It's not 2008 anymore, and we all need to come to terms with that. To anticipate the Boston Celtics being on top of the world - even if the season has been shortened to 66 games - is a stretch of the imagination. There is simply too much talent in the NBA around them - the Heat, Bulls and Thunder to name a few - to expect that.
Yet don't be mistaken - the Celtics are still a competitive team, one that should still finish the year with one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. Still, before they can get to that point, they have to fill out their roster.
Sure, there are your four go-to players - Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo - who will surely carry the team this season, but beyond that, the 17-time NBA Champions have a serious lack of depth. Beyond the Big Four, the only players that the C's have on their roster are Jermaine O'Neal and sophomore Avery Bradley. Yikes.
Jeff Green and Glen Davis are the team's big free agents, while rookies JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore are currently unsigned (since, you know, the NBA lockout isn't officially over just yet) but will be reigned in before the start of the season.
So that's where they stand one day before training camp. Here's an in-depth look at them all.
Paul Pierce (Career: 22.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.8 APG; Last Season: 18.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.3 APG): It all starts with the captain for the Celtics. If the C's are going to be successful this season, they're going to need another solid season out of The Truth. Based on his career track record, that shouldn't be an issue. Pierce has proven to be one of the most consistent players of his era in the NBA, not to mention one of the greatest scorers in the Celtics' storied history. Alas, Pierce is getting older, as he turned 34 in October, and it's only natural to expect a slight decline. But again, don't expect it to be too dramatic. After all, there is a reason Pierce is a future Hall of Famer.
Rajon Rondo (Career: 10.7 PPG, 7.6 APG, 1.9 SPG; Last Season: 10.6 PPG, 11.2 APG, 2.3 SPG): Pierce may run the scoring show for the C's, but Rondo runs the floor as the point guard. And as with any team, that's extremely important. The Celtics are fortunate enough to have one of the league's premier passers and defenders in Rondo. All signs point to Rondo putting forth his usual top-notch numbers in terms of assists and steals. The main question with Rondo is his scoring. Last season, Rondo's points per game average dipped as he deferred more often. But with an aging roster, Rondo may need to handle more of the scoring load, and with his current ineffective jumper, that is a scary notion. Rondo has also built himself a reputation of being tough to coach and even having a fragile mind. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the Chris Paul trade rumors, that is, if he is still on the team come the start of the season. Will Rondo be turned off, or will he rise to the occasion and prove his worth? Only time will tell.
Kevin Garnett (Career: 19.5 PPG, 10.7 RG, 1.5 BPG; Last Season: 14.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG): Even after four years, KG is still the heart and soul of the Celtics team. He's the emotional leader, the defensive stopper and just an all-around confident player. Not to mention, he's one of the greatest power forwards ever to play the game. Yet like Pierce (and Ray Allen - who we will get to next), age has started to catch up with him. He simply isn't the All-NBA caliber player he once was anymore. That's not to say that he can't be effective or even play at an All-Star level - he did so one season ago. Like Pierce, Garnett should put forth another strong season, but it will be important to watch how his knees hold up, as injuries have put a damper on part of the Big Ticket's career in Boston. If Garnett has a similar campaign to the one he did in 2011, he'll certainly help to put Boston in prime position to contend.
Ray Allen (Career: 20.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2,612 3PM; Last Season: 16.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 168 3PM): He's the three-point king, having surpassed Reggie Miller last season for the most three-pointers made by a single player in the history of the NBA. We all know Allen can score and has a shooting touch unlike any other. He's the Energizer bunny. However, and I hate to harp on this, Allen's getting older too, and performance usually decreases with age. But again, like Pierce and Garnett, he's headed to the Hall of Fame and there aren't any signs pointing to a decrease in production. Allen has showed up at training camp in better shape than the year before (I don't know how he does it). Expect a similar level of production from Allen in what might be his final season with the Celtics.
Jermaine O'Neal (Career: 14 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG; Last Season: 5.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG): Here's where things get interesting. Jermaine O'Neal was a top-tier player when he was in his heyday ... back in 2004. Now, O'Neal appears to be a shell of his former self, at least based on his production from a season ago. O'Neal only played in 24 regular season games before coming on strong in the C's opening round series of the playoffs against the Knicks. At this stage of his career, it's safe to say that O'Neal can't be counted on for much. With the C's not expected to make a major move to acquire a big time center, O'Neal may be as good as it gets. Here's hoping that he stays healthy and can contribute in some capacity.
Avery Bradley (Career: 1.7 PPG, 0.4 APG, 0.3 SPG): Bradley is a wild card entering his second season in the league. Obviously, he wasn't able to do much in his first season out of college, splitting time with the Celtics and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League. Danny Ainge remains high on Bradley's talent, and this season will be a make-or-break campaign for the No. 1 high school prospect on the ESPNU 100 best players in the country. If he flourishes, Bradley could provide the C's with exactly what they need - a scorer off the bench who can provide Rondo or Allen with rest. Yet if things go south, he could hurt Boston's chances of picking up a defining 18th title. As of now, it's all up in the air.
JaJuan Johnson (Last Season At Purdue: 20.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.3 BPG): JaJuan Johnson was a rarity at the college level, simply because he was a four year player. But don't be fooled, he didn't have to stick around in order to make it to the NBA. Johnson is a very talented forward-center, but will need some work to adjust to the tougher level of play that the NBA has to offer. What can Johnson offer to the Celtics this year? That much is still unclear. Some thing Johnson is a run-of-the-mill player who may not wind up panning out while others think he could be the center of the future. The truth likely lies somewhere in between. With the C's lack of depth, it would be a welcome surprise if Johnson could contribute right from the start. Yet it's likely he'll need some time to adjust, which is the way it usually is.
E'Twaun Moore (Last Season At Purdue: 18 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.2 APG): Of all the players on the Celtics roster heading into this season, Moore is by far the most unknown. Unlike Bradley, who fans have had some time (if not much) to see what they're getting, we simply do not known what he can bring to the table. Moore was a solid college player, and he obviously drew the eye of Ainge and the Celtics, so one would assume there is potential talent there. In reality, Moore will probably start his career at the next level at the NBA D-League level, unless the C's come up empty in free agency.