We were an incredible team last season. 66 wins, the league's best defense, and the epitome of team play--we did a lot of things right on our way to become champs. But with the new season comes some changes and new challenges. We lost a key member from last year's team (Posey left for New Orleans) and we're hoping some of our bench players will step up their games and play bigger roles. All 29 teams will come at us hard and try to upset the champs, meaning every player on our 12 man roster will need to be ready to do their part to keep the hound dogs from getting to our trophy.
So here are my 5 Keys to another successful season
1) Team work. It all started from the top last year, as Doc stressed unity and team work, and it was set forth by our Big 3, who showed they could set aside their egos and demonstrate unselfishness (sometimes almost to a fault). In the end, the entire team bought into the "team" concept and that was one of the biggest reasons we became champs. Same things need to happen this season. We bave former role players stepping into bigger roles (Tony, Powe, House), and new players trying to fill specific niches (Patrick O'Bryant, Darius Miles, Gabe Pruitt). These guys comprise our bench and its important they continue in the vein of teamwork. All 12 players need to be playing as single unit.
2) Team defense. Maybe the biggest key to last season (maybe even trumping team unity) was our team defense. By far, we were the league's best defensive team--so good, in fact, that we made the LA Lakers look overmatched in the NBA Finals (and that's no easy task--the Lakers came out of the tough Western conference with a lot of confidence). Tom Thibodeau and his brilliant defensive orchestration will be counted on, once again, to make us the best defensive team on the planet. We have some new looks that may help us be better defensively than last year. O'Bryant gives us height and length that we didn't have previously at the Center spot, and Darius gives us a long and lanky SF, which we also didn't have. If the new guys can keep up the defensive intensity we had last year, we're in very good shape.
3) Rajon's 13 ppg. To me, this is a big key. If Rajon can average between 13 and 15 ppg, we can't be stopped offensively. He scored 10 ppg last season, but that was mostly on last resort shots. His reluctance to capitalize on soft defensive coverage on him forced the Big 3 to work a bit harder to keep the offense running smoothly. Factor in Perk's limitation offensively and we were mostly playing 3 vs. 5 on offense. No wonder Ray didn't get many open looks (his FG% was under 45%, and should have been much higher)--defenses laid off of Rajon and Perk, and focused more on KG, Pierce, and Ray. Rajon needs to step up his offense and make defenses pay for sagging off of him. Its time he used his quickness and penetration skills to his advantage; its time he got a bit selfish to benefit the team. If he does this, opposing teams will have to figure out another way to beat us.
4) Tony's emergence as our 6th man. Tony has got the goods to be a key player for this team. He can be valuable both offensively and defensively. But what he lacks is consistency--he's here one game and gone the next. If Tony can show up for 3 games out of 4, that will be a huge improvement, and that will give us a legitimate threat off the bench (a guy who can replace Posey's importance off the bench). His scoring and playmaking ability gives us a reliable scoring option off the bench. His ability to shadow his man and get his hands into their pockets gives us a ball thief, which leads to more fastbreak opportunities. These are key aspects Tony can provide, if he's ready to be a consistent player.
5) Leon, the mini Al Jefferson. Not since McHale and Al Jefferson have we had a guy who can do damage in the low blocks with the ball in his hands. Powe is not quite as efficient as those two artisians, but as a bench player he won't need to be. He'll be going up against 2nd stringers who he can handle, and when he plays alongside of KG, he'll face the weaker opposing big man. We'll need him to give us 8 ppg and 5 rpg, and Powe is more than up for the challenge.
These are my 5 keys to a successful season, and I do believe all are highly attainable.
Good stuff Derren. I agree with all of your keys. But, I would add staying healthy to these. We have seen too many teams derailed by a key injury. Perk's shoulder must hold up. He is also a big key to the play of this team although he doesn't get enough credit for it. But, a major injury could end this team's hopes to repeat.