Why Amar’e Stoudemire is the clear choice for MVP

The New York Knicks have struggled for the years, we all know that. But now they are heading in the right direction thanks to the arrival of one man: Amar’e Stoudemire. One who should be rewarded with MVP honours when the season draws to a close.

At the time of writing, the Knicks are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 22-15 record. At this time of the season, they would usually have a losing record and be heading straight for the Lottery. But with the arrival of Amar’e the Knicks have been transformed and are looking like a good bet for the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong: just because Amar’e is on their team, the Knicks are not going to win a championship this season, or next season for that fact (unless they can somehow get ‘Melo and prise Chris Paul away from the Hornets this summer). The Celtics, Heat, Magic and the Bulls are much stronger than the Knicks at the moment and will ensure that their hopes of a championship are just a dream at the moment.

Lets get back to Stoudemire. The former Phoenix Suns forward has averaged 26.2 points and 9 rebounds this season, which is good enough for second place in scoring behind Kevin Durant. But the MVP race is not about the best player, it’s about the Most Valuable Player. And that’s what Stoudemire is.

If you look at the Knicks supporting cast compared to the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs and Heat, there’s no comparison. Yes, the Knicks upgraded last summer with Ray Felton, Turiaf, Anthony Randolph and Landry Fields (who in my opinion was a steal and has been the surprise performer from this year’s rookie class), but the addition of Stoudemire has taken the Knicks to the next level.

When Amar’e signed for the Knicks last summer on a 5-year, $100m dollar contract, I thought it was a lot for a player that played zero-defence and only looked good in Phoenix because of Steve Nash. I guess I was wrong…

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Are the Thunder (and Kevin Durant) in danger of becoming overrated?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the way up, there’s no doubt about that. Fresh from a 50 win season and a trip to the playoffs, where they ran eventual champions Los Angeles Lakers close before succumbing in 6 games, expectations have increased considerably. Kevin Durant has come off a summer as the star of Team USA’s run to a gold medal and Russell Westbrook could be set for a breakout season as an All-Star, but how far can this Thunder team go this season?

Let’s start with Durant. Last year’s scoring champ is a sensational player that can score from anywhere and after Kobe retires, could very well take up the crown of the NBA’s best player. But claims that he will run away with the MVP and is the best small forward in the NBA (ahead of Lebron) are completely exaggerated. For the record, I think Durant will win the MVP award this season but I don’t think he’s better than Lebron at the moment, or even Melo at the moment (at least not offensively, as he lacks the post game of Anthony).

Then there’s the Thunder. Durant is a superstar, Westbrook in my opinion, can be an All-Star this season, and then you have a set of one-dimensional role players in Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Nenad Kristic, with young players like James Harden, Cole Aldrich and Eric Maynor yet to show their full potential. The problem though for OKC is their frontcourt, which has been well documented as a problem area. They just don’t have the size that the Lakers, Blazers or Mavs and lack the experience of a Spurs. Nenad Kristic, Cole Aldrich and Jeff Green, no matter how you put it, don’t match up to the likes of Dirk, Tim Duncan and Gasol and the various other 7-footers in the West.

I do like the Thunder and believe in a few years, when Durant begins to hit his peak, that they could take over the Lakers when Kobe begins to decline. But reports that the Thunder will be the second seed in the West automatically and get to the Western Conference finals are exaggerated, especially as they lack the playoff experience of a team like the Spurs.

Where do Melo and the Nuggets go from here?

The press coverage surrounding the Denver Nuggets and their superstar forward Carmelo Anthony has been going on for weeks now: the will he/won’t he saga about Melo’s future continues to go on, but despite the constant rumours: are the Nuggets better holding on to or getting rid of their franchise player?

The rumours of a four team trade involving the Nuggets, Nets, Jazz and Bobcats are set to be “dead”, according to sources. While Denver are understandably cautious to offload their best player, they do not want to see him leave for nothing in the summer, just like the situation in Cleveland with Lebron. Melo, on the other hand, has watched the likes of Lebron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh form the super-trio in Miami this offseason and wants to win a championship, and feels that is not a possibility in Denver. While Carmelo has performed a U-turn and said he never demanded a trade and wants to stay with the Nuggets, if he is unwilling to sign that 3 year, $65 million extension, they need to look at trading him, particularly before the trade deadline.

