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Learning to love the Celtics

As many of you already know, I'm probably the biggest Kevin Garnett supporter that you'll ever meet. The Timberwolves became my favorite team because of KG, despite the fact that I've never even been to Minneapolis. Then, for some inexplicable reason, Kevin Mchale decided to trade KG to his former team for a package of Al Jefferson and six guys that don't start. I knew it was coming. I sat at the Vegas Summer Basketball league arena in July and watched Mchale and Celts GM Danny Ainge talk for hours in the stands with a bad feeling in my stomach, thinking "no way. He couldn't. He wouldn't. KG already told them 'no'." Then, a couple weeks later, KG is in green. Oh yeah, did I mention, I've always HATED the Celtics. For a kid that grew up as a fan of Dr. J and Magic Johnson, the Celts were right there with brussell sprouts and trips to the dentist on the "things I hate" list. But, with the events of this summer, I have to make a confession.

My name is Andre' Snellings, and I am pulling for the Boston Celtics to win the title.

I NEVER thought I'd be writing that sentence.

But now I find myself pulling for the previously hated Celtics. What really sucks about it…I mean besides the obvious, "I hated that team" thing, is that I was pot-committed to the Timberwolves. I've got Wolves jerseys, I've got about a hundred Wolves games on tape, I'm a regular on Wolves message boards, and I've invested into young Wolves players like Randy Foye and Rashad McCants as the Blueprint of the Future. Do I just leave that behind? Of course not. No, in the words of Bill Simmons, I'm now a basketball bigamist. But it's ok, because the Celtics and Wolves really aren't even really competing with each other. One is firmly in "win-now championship contention" mode, while the other is squarely in "youth movement/rebuild" mode. As a fan, that gives me leeway to be able to pull for both to achieve their goals with a clear conscience.

I also have a clear conscience about loving the Celtics for roto purposes, as they look to be the most fantasy friendly team east of Phoenix this year. The Celtics have three bona fide blue chippers, one potential breakout player, and at least three or four definite sleepers on it. The composition of the team is built for fantasy success. There are three dominant scorers surrounded by role players, a format that should allow Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce to each get enough shots to maintain their 20+ ppg averages. By the same token, with defenses focused on the Big Three there should be plenty of open space for Rajon Rondo to get into the lane and create offense for himself and teammates (Dalton did a great job making the case for Rondo to break out ). With KG drawing big-man double teams, Kendrick Perkins should get plenty of easy dunk and rebound opportunities around the rim for as long as his health holds up. James Posey has always been an underrated fantasy player, and though he is unlikely to start he should still pull down almost 30 minutes a night backing up the SG through PF slots. And Eddie House should thrive in the 3-point gunner role, with plenty of wide open looks due to his star teammates.

My personal fantasy draft card fort the Celtics:

Garnett - #1 overall. The last time KG played with two strong scorers, a true point guard, a defensive/banging big man, and a team full of role players he led the NBA in total points and rebounds, set a career-high in blocked shots, and was by far the best player in the league on his way to the 2004 MVP.

Allen – early second round. Like KG, Allen has had experience playing with two other dominant scorers from his days in Milwaukee. Allen set his career-highs in field goal percentage (48%) and 3-ptr percentage (43%) while playing next to two 20 ppg scorers (Glen Robinson 20.7 ppg, Sam Cassell 19.7 ppg) with the Bucks in 2001-02.

Pierce – mid/late second. Of the big three, the one I'm most worried about. Pierce has always been the number one option on offense, and will probably have to modify his game the most to fit his new teammates. But if his 3-pt shot is strong, he'll be solid enough in the other categories to remain dominant.

Rondo - Seventh round. If he does break out, could be as valuable as a fourth rounder. But if he doesn't, a mid-round pick doesn't hurt so much.

Posey and Perkins: 11th – 13th round. Once you've got your fantasy starters in place, these two make nice guys to have off the bench.

House: Last round/undrafted FA. House may not be worth drafting outside of deep leagues, but keep an eye on him. If he catches fire, could be a nice hot FA pickup.

Others to watch: Leon Powe and Big Baby Davis. The Celts are dangerously thin up front, and Perkins has a history of injury. Both Davis and Powe are young second round picks with the physicality to play in the NBA, and each have the ability to potentially step in and produce before the year is out. Don't draft them, but keep them in mind.