Power Forward Depth Chart: Raef Is Key To Celtics Season
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With training camp underway and the regular season quickly approaching, join Celtics.com over the next few days as we take a look at the upcoming season. We'll break down each position, seeing who will probably get the minutes, and who still has to prove themselves in camp to work their way into the lineup.
Today we take a look at power forward. Entering the season this is a position that could easily be viewed as a weakness by Celtics opponents, but by season's end the Green's power forwards could be making teams pay. Raef LaFrentz is penciled in as the starter, with backup battles between Walter McCarty, Tom Gugliotta and Al Jefferson. It should be interesting to see how this position unfolds.
Tale of the Tape: 6-11, 245 lbs, Kansas, 7th season
2003-04 Stats: 7.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 46.0 FG%, 17 games played
Skinny: Of the question marks surrounding the Celtics this season, none could be bigger or have a greater impact than the play of Raef LaFrentz. If healthy, and all indications in training camp are that he is, LaFrentz could be a dominant power forward in the east. This is a guy who, over the first four years of his career, averaged around 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.00 blocks per game, and that was in the west. If LaFrentz can produce those type of number, then the Celtics could sneak up on some people.
Questions: Again, the question is whether or not LaFrentz can stay healthy. He's never played a full 82 game schedule in the NBA, but in his most productive seasons, from 1999-2002, he played 81 games and 78 games twice. Although he played just 17 games last season he had a definite impact on the court, and that was basically on one leg, so his health is key to the Celtics season.
Tale of the Tape: 6-10, 235 lbs, Kentucky, 9th season
2003-04 Stats: 7.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 37.4 3-PT%
Skinny: McCarty will once again be attempting to hold off the competition for playing time. The past few seasons it has been customary for McCarty to begin the season on the bench while others get their chances, but the sharp-shooting forward almost always ends the season in the rotation. McCarty, coming off one his best season since 1997-98, could thrive in Doc Rivers' up-tempo style. He's an athletic forward, who can consistently knock down the three-point shot. But it will most likely come down to whether the coach values McCarty's shooting, or the rebounding potential of people like Gugliotta, Perkins and Jefferson off the bench.
Questions: Does McCarty have enough to hold off the competition? He's a consummate pro that can be counted on, but like past years the people behind him have a definite upside. For McCarty, it has more to do with the young guys behind him developing. If Perkins and Jefferson show they're ready, then McCarty's time may suffer, but in past years the Celtics young players have been unable to rise to the challenge. Look for McCarty's versatility to earn him a spot somewhere in the rotation.
Tale of the Tape: 6-10, 250 lbs, North Carolina State, 13th season
2003-04 Stats: 2.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 55 games played
Skinny: Gugliotta is another guy who if healthy could make a solid contribution this season. He is a solid low post option with a reliable jump shot, but his biggest contribution could be on the boards and on defense. Googs is a tough player who knows how to play the game the right way, and should be a great insurance policy off the bench.
Questions: Health is a concern for Googs as well. The most games he's played in a single season over the last seven years is 57 in 2000-01. Encouraging signs are that he came to camp healthy, but he'll have to prove he can compete in Coach Rivers up-tempo style.
Tale of the Tape: 6-10, 265 lbs, Prentiss HS (MS.), rookie
2003-04 Stats (High School): 42.6 ppg, 18.0 rpg.
Skinny: Jefferson is in a great position. He comes to the Celtics as a guy who doesn't have to step in and contribute, but has shown that he might have the talent to do so. He's got a pretty polished post game for coming right out of high school, evident by his 42.6 points per game (remember those are only 32 minute games), and he's a tenacious rebounder. Expectations of Jefferson have risen since his impressive performance in summer league, but think of anything he can provide as bonus.
Questions: Is he ready to play? Probably not, as most kids out of high school aren't. But, not to put pressure on him, he did have an "Amare Stoudemire" feel to his game in summer league. We know one thing, Coach Rivers has not placed any expectations on him. Rivers will let Jefferson's performance dictate how much he plays. The good thing is that the Celtics are not banking on Jefferson to make a big impact.
Tale of the Tape: 6-8, 240 lbs, Mississippi, rookie
2003-04 Stats (College): 18.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg.
Skinny: Reed should spend most of the season learning in practice and showing that he has what it takes to play in the NBA. He proved in college that he can score, but questions remain about his size. He may get more of a chance to show he can play at small forward.
Questions: Reed, being a second round pick, has to show the Celtics that he belongs and has a skill that NBA teams consider useful, similar to Brandon Hunter last season with rebounding.