Celtics trail Heat in NBA East futures odds

By: Michael Robinson | Thursday, October 21, 2010
Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo posted a career-best 9.8 assists per game in 2009-10.

The Boston Celtics are the defending Eastern Conference champion and were oh-so-close to their record 18th banner, so why is there so little buzz coming out of Beantown?

The big reason comes 1500 miles to the south with the Miami Heat adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade, forming one of the best trios in NBA history (at least on paper).

Miami and Boston will begin the regular season on Tuesday, Oct. 26, with the Celtics opening as one-point home ‘dogs in early odds.

The Celtics originally coined the term ‘Big 3’ in the 1980s with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. It was recycled when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were brought aboard in 2007 to join Paul Pierce, and instantly won a title.

The Celtics almost won another ring last year after an injury-filled 50-32 regular season. They beat Wade and Miami (4-1), James and Cleveland (4-2), plus Dwight Howard and Orlando (4-2) before losing a heartbreaker in seven to the Lakers.

The question now remains, how much do Allen, Garnett and Pierce have left at 35, 34 and 33 respectively? Note Allen and Pierce were just re-signed to new contracts. Coach Doc Rivers was optimistic enough to return for the final year of his contract after almost leaving to spend more time with his family.

Rajon Rondo brings youth and energy to the starting unit at age 24 and is a consistent jump-shot away from being a superstar. More importantly, he brings an unselfish attitude that gave him a career-high 9.8 assists per game last year.

Kendrick Perkins, a 25-year-old starting center, tore his ACL during Game 6 of the Finals. His physical presence could have made a difference in the outcome. Perkins is scheduled to be out until at least February and will be worked back in slowly.

Boston would’ve been devastated by the Perkins loss in prior years, but GM Danny Ainge did a good job adding players and revamping the bench.

Jermaine O’Neal is projected as the starting center and the 32-year-old veteran could thrive as a complimentary piece. Shaquille O’Neal, self-dubbed ‘the Big Shamrock,’ will be a fan favorite as long as he’s happy with a support role.

Delonte West was a third player signed as a free agent. In addition to being LeBron’s personal nemesis, he provides value as a combo guard who can play the point on offense. That allows the 5-foot-9 (generously listed) Nate Robinson to play off-the-ball.

Throw in power forward Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis and small forward Marquis Daniels, and the Celtics have one of the best second units in the NBA.

Boston’s depth looked good during the preseason with a 7-1 record. However, benches usually play a lesser role in the playoffs as starters go more minutes. Garnett, Allen and Pierce have to be healthy and good enough to match up with the opposing team’s best.

Sustaining the defensive pressure all year is also a concern with guru Tom Thibodeau taking the Chicago Bulls head coaching job.

Looking at the Bodog.com future odds, the Celtics are 9/2 to win the conference, ahead of Orlando (11/2) and only trailing Miami (2/3). Boston is 17/2 for the NBA title, behind just Miami (17/10) and the Lakers (5/2).

The regular season win total is also interesting at 54 ½ (‘under’ minus 125). The Celtics were an impressive 26-15 on the road last year, but just 24-17 at home. Getting back towards their home dominance (70-12 combined the prior two years) would go a long way to going ‘over’ 54 ½-wins.

Boston was 33-48-1 ATS last year, 12-28-1 at home and 21-20 away. The ‘over’ was 41-39-2 in the regular season, while the ‘under’ was 14-8-2 in the playoffs with the increased defensive effort.

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