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NBA power rankings 2012: Veteran Celtics top 5 squad to start year

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The Boston Celtics are once again expected to be one of the league's best teams, with the Big Four trimmed to a Big Three featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo.

Jared Wickerham

The Boston Celtics are a year older, but still should find themselves among the top squads in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics were only a game away from the NBA Finals last season, after pushing the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. They're without Ray Allen, now on the same Heat, for the first time since the year before their 2008 NBA Championship, but still boast a core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce - now 36 and 35 respectively - and the ever-more-impressive Rajon Rondo. While the team's Big Four has become a Big Three, there's more depth for a veteran group used to winning.

Seth Rosenthal considered the team a top five squad, placing Boston at No. 4 in his initial NBA Power Rankings.

Like the Lakers, Boston is very much at the mercy of age and health. With offseason additions like Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Jared Sullinger, it appears deeper and better prepared for obstacles. Even in full health, Boston will run into occasional offensive doldrums, but that defense still looks strong. It kinda just hit me how thoroughly irritating (and potentially lethal) Terry will be as a Celtic.

The Celtics will be among the first teams to tip off their season, playing their season opener at 8 p.m. Tuesday on TNT, facing off against the team that beat them last season, the Heat.