With Ray Allen now a member of the Miami Heat and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce further into the twilight of their careers, the 2012-2013 NBA season will see the Boston Celtics move into the next era of the franchise’s storied history. This era will be defined by Rajon Rondo’s ability to lead the team and live up to the expectation that he is one of the National Basketball Association’s premier players.
During the off season the Celtics management made the commitment to this transition regardless of whether Ray Allen was going to sign with the team or not, by telling the future hall of famer that upstart shooting guard Avery Bradley would replace him in the starting line-up when the next season begins. Bradley’s presence in the starting line-up better complements the play of Rondo than Allen’s, because Bradley can get out and run the floor better than the sharp-shooting veteran.
Once Allen committed to joining the Heat, the Celtics further committed to building the team around Rondo by signing versatile veteran guard Jason Terry and shooting guard Courtney Lee, a young lanky wing-man who can run the floor and score on a high percentage of his shots. Their signing coupled with the return of power forward Brandon Bass and multi position player Jeff Green surround Rondo with players who are athletic and can play an up-tempo style of basketball.
This is in stark contrast to the Big Three era that just concluded, where the team was built to play around the talents of Allen, Pierce and Garnett. Rondo had to play in a system that catered to their skills and was matched with post playing centers Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O’Neil, Jermaine O’Neal, Semih Erden and three point specialists Eddie House, James Posey and Mickael Pietrus who got their shots based on space created by the Big Three.
However, as the Big Three aged and Rondo’s play continued to develop the transition of the team to fit his style of play was inevitable. While Allen decided not to buy into that premise, Garrnet and Pierce have decided to accept supporting roles in the team’s transition to the next era, with Garnett shifting to the center position and Pierce deferring to Rondo as the focal point of the offense.
Time is going to tell how successful this transition will be, but it can be assumed the Celtics will have a difficult time winning a championship this season. The Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers look at least on paper like the teams with the best chance to win the NBA title this year.
Making things even more difficult for the Celtics is that for the first time in years their own division is stocked with talented opponents. The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers both improved their rosters this offseason and the New York Knicks are bringing back a gifted roster that includes an all-star front line of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
Nevertheless, the Celtics management has made the correct move to build the team around Rondo and this gives the franchise the best opportunity to compete for the championship this season.