In the ninth installment of our twelve question series leading up to training camp, let's take a moment to recap the first eight questions:
1) Who will be the biggest surprise?
2) What should Kelly Olynyk's nickname be?
3) Who will be traded first?
4) Will Avery Bradley earn himself a new contract?
5) Seriously, when is Rajon Rondo going to be back?
6) What are the Celtics' potential strengths?
7) Why is Paul Pierce talking about a return to the Celtics?
8) With their powers combined are the Celtics' shooting guards the perfect player?
Now for the ninth question:
9) Who will the Celtics be better than in the Eastern Conference?
Obviously, there are some extenuating circumstances with this question due to Rajon Rondo's injury.
So let's take both circumstances, one at a time.
The All-Star point guard is supposed to be back by December. His absence will be felt even more than last year. Jeff Green is the next best player on this team, then there are a slew of cast-offs, retreads, and spunky young players.
If you are hoping for a Celtics playoff appearance you could be in luck because the Eastern Conference is so horrible. It's more top heavy than Dolly Parton.
So let's eliminate the teams we know will be better than the Celtics:
The Top Tier:
Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets.
Without Rondo there are another handful of teams that will probably be better.
The Middle Tier:
All of these teams would present a challenge to the Celtics due to increased star power. Kyrie Irving, Josh Smith, and John Wall are all looking to have big years. Cleveland is looking to make a leap (this year's Golden State Warriors potentially).
The Pistons have a huge line-up and some solid young guard play. Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Josh Smith could be a nightmare match-up for the Celtics and a lot of other teams. John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. could turn into a dynamic trio in Washington.
The Hawks are always solid, even after losing Smith they added Paul Milsap and the Raptors finished last season pretty strong after acquiring Rudy Gay.
The Celtics will have good games against these teams, but will lose some and win some of them.
The Bottom Tier (it won't matter if Rondo is playing or not…)
Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats.
These teams are all looking ahead to next season. The word patience will be used plenty of time by these three teams this season. Building a team can take a long time, the fans of these three teams will learn that this year.
When Rondo returns, the debates begin with regards to the teams in the Middle Tier.
The most important thing Rondo's presence will do is slide Avery Bradley over to the shooting guard spot, where he is much better. Both Rondo and Bradley are good defenders, as long as Rondo does not take silly risks when playing on the ball defense.
That would make the games against the Middle Tier more competitive. Cleveland would be a team that seems like it will still be better than than the Celtics. Kyrie Irving has feasted on Boston defenses (and Rondo) in his career. He averaged 23.5 points per game and shot 52% from the field.
The Pistons, with their formidable big men compared to the Celtics' green (pun-intended) big men, will probably handle the Celtics over the course of their season series. A good defensive back-court and a stable of mediocre shooting guards does not really match-up with the Pistons. Obviously, Josh Smith could hurt that team considering his size.
Can he co-exist with Drummond and Monroe? Can he play small forward? Did he find a "shooting filter" so he's not taking bad 19 foot jumpers.
The Pistons still feel like a better team than the Celtics, with or without Rondo.
The Washington Wizards seem like a playoff team, possibly an 8 seed. The three young stars are solid, but can Wall stay healthy? He has not proven that he can play a full season. The depth of the Wizards is also in question. They do not have much after Wall, Beal, and Porter Jr. Nene, Trevor Ariza, and Eric Maynor have proven themselves as serviceable NBA players. But that's the end of it. Can they compete with such a thin roster and an injury prone point guard? They probably can in the Eastern Conference. However, this team is a lot like the Celtics, but with some more star potential. This Wizards team is probably very closely matched with the Celtics when Rondo returns. They'll have some good competitive games.
Check back later for a break-down of the other Middle Tier teams in comparison to this Celtics squad.
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- Boston Celtics Training Camp Countdown – 12 Questions: Will Avery Bradley Earn Himself a New Contract?
- Boston Celtics Training Camp Countdown – 12 Questions: Who Will Be the Biggest Surprise This Season
- Boston Celtics Training Camp Countdown – 12 Questions: Who Will Be Traded First?
- Boston Celtics Training Camp Countdown – 12 Questions: What are the Celtics’ Potential Strengths?
- Boston Celtics Training Camp Countdown – 12 Questions: Seriously, When Will Rajon Rondo Be Healthy?
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