While the NBA continues to undergo what the writer Bethlehem Shoals once termed “the positional revolution,” the Celtics largely have stayed true to traditional lineups. There was good reason for this.
In Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett they had four players who not only fit the archetypes of their positions, they could have served as the model for how we think about point guards, off guards, small forwards and power forwards.
All that was missing was a center, and over the years they have used Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and the O’Neal brothers to varying degrees of effectiveness. Coach Doc Rivers also used Glen Davis as an undersized 5, but the one time he was truly able to display a unique look was during the championship season of 2007-08 when James Posey took the court with the other four starters.
That all began to change last season when Rivers moved Garnett to the 5 and inserted Brandon Bass into the starting lineup. The change was enormously successful, but the C’s ran into trouble during the postseason against teams like Philadelphia and Miami that could throw multiple combinations at them and create matchup advantages at various positions.
The Celtics lacked depth, which was a major problem, but they also lacked the personnel to counter some of these moves. That may have changed this offseason when they added Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green to the mix. All three players can play multiple positions. And in loading up on 7-footers (Jason Collins, Darko Milicic and Fab Melo) to go along with Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger, the Celtics should be deeper, bigger and more versatile.
At some point this winter they also will welcome back Avery Bradley, who found a home playing off the ball on offense while applying tenacious ball pressure on the defensive end of the court.
“When he comes back, I don’t know if anyone has a better guard core than us, but we’re going to have to wait for that,” Rivers said. “In the meantime we have three guys who can all play multiple positions. That’s the way I would always want to coach, and I have an opportunity to do that.”