With the trade deadline just a matter of hours away at this point, many worried Celtics fans are looking at Boston's roster and thinking: "We need a backup small forward. We need a backup point guard."
It's true that Boston's bench at the 1 and 3 isn't ideal, but we're talking about the Celtics — the league's foremost "have your starters play 80 percent all season so that they can kill it in the playoffs" team.
In last year's playoffs, Rajon Rondo played 41 minutes per game, while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both played 39. Add it up, there were just 25 minutes of playing time for bench players at the 1 through 3 spots — an average of about eight minutes per game. Rarely did those minutes come in important stretches in the game, and rarely did the Celtics go without at least two of the Rondo-Pierce-Allen trio on the court.
The majority of those playoff minutes went to the legend that is Tony Allen, while a few were given to Nate Robinson, Michael Finley and Marquis Daniels — not exactly a murderer's row, or a different group than is present this year.
In fact, if you replace Allen with a hopefully healthy Delonte West and add Von Wafer and Avery Bradley to the mix, you have year's group. West doesn't have Allen's size, but what he gives up in that respect, he more than adds in scoring ability — and overall talent. It's true that the Celtics will have to be small 1 to 3 with Pierce off the court, but they'll be able to compensate for that by going big in the frontcourt. Having Bradley in the mix also gives Boston a defensive option off the bench at the point, something that the team surely lacked last year.
Add it all up and Boston's backcourt rotation is probably a little better than it was 2010, and the team is surely deep as can be up front — assuming Shaquille O'Neal can play.
There is, of course, the reality that Miami and Chicago have improved, the Knicks are suddenly interesting and Orlando is back to being the unconventional team that beat the Celtics two years ago, but other than Chicago, each of those teams has gaping flaws that the Celtics have proved that they can exploit already in the regular season. Chicago will be dangerous with a healthy Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, but their lack of a complete shooting guard and the fact that if anybody is built to defend Derrick Rose, it's Rondo mean that the Celtics probably have the advantage over Chicago as well.
Then, there are the Lakers — a team that isn't what it was last year and that the Celtics really outplayed in the 2010 NBA finals regardless — and the Spurs, a team that maximizes its pieces, but probably isn't as talented as the rest of the league's elite.
Danny Ainge may try to find veteran value as he has in years past, and he may just come up with another James Posey, but he really doesn't have to do anything. In fact, mortgaging the future — something that looks pretty uncertain in the post-Big Three era — would only have a minimal impact come playoff time given the amount of minutes rightfully given to the starting five.
In the playoffs, you win with your best players on the court, defending fiercely and making big shots in crunch time, and there's no unit better than Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Kevin Garnett–Kendrick Perkins in the league in doing exactly that. With that group intact, Boston deserves to be the favorite to win it all — additions to the bench or not.
Do you think the Celtics need to make a trade? Leave your thoughts below.
Feb 16.: Should Doc Rivers hold Paul Pierce out of the All-Star Game?