If the Nuggets are looking to trade Anthony this season, they will never be able to get the exact value back, as Carmelo is a top 5 player in the league and there is no chance of getting a Lebron, Kobe, Wade or Durant back. What they can hope for though is a solid building block for the future or a player that is just on the cusp of being an All-Star, that they can pair with the likes of Chauncey Billups, Nene and Kenyon Martin.

Melo has refuted speculation that he is unhappy in Denver and insisted he wants to keep his options open. But the Nuggets will need to do something or risk losing him for nothing. Here are some trades I would look at that haven’t been in the news, as New York and New Jersey have little to offer Denver:

Sixers get: Carmelo Anthony

Nuggets get: Andre Igoudala, picks +cash (or someone like Thaddeus Young)

The Sixers get a go-to-guy in Anthony who could team with promising youngsters Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner in Philly. The Nuggets get a good replacement in Iggy, who doesn’t have to be the number 1 option in Denver and can sit behind Chauncey Billups. The only thing is would Melo be happy in Philly, or would this be just a one-year rental?

Blazers get: Carmelo Anthony

Nuggets get: Greg Oden, Nic Batum +picks

The Blazers get another superstar to pair with Brandon Roy and would be an instant title contender with a lineup of Camby, LaMarcus Aldridge, Melo, Roy and Andre Miller. The Nuggets need size and get former number 1 pick Oden, who still has amazing potential and when healthy, is productive, as well as Nic Batum, who also has tons of potential.

Wizards get: Carmelo Anthony

Nuggets get: Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas is no longer “the man” in Washington with the arrival of John Wall, who is the future of the franchise. Arenas notoriously had the gun suspension last season and really needs a change of scenery. His contract is huge, but Denver may be able to help him be an All-Star again, which is possible if Gilbert can stay healthy. The Wizards get Melo to pair with Wall, which could be a devastating two-punch combo. But Melo wouldn’t really find himself in a better situation than he already has?

How good does Collison’s arrival make the Pacers?

Wednesday’s 5 player, 4 team trade which saw Darren Collison and James Posey go to the Indiana Pacers, Trevor Ariza jump from the Rockets to the New Orleans Hornets, Troy Murphy go back home to New Jersey and Courtney Lee jumping ship from the Nets to the Rockets, definitely spiced up an offseason which has been, frankly, dragging since Lebron announced his “decision” and all the free agents that can actually help a team (apart from Allen Iverson) signed up. But how can Wednesday’s trade help the Indiana Pacers? Can they make the playoffs for the first time since 2006 or are they destined for another trip to the lottery?

The arrival of Collison addresses the Pacers main weakness: the point guard spot. With rookie Lance Stephenson not ready to be a full-time starter, AJ Price coming off a serious injury and TJ Ford permanently in Jim O’Brien’s doghouse, Collison provides scoring and defense at the 1 and can grow into the role and make it his own for years to come. Posey’s arrival, while eating into the Pacers cap room for next summer, gives the team a veteran presence off the bench with a winner’s mentality who can defend the perimeter.

The Pacers have a number of players that are either not there yet in terms of development and are firmly in the “potential” category, or players that are over the hill with franchise-killing contracts. But if Danny Granger can rediscover the form that earned him an All-Star appearance in 2009 and can stay healthy, if Roy Hibbert can continue to develop his offensive game, and Brandon Rush can have a breakout year, the Pacers have a core of Granger, Hibbert, Collison, rookie Paul George and second year forward Tyler Hansborough that could do well in a few years.

So will the Pacers make the playoffs this season? While the East has got stronger due to the arrivals of players like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer to New York and Chicago respectively, some teams in the East have got considerably weaker (Cleveland being the obvious example). With teams like Miami, Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and Milwaukee considered almost-certs for the playoffs, that leaves teams like the Bobcats, Knicks, Nets and the Sixers fighting for those last two playoff spots.

