Saturday, September 24, 2005

Offseason Overview: Boston Celtics

As expected, Antione Walker and Gary Payton left during the offseason, giving the Celtics an incredibly young team for 2004-2005. They will be relying on a whole lot of players with less than three years of NBA experience, which could create some new fantasy options, or it could mean that the vets will be even more valuable.

The Stud: Paul Pierce, SG
After a three-year stretch where it looked like he was on the verge of being one of the truly dominant players in the league, Pierce has had two straight down seasons. But last year really wasn’t all that bad. Sure, his scoring was the lowest it’s been since the 99-00 season, but all of his other numbers stayed relatively steady and he was able to shoot 45.5%, way up from 40.2% the previous season. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to keep that whole gain, but Pierce is an unquestioned first option superstar who has missed just five games over the past five seasons. There’s a lot to be said for a player like that. There’s a good chance he’ll slip to the second round, where he’ll give the owner that snags him a fantastic one-two punch.

The Support: Ricky Davis, GF
Even though he only started 11 games last year, Davis was able to be a consistent contributor. He’s one of the most accurate shooting swingmen around, which helps offset his unexciting rebound, assist and steal totals. You know that he’s one of those players who is always looking out for his stat line, which is something fantasy players have to love. And it looks like he should be in the starting lineup this year, which is another reason to get excited. In 11 starts last year, Davis averaged 17.1/3.8/2.2 with 1.4 steals. He quietly finished 65th on the player rater last year (he’s another player who is quite durable) and should make a solid mid-round pick.

The Supporting Support: Raef Lafrentz, FC
He had plenty of doubters after appearing in only 17 games in 2003-2004, but Lafrentz stayed healthy, appearing in 80 games and finishing in the top 50 of the player rater. The numbers don’t really jump out at you – he didn’t get 2.5 blocks per game like he did a few years ago – but 11.1/6.9/1.2 with 1.0 3s, 1.2 blocks, 0.5 steals, 50% and 81% is about as well-rounded as it comes for a center. If he feels more comfortable in his second year removed from surgery and can improve on his 27.5 mpg, he could see a bump in his numbers. But he seems just as likely to miss a significant number of games.

The Sleeper: Al Jefferson, PF
OK, so Jefferson’s probably not too deep a sleeper. But considering what he’s shown, you probably shouldn’t consider him too much more. He flashed plenty of potential last year, but remember that he’s a player who has yet to even appear in a game for more than 30 minutes. He’s also a sure bet to be a non-factor in assists and 3s, and he shot 63% from the line last year. If he blocks lots of shots and continues to hit 53% from the field, there’s a lot to like. But there’s usually someone in every league who likes to gamble a round or two early on guys like this with high upside, and usually you’re better off letting that person grab him.

The Slacker: Mark Blount, C
Who else? Actually, Blount wasn’t all that terrible last year. He wasn’t anywhere close to his second half surge of 2003-2004, but that’s your own fault if you thought he was going to do that again. His refusal to grab a rebound or block a shot was obviously frustrating, but at least he hit 53% of his shots. Still, expected to come off the bench this year, he’s not someone to draft.

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