Beyond the Big Three

The Boston Celtics made all the headlines twice last offseason during trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. However, as good as the trades looked on paper, the Celtics still had some major flaws. To get Garnett and Allen, they gutted the team, trading away talented youth and draft picks. A large collection of good players was turned into just two. Last year was supposed to be a building year, with the team simply not having the resources to surround their Big Three with legitimate talent.

And then the team went nuts. They posted the best record in the league and blew away outmatched teams on a nightly basis. The dream season ended in a thumping of a very strong Los Angeles Lakers team to seal the title.

How did the Celtics manage to get so good (and continue that success this season) with seemingly just three good players? The secret is that the Celtics found underrated players who were willing to play efficiently on offense and tough on defense. The two most underrated players are Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, the starters alongside Garnett, Allen, and Paul Pierce. In my book, the Celtics should not be called the Big Three, because Rondo and Perkins are on the same level as the three big names.

Rondo, of course, has gotten a lot of publicity this year. He’s still not a great shooter, but his blinding quickness and tenacious defense make up for it. This year his overall Composite Score ranks among the top three percent in the league and third on the team behind Allen and Garnett. However, all this publicity is a year late. Last season he ranked 17th in the league and fourth on the team, ahead of Allen. The biggest reason for this success was his defense, which ranked seventh in the NBA.

If this is the year Rondo gets his due, will next season be the year of Kendrick Perkins? His CS during the Celtics’ championship season was 81.33, 12th best in the league and third on the team. His DCS was second behind Defensive Player of the Year Garnett. Perkins can lose his temper at times and can still be called somewhat of a work in progress, but he’s a great defender in the paint. Put him next to Garnett and you can see why the Celtics are so difficult to score on.

Of course, the Big Three really are good. Kevin Garnett has been arguably the league’s best player during his career, and Pierce and Allen have stepped up their defense to go along with their already superb offense. In addition, one weakness of Composite Score is that it can be too dependent on team success at times, especially with defense. It’s possible that Perkins and Rondo rate better than they truly are thanks to the “Three Amigos” (then again, it’s also possible that Rondo and Perkins are the ones making their teammates look good). Whatever the case may be, it’s clear to stat-heads and jocks alike that Rondo and Perkins aren’t just along for the ride, but rather key pieces on a championship team.

San Antonio at Miami: Spurs
Sacramento at New Jersey: Nets
Toronto at Milwaukee: Raptors
Indiana at Denver: Nuggets
Golden State at Utah: Jazz

Prediction Record: 286-128

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