What to watch for in Celtics camp and beyond
Since the initial flurry of outlandish trade rumors and free agent signings died off, news in Celticsland has been sparse. Marquis Daniels *officially* signed just recently, but we all knew he had committed to the team long ago, so that was another yawn. Leon Powe left town, replaced by Shelden Williams. While mildly disappointing, that swap likely won’t result in any change in the standings this season. So, with all that in mind, there’s only one place to look for an interesting angle: the future.
Here are five under-the-radar developments to keep an eye on during the preseason (the Celtics play eight games, starting on Oct. 7 and ending Oct. 21) and beyond:
1. Rajon Rondo’s free-throw shooting
Rondo has improved his shooting every year from the field and from three-point range. He’s not a good shooter yet, but he’s at least getting close to serviceable, which could catapult him to the status of unquestioned best player on the team within a year. He’s already the best all-around player in that he can dominate a game while only scoring eight or nine points, but his ability to score off of himself in the half-court set will determine how high he can fly in this game. However, the easiest way for Rondo to improve immediately and make himself a late-game option is to up his free-throw percentage. He’s a career 63.5 percent shooter, and only barely topped that number this past year at 64.2 percent--which is actually worse than he shot his rookie year. Up that percentage to 75 and Rondo should be an All Star this year--ahead of his other teammates (assuming Kevin Garnett et al can convince him to stop swiping at the ball on defense, not that All Star voters will really notice that though).
2. Shelden Williams’ scoring
He doesn’t figure to get too many minutes, but his rebounding could be a real asset for this team if he learns how to convert easy baskets a la Kendrick Perkins. Plus, if there’s an injury among the old folks up front (KG, Rasheed Wallace), which is likely, Williams could play an important role during the regular season, when the Green need to keep pace with their eastern rivals. Williams posted a 13.78 PER last season, as well as 14.5 points and 12 boards per 40 minutes. But, he finished at just a putrid 44.6 percent clip from the field. Up that to near 50 percent and he may prove a decent pick up after all--much to the chagrin of the team that originally selected him in the lottery, those poor Atlanta Hawks.
3. Doc Rivers’ rotation
Doc generally coaches well when he doesn’t have too many options to choose from. This year he may have that problem. If he can resist the urge to change the rotation every three games the team should operate smoothly and win between 55 and 60 games. If not, that total could fall to the 53-57 mark, possibly costing the Celtics in postseason seeding, which will be especially important with the reloaded Cavs and Magic hoping to eliminate Boston in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Doc can handle egos, but can he handle a full plate?
4. Tony Allen
Has his career come to an end? This season might be the start of the end for the formerly promising young defender. For those of you who tuned out when the C’s were busy winning 24 games just three years ago, Tony Allen was perhaps the biggest bright spot on that stain of a team for a brief moment--one that ended when his post-whistle dunk cost him a chance at a starting job in the NBA. Allen played PHENOMENAL defense and was even playing like a 20 PER offensive player for a time. Since his injury, Allen has done just about nothing. He’s shown spurts of a comeback, but hasn’t been consistent. This could be his last shot.
5. Bill Walker
Perhaps the best athlete on the team, Walker has potential. But, for second-round picks, if that potential doesn’t show early, they usually have to earn a spot on a different roster to form a real career in the NBA. If Walker plays as sporadically as he did last year because he hasn’t progressed--as opposed to because the Celtics have a good roster--then his time in Boston could be nearing a conclusion.