Wednesday’s trade certainly puts the Pacers in that group with the Bobcats and the Knicks to fight for those last playoff places. If Granger and Hibbert can stay healthy and Collison can continue to build on that excellent rookie season he had while deputising for Chris Paul, the Pacers have a chance. I’m not saying they will win a playoff series, because they probably won’t and it will be a few more years and they will need to sign a couple of effective free agents next summer, but the Pacers are definitely on the right track with a nice young core to develop.

Shaq’s arrival gives Celtics one last shot at glory

It’s finally happened – Shaquille O’Neal is no longer stuck in the free agent wilderness and has signed with the Boston Celtics on a one or two year deal (depending on where you read), believed to be around the $1.4 million mark annually and joining a veteran team consisting of KG, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, new arrival Jermaine O’Neal and youngsters like Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins.

Shaq has reportedly agreed to coming of the bench in Boston, backing up Jermaine O’Neal at center until Perkins returns from his ACL injury he sustained in the Finals defeat by the Lakers. Shaq said all summer that he wanted to move a contender this summer to chase a fifth championship and put him on the same level as former arch-nemesis and teammate Kobe Bryant. But after unceremonious and bitter exits from the Heat, Lakers and Magic in the past, the Spurs not wanting to get older and the Hawks preferring Jason Collins (???), Shaq was running out of options.

So what does a team that is already aging quickly want with a 38 year old former superstar with an ego as big as his former talent? Firstly, Celtics GM Danny Ainge and those in the front office realise that this year is possibly the last chance for the current crop to win a championship in Boston. KG is a shadow of his former self and there are concerns surrounding his dodgy knees, Ray Allen has become increasingly inconsistent, Paul Pierce is the same Paul Pierce and JO was only signed as a short-term replacement for the injured Perkins.

Adding Shaq to that veteran core adds more toughness and size to Boston’s frontcourt. A frontline with a mixture of KG, Shaq, JO, Perk and Glen Davis could match up with any team in the NBA. They may not have the skill and quickness that the Lakers trio of Gasol, Bynum and Odom possess but they will be able to dominate teams like the Bulls, the Magic and the Heat with their size. Even Shaq at his age can get buckets against the likes of Joel Anthony, Big Z or whatever ring-chasing veteran the Heat wheel out at center.

What I’m saying is that Shaq going to B-Town is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Celtics. If Shaq is willing to come off the bench, won’t interfere with team chemistry and play a role, then O’Neal may get that elusive fifth ring he so desires. If it doesn’t happen, then this season will likely be the last hurrah for a Celtics team that will likely start over and rebuild when KG and Ray Allen’s deals expire in two years time.

Where do the Cavs go from here?

Rarely in basketball, or in the sports world for that matter, do you see one decision, one moment that completely rips out the heart of a franchise, even an entire city. That’s what happened last Thursday, when Lebron James ditched the Cleveland Cavaliers in favour of joining his Olympic buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, swapping Ohio for the bright lights of South Beach and the Miami Heat.

So what remains for a team that won the most games during the regular season for the last two years? Overnight the Cavs went from championship challengers to playoff hopefuls because of Lebron’s departure. The question is: are the Cavaliers lottery-bound next season or do they have what it takes to compete in an Eastern Conference that has seen the likes of Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Boston, Milwaukee and New York only get better in the last week.

Cleveland have a new coach in Byron Scott, who has the talent to ensure that the team don’t sink into obscurity at the bottom of the East in the forseeable future. Scott has experience on struggling teams, previously taking the Nets and the Hornets from the lottery to the playoffs. But does the roster have what it takes to compete in the East?

The Cavs still have most of their roster intact, only losing Lebron and backup center Zydrunas Ilgauskis to the Heat, as well as losing Shaq to free agency. They have Anderson Varejao at center, Mo Williams at the point and JJ Hickson has been told he will be the starting power forward next season, with Antawn Jamison coming off the bench. Role players like Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon are still on the roster, but the Cavs lack a go-to-guy, someone to carry the scoring load and take charge, just like a certain number 23, that is not the most popular guy in Cleveland right now, especially at the Gilbert household.

That’s the problem. All of the big-time free agents now have homes and the only way the Cavs have a chance of getting someone as good as Lebron anytime soon is by winning the Lottery next season. Cleveland had to wait until Lebron made his decision, ruling out the chance to go after young free agents like Rudy Gay, who could have been their plan B if they definitely knew the King was leaving. The Cavs also missed out on trading for Al Jefferson this week, who they were heavily linked to but signed with Utah instead.

So far, the only player the Cavs have reached out to is Houston guard Kyle Lowry, whom they signed to an offer sheet today. Houston are expected to match Cleveland’s offer, leaving the Cavs back where they started. They have been linked with a move for Atlanta Hawks forward Marvin Williams today, where Shaq would be sent in a sign-and-trade to Atlanta for Williams.

The only problem is that Williams isn’t the answer if you want to compete with the best in the East. The former no.2 pick averaged 10 points for the Hawks last season and only signed a new deal last summer, meaning the Cavs would be stuck with his contract if it didn’t work out. My answer: go for someone with a lot to prove, someone like Tracy McGrady. Sign him to a one-year deal, see if he has anything left and T-Mac should at least provide the same scoring as someone like Williams.

I expect the Cavs to struggle next season and unless they sign a proven scorer at the wing positions, they could be lottery bound. I don’t expect them to be in line for winning the Draft Lottery anytime soon, but maybe that could be the best outcome after Lebron’s defection – someone to revitalise a city heartbroken by the departure of their favourite son…

Amar’e to the Knicks? Bad move…

The long awaited free agency period of 2010 is underway, with a host of top free agents available and a host of teams with enough cap room to sign the likes of Lebron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh. So far in free agency we have seen most stars stay put and sign with their current teams: Paul Pierce stayed in Boston, Dirk remained in Dallas and Rudy Gay inked a massive 5 year, $82 million to remain with the Memphis Grizzlies.

One in-demand free agent is Phoenix Suns forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who is reportedly set to sign a 5 year, $100 million deal with the New York Knicks and be reunited with old coach Mike D’Antoni. The Knicks, who can afford to offer two max contracts, are also in the mix for other elite free agents such as Lebron, Wade and Bosh, who they pitched to last weekend.

Amar’e is one of the best power forwards in the NBA at the moment, but isn’t $20 million a year a lot of money to pay a guy who doesn’t play any D, doesn’t rebound or block shots? Yes it is, but the Knicks are desperate. Since Donnie Walsh took over as President of Basketball Operations two years ago, their goal has been to attract a star in free agency this year, even if it means stinking for two years, it will all be worth it. If they can’t get a Lebron or a Wade (and I don’t think they will), they need to get someone that can appease the fans and give them the hope that they have been lacking for years. But is Stoudemire that guy?

I am a fan of Stoudemire and he can thrive in D’Antoni’s up-tempo system, just like he did in Phoenix. But he isn’t a number one guy and will need another star, as well as a defensive presence in the frontcourt to rebound and block shots, to find success in New York. And with Joe Johnson heading back to Atlanta and Rudy Gay staying in Memphis, what will happen if Lebron and Wade reject them and head elsewhere?

The answer: I don’t think much will change in New York. With a lineup of Amar’e, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and a few rookies, they won’t be setting the Eastern Conference alight. There have been rumours floating around that the Knicks could do a sign and trade with the Warriors and the T-Wolves, where the Knicks get Monta Ellis, the T-Wolves get David Lee and the Warriors get Al Jefferson. This would be a great move for the Knicks, they would get a scoring combo-guard that could be an All-Star in their system and rid themselves of someone (Lee), who they are reportedly not going to sign anyway.

What obviously attracts Stoudemire to New York is the money, considering he turned down a $96 million deal from Phoenix last week. But if he wants to win championships more than a bucketload of money, Amar’e doesn’t go to New York, he hops onto the coatails of wherever Lebron or Wade ends up this offseason.

Where will Amazing happen? The playoffs are-a-coming – Western Conference previews

We are now approaching the end of the regular season, with each team having about 5 games left to play at the time of writing. In the West, the playoff spots are all sewn up: with the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavs, Jazz, Suns, