Will Re-Tooled Celtics Be Finals Contenders Next Season?

The Boston Celtics ended their season, after failing to hold onto a 3-2 edge in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual NBA Champions, the Miami Heat. Boston, went into the off-season as a club that battered and bruised, with their core players aging and plenty of questions about their short-term and long-term futures. Less than three weeks after the opening of discussions with Free Agents commenced and less than a month after the NBA Draft, the Celtics have restocked their roster, as they look to be back in the thick of the fight in October.

Celtics-Nation” cheered on Friday, after the team finalized a three-team transaction, that netted Boston 26-year-old shooting guard Courtney Lee, as the “Boston Globe” reported that the team acquired the Free Agent in a sign-and-trade deal involving the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

According to the paper’s sources, Lee who recently completed his fourth season in the Association and his second straight with the Rockets, got a four-year deal from the Celtics. He averaged 11.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists  per game this past campaign and has career averages of 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

The Rockets will receive forward JaJuan Johnson, guard E’Twaun Moore, center Sean Williams and a future second-round Draft pick from Boston, while the Blazers will get swingman Sasha Pavlovic and a second round pick as well. It is highly likely, that Houston and Portland will release all of the players sent to them from the Celtics, however they are not eligible to re-sign with Boston until the 2013-2014 campaign.

It is probable that Lee will begin the next season with Lee as the starter at the two-slot, as Avery Bradley who became the starter at the position late in the past campaign, will most likely start next season on the sidelines as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told reporters, that the team’s main concern is for Bradley to come back healthy, rather than quickly. Rivers said “Avery’s great, but we’re not going to have him for a while. It’s going to be great to know we’re getting him back at some point. But we’re not going to rush him, and that’s going to be really important, that he not rush himself.”

Although the Celtics did lose a key player in veteran guard Ray Allen, as he took his talents to South Beach, the team retained big man Kevin Garnett and brought back forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, plus center Chris Wilcox, giving them needed depth in their front-court. Boston also helped soften the sting of Allen signing a deal with Miami, by bringing on former NBA Sixth Man Of The Year Jason Terry, who will lead the second unit as a sharpshooter.

Boston also had a Draft, that garnered them a player who could be a future All-Star, as reports of possible back problems allowed Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger to slip into the Celtics grasp. The team also picked up two players from Syracuse; unpolished center Fab Melo and forward Kris Joseph.

Rivers critiqued his three rookies performance in the Las Vegas League Summer Games before they played on Thursday night. The Boston bench boss said “Sullinger has done what we thought he could do,” Rivers said. “He can pass. He can rebound. He can shoot jump shots. I think his scoring on the post will be against same size or smaller guys. I think he will struggle against bigger guys on the post. That’s fine. Kris Joseph is better than advertised. Fab is just a project that I think will be a player in this league at some point. I don’t think it will be next year.”

If Green and Wilcox can recover fully as expected from heart surgeries and Sullinger’s back remains trouble-free, barring an injury to any of the players previously mentioned as well as All-Stars Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, Boston heads into next season far healthier and with much more depth than the team that ended this past season falling one game short of their third Finals appearance in four years.

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