The Boston Celtics 2008-09 season officially ended when the Orlando Magic defeated the Celtics in the second round of the 2009 playoffs. Boston’s drive to defend their title, though, actually ended when Kevin Garnett’s season ended. As Table One indicates, on a per-minute basis KG was the Celtics most productive player (by a very, very slight margin). The loss of such a player meant it was very unlikely the Celtics would defend their title.
For the 2009-10 season, Garnett is expected to be healthy. And with Garnett back, Boston will once again – as the following potential depth chart indicates (derived mostly from ESPN.com) — field an imposing starting line-up [Wins Produced and Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48) numbers from the 2008-09 season].
Potential First String
PG: Rajon Rondo [17.2Wins Produced, 0.313 WP48]
SG: Ray Allen [10.6 Wins Produced, 0.177 WP48]
SF: Paul Pierce [10.2 Wins Produced, 0.161 WP48]
PF: Kevin Garnett [11.6 Wins Produced, 0.314 WP48]
C: Kendrick Perkins [5.0 Wins Produced, 0.106 WP48]
Potential Second String
PG: Eddie House [4.7 Wins Produced, 0.154 WP48]
SG: Tony Allen [1.6 Wins Produced, 0.088 WP48]
SF: Marquis Daniels [0.3 Wins Produced, 0.009 WP48]
PF: Glen Davis [-2.5 Wins Produced, -0.074 WP48]
C: Rasheed Wallace [3.2 Wins Produced, 0.073 WP48]
If we focus our attention on Boston’s starting line-up, and the numbers these players posted last year, we have to believe this team is capable of winning another title. All five starters were above average in 2008-09, and both Rondo and Garnett were three times better than an average player last season (which is really, really good).
Unfortunately there are two other sets of numbers that cast doubt on this plan. The first set of numbers involves age. The Celtics success depends on Ray Allen (34 years old), Paul Pierce (32 years old), Kevin Garnett (33 years old), Eddie House (31 years old), and Rasheed Wallace (35 years old). Last season these players produced 40.3 wins and posted a collective 0.171 WP48. Given the age of these players, one can expect the per-minute production we observed last season to decline.
Certainly one expects Doc Rivers to limit the minutes of these players. But that means giving the bench players even more time. And hence we turn to the second set of numbers that raise concerns. After we get past the formidable starting line-up, the Celtics don’t have much. Yes, the Celtics added Rasheed Wallace. But the team lost Leon Powe (0.187 WP48 last season). So it’s not necessarily the case that Rasheed makes the Celtics bench much better.
Of course, if Garnett can play the entire season, that bench may not be needed as much as it was last year. And that’s essentially the key to the entire season. Garnett and the other aging Celtics simply have to play and be productive. If that happens, the Celtics can contend. If that doesn’t happen, then Boston once again falters.
My sense is that this is well understood. Garnett is clearly the key to Boston’s chances.
That being said, I do want to address the possibility that Rasheed can be KG insurance (which some — although perhaps not many — might think is possible).
As noted, Rasheed is now 35 years old. Across his 14 seasons he has produced 68.0 Wins Produced and posted a 0.096 WP48. Average WP48 is 0.100, so Rasheed – despite his reputation – has essentially been an average player across his entire career. Yes, he’s capable of being above average. But at his age, the Celtics will be fortunate if he just reaches his career mark in 2009-10.
Turnign to KG…. Garnett was taken with the 5th pick in the 1995 draft, right after Rasheed was chosen with the fourth pick. Across the next 14 seasons, Garnett produced 272.6 wins and posted a 0.330 WP48. Yes, the difference between KG and Wallace is vast.
Like Wallace, Garnett was below his career average last season. And like Wallace, KG might have trouble getting back to his career mark in 2009-10. For Boston to win again, though, KG has to do more than get back on the floor. He has to produce at a level near his career average. If that happens, the Celtics can challenge for another title.
If that doesn’t happen, though, Boston’s players are going to age another year. And that mean the Celtics are that much closer to blowing up this particular title team up and re-building (a reality that Father Time will impose upon this franchise sooner or later).
The WoW Journal Comments Policy
Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:
Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.