By Adam Eichstedt
Heading into the 2009-10 campaign, Boston will again rely heavily on the "Big Three" of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Age will continue to be a factor for these three, especially Garnett and Allen, who are approaching 40,000 career minutes. The front office added another aging star to the rotation, acquiring free-agent forward Rasheed Wallace. Wallace should provide Doc Rivers with another scoring big, whose inside-outside versatility can open things up for slashers Rajon Rondo and newly acquired Marquis Daniels.
For Boston to return to its championship success, it will take a collective effort on the defensive side of the ball. This was what propelled them to their last title, and is what will certainly be needed to combat the increased offensive production expected by the likes of Cleveland and Orlando in the Eastern Conference. Rivers will focus much of preseason on getting the returning starting five and newcomers Wallace, Daniels, and Sheldon Williams on the same page guarding the basket. Expect Boston to be near the top of the East in defense.
Now that Wallace is no longer a starter, his minutes will drop to 28 consistently. That number will rise if Garnett isn't 100 percent to start the season or if the Celts find themselves in a shootout and need the extra offense. Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Sheldon Williams will also factor heavily into the frontline rotation. Davis, who played at a high level in the playoffs and was rewarded with a new contract, will get 23 minutes and Williams 14. As for the guard rotation, expect Daniels to spend 28 minutes on the floor, with Eddie House receiving much the same as last year at 18. Tony Allen will suffer the most with Daniels' arrival and will watch his minutes per game drop from 19-plus to as low as 15. That, of course, leaves the typical garbage minutes of 3-10 for the likes of forwards Brian Scalabrine and Bill Walker, and guard J.R. Giddens.
Kendrick Perkins: In his sixth season with the Celtics, Perkins showed real promise as an NBA center, proving to Doc Rivers that the additional minutes were worthwhile with substantial increases in points, rebounds, blocks, and assists per game. The key this year is whether he can continue the improvement and make himself worthy of a fantasy pick. The numbers he did put up are great for the team, but not fantasy owners.
Sheldon Williams: The journeyman is on his fourth team in six years and should see his most consistent playing time since his rookie year with Atlanta. That said, he remains a face-up big who will need to prove himself defensively to stay in the mix. Don't expect much improvement in offensive production.
Kevin Garnett: The focus from the outset will be how KG performs on the repaired knee, which will ultimately concern fantasy owners in terms of how high to take him. Consider that the team's depth will allow Doc Rivers to rest Garnett more frequently, especially early on in the season, and there will likely be another decrease in his overall production. He will still put up numbers in multiple categories, which is always a bonus, however, he'll be hard-pressed to increase the points, rebounds, and blocks. Always known as an above-average passer, KG should find a way to pump the assists per game back over three. Back to the original question of how high to take him, consider that coming into the season he is still a top-five PF, so taking him in the late second or third round should be worthwhile.
Paul Pierce: The captain started 81 games last season, marking the sixth time Pierce has topped 80 in his 11- year career. After seeing his points per game drop below 20 in 2007-08, Pierce surged to 20.5 and should see another small improvement, approaching his career average of 22.9. A top-25 scorer who also puts up respectable numbers for boards (6.3 career average) and assists (3.9), the Kansas-alum is also a safe second- or third-round pick.
Rasheed Wallace: For the first time in his career, Wallace will see what life is like coming off the bench. The 14-year veteran was brought in primarily as a means to relieve pressure from the "Big Three" and as a stopgap measure should KG's knees force him off the floor. That translates into 'Sheed dropping heavily in fantasy value. Previously a reliable second or third power forward on a fantasy roster, Wallace now finds himself as a fifth scoring option at best and thus, a skeptical pick to start the season.
Glen Davis: Some clutch work in KG's absence, especially in the playoffs, earned Big Baby a new two-year, $6.5 million contract. The Celtics expect Davis to continue his development and increased production. That may be a tough challenge in 2009-10 with Garnett's return and Wallace's arrival. Like Wallace, Big Baby is in place to help the team win a championship, which won't translate into him being a part of any fantasy titles.
Brian Scalabrine: In a contract year, the ninth-year pro will remain a small role player - provided the frontline stays healthy - who needs to continue his heady play when the opportunities are given.
Bill Walker: Garnett's knees aren't the only ones being watched at the start of the season. Walker still possesses tremendous upside with his athleticism, but will have to prove his worth during garbage time, once he returns from a torn meniscus that will keep him out 6-8 weeks. Keep an eye on this, as Walker may be worth some late-season consideration in keeper leagues, should the depth ahead of him not return for 2010-11.
Ray Allen: Even at age 34, Allen is a prime fantasy commodity, dropping free throws at better than 95 percent last year and treys at nearly 41-percent. He won't score, rebound or steal like he used to, but you can count on him to be near the top of the league in threes made, and he'll still contribute somewhat across the board.
Rajon Rondo: Rondo's development into a top-tier NBA point guard continued last season. Career highs in points (11.9), assists (8.2), rebounds (5.2), steals (1.9), and minutes (33.0) have certainly increased his fantasy stock. Quite possibly the most revealing stat of Rondo's growth is the rise in his shooting percentages. The more comfortable Rondo becomes with his stroke, the more valuable he will become, provided he continues to attack the rim without fear.
Marquis Daniels: One of the hardest working sixth men in the league, his contributions to the team tend to come in the form of the intangibles. The former Pacer made some fantasy noise in 2008-09 as a starter, putting up a career high with 13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. He will be hard-pressed to match that with the Celtics. His minutes will return to the mid- to upper-20's, so expect his production to also return to that of his days with the Mavs in 2004-05 and 2005-06. A plus for Daniels, the health and durability of an aging Allen could bump up his minutes and even lead to a few starts in the second half of the season.
Eddie House: An energy player, House has shown some promise in his two seasons with Boston. The 10-year journeyman will have the occasional game where he catches fire from deep and puts up big numbers; however, it's not enough to merit fantasy consideration.
Tony Allen: Allen will be hurt the most by the addition of Daniels to the backcourt rotation. His best asset is on the defensive end of the court, although a decrease in minutes this season will mean each possession becomes more crucial for him to demonstrate his value to the team and not fantasy owners.
J.R. Giddens: The lengthy Giddens spent most of last season in the D-League and logged just eight total minutes with Boston, but remains a work in progress with upside as a guy who can defend ones, twos and threes. Offensively he still needs some work, but the athleticism he possesses should keep him on the active roster in 2009-10.
Article first appeared on 9/30/09