Several of the best Celtics and NBA bloggers in the business were kind enough to join me for a roundtable to discuss the upcoming NBA season. They are, in no particular order, Jimmy Toscano of Celtics Blog, Jay King of Celtics Town, Ethan Noroff of Bleacher Report, Jeff Clark of Celtics Blog, Steve Alexander of Rotoworld, Jon Duke of Celtics Stuff Live, Jessica Camerato of CSNNE.com, Brandon Paul of CLNS Radio, and John Karalis of Red'sArmy.com. This is the second installment in a series previewing the season.
We were going to tackle Glen Davis in this space, but it looks like he might be out the door. Since training camp starts this afternoon, it's a good time to look at two players who the Celtics currently have in house (we're assuming Green will be in the fold) who have plenty of question marks going forward. Let's get to it.
-- What is Jeff Green's ceiling? Is there upside we haven't seen?
If Green realizes all his potential (which is as loaded a word as you'll find), I'd peg him for a good third option... and maybe even a decent second option. He has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways, and is a consistent jumper away from being pretty good.
The key to getting the most out of Green is using him correctly. It's time to stop pretending he can play the 4. He can't. Jeff Green is a small forward. If he can concentrate on playing the 3, then he can concentrate on that one particular skill set, and then maybe that skill set can help him flourish.
I know the NBA is a big boy game and you need to be ready to play where asked. But teams also need to use players properly to get the most out of them. If the Celtics stick to using Green on the wing and let him work on improving his offensive game from about 15-20 feet, they'll start to see a Green that's worth the money. It wouldn't hurt to get him out on the break more often so he can display his athleticism, but using him correctly in the half court will be where Green starts to win some fans over in Boston.
-- Can Jermaine O'Neal still be the starting center?
Judging by the rest of the NBA and what the Celtics have expected of their centers since Robert Parish left in 1994, Jermaine O'Neal can absolutely serve as a starting center for this club. Though even JO's best days have passed him by, O'Neal showed in the playoffs that can still use his size effectively and retains offensive touch around the basket that eluded even the vaunted Kendrick Perkins. The question about Jermaine, for at least the last 7 years has been his inability to remain healthy, which is of course a common issue for the AARP Celtics.
Even with all the physical gifts and experience that O'Neal provides to what is still an outstanding core, the Celtics will not go far without both a capable backup or a significant contribution from J.O. If O'Neal can suit up for 44 of the Celtics' 66 games this regular season, I'd term this season a success for J.O. Even when slowed by a balky knee last season, O'Neal was product and I see no reason for that to change... so long as he can play.
I should only have to say two words to help Celtics fans answer this question: Jermaine O'Neal. It's not the talent level or ability to play the center position that should make Celtics fans worried about Jermaine O'Neal as their starting center. It's the injury bug that seems to be madly in love with O'Neal throughout his career in the NBA. Due to the fact that O'Neal could go down at any time, it's very important for the Celtics to establish an insurance policy at the center position.
Although the day of "true centers" in the NBA has come to an end, it's still one of the most important pieces of an NBA roster. When push comes to shove, Allen, Pierce, and Garnett are still going to score their points and put up the majority of points for the team. However, if Jermaine O'Neal goes down, it's going to be trouble for the Boston Celtics if they don't sign an insurance policy (or two) at the center position.