The Boston Celtics have stuttered out of the blocks for the 2012-13 NBA Regular Season. After four games in little more than a week, the Celtics have a record of 2-2. A loss on opening night to the Miami Heat wasn't overly disappointing, but the Celtics were exposed on the night as the Heat played better team basketball.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Heat were a team with much better chemistry and decisiveness because the Celtics are still trying to find themselves. With seven new active players on the roster, the Celtics are still defining roles for players and settling on a rotation. At different times of the year the rotations will adjust to keep older players like Kevin Garnett fresh, but first Doc Rivers must find his best combinations.
One of those new faces has already forced a lineup change. Rookie first round draft pick Jared Sullinger has already forced his way into the starting lineup, just a handful of games into his career. Sullinger replaced Brandon Bass after the team started off 0-2, the second loss coming against the Milwaukee Bucks. Even though Bass has dropped to the bench, he has remained a prominent piece of the rotation notching 28 and 33 minutes from the bench. Sullinger has jumped from averaging 13 minutes per game to 26 as a starter.
Considering he is a 20 year old rookie, there is no guarantee that Sullinger will remain in the starting lineup all season. In fact, it is more likely that he ends up back on the bench before the end of the season.
Surpassed the starting lineup, the Celtics need to figure out who is going to be their sixth man this season, or if they are going to rotate two players into the lineup as sixth men. Jason Terry has made a living off of coming off the bench, but a healthy Jeff Green offers the Celtics athleticism that they don't possess elsewhere. Once Avery Bradley returns from injury, he and Courtney Lee will wrestle for the starting spot, with the loser dropping into competition with Green and Terry off the bench.
Then what to do with Leandro Barbosa, who has started the season in fine form averaging 5.8 points per game in 10 minutes. Barbosa has been used sparingly since exploding for 16 points in 16 minutes against the Heat. Even though he has only tallied 27 minutes in the three games since then, one would expect him to figure more prominently throughout the rest of the season.
Figuring out the front court is going to be a struggle for the Celtics all season. The backcourt should be less of an issue, but Chris Wilcox needs to redefine his role with the team after missing essentially all of last season. Surpassed Wilcox, both Darko Milicic and Kris Joseph should at least be active during the regular season, if not during the playoffs.
That trio along with Sullinger, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and even Paul Pierce who could see time at power forward in what is becoming a smaller NBA, make for plenty of eligible bodies to pick from in the paint.
Having so many players is a pleasant problem that needs solving. However, it still needs to be solved. Until the Celtics' players get used to playing with each other and Rivers can settle on his rotations, the team won't be at it's highest level of productivity on the court. Until that happens, something that could take until the all-star break, we won't know exactly who the 2012-13 Boston Celtics will be.