in a matter of days; utilizing limited financial flexibility to obtain free agents while also remaining active in several trade options to change the make-up of the team's roster. Amidst the flurry of trade talk and free agent arrivals, head coach Doc Rivers was challenged with preparing a talented but aging core of players for the physical demands of a shortened NBA season.

Complicating matters was the news that returning forward Jeff Green would be lost for the season due to a heart ailment. The loss from a personal perspective justly overshadowed the impact on the team's strategy; which needed to be altered as a result of the troubling news. Of much relief, news was later released that the condition Green suffers with is correctible through surgery and he will likely be able to resume his career next season.

Replacing Green's contributions will be challenging; but the talent assembled on the roster appears to be more than adequate to support the very productive and intact starting five from last season. In the two preseason games, the Celtics demonstrated the assembled depth may be more than enough to remain in contention for an NBA title. Unlike Celtics teams of recent seasons, this assembly of players provides more substance than style. Gone are personalities like Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Glen "Big Baby Davis", and Shaquille O'Neal; replaced by more workmanlike players such as Keyon Dooling, Brandon Bass, and Chris Wilcox.

Contrasting the personalities of the players alone is one measurement of the bench improvement; the expected contributor roles each player is even more encouraging. Dooling, Bass, and Wilcox have each played very similar roles than the ones they assume in Boston and have been not only satisfied, but also productive. The dilemma faced with forcing a former star player into a contributing role will not be nearly as difficult as it has been in recent years. The new players also bring relative good health to the equation; critical for the Celtics as healthy depth will be the team's greatest challenge in this 66-game sprint to the playoffs.

While two games do not make a season, the early returns from these players have been positive. Dooling has filled in well as the reserve point guard; while Bass and Wilcox both demonstrated strong offensive and rebounding capabilities; with Bass bringing greater athleticism to the reserve power forward role than that of his predecessor, Glen Davis.

The contributions of the bench are more than just the aforementioned players. Marquis Daniels has made a remarkable recovery from neck surgery last season to correct instability in his spine. His performance on the floor has been impressive; as Daniels has demonstrated the smooth floor movement and defensive skills that were his trademark before last season's surgery. His presence has given hope that the value once hoped to be brought from his arrival the past two seasons will finally be realized. The bench production this preseason also goes beyond the veterans; as rookies E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Greg Stiemsma gave promising contributions well when called upon.

More than ever before, the depth of the Celtics roster will be critical to the team's success. The initial play of the Boston starting five has been impressive and seamless; with the exception of Paul Pierce, who is nursing a sore heel and is expected to return to full health shortly. While the overall health of the starting five will dictate the eventual outcome of this team, knowing that quality players are available and at the ready give this Celtics fan hope that one final championship run is not out of the question.

Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.


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Updated Thursday, Dec 22, 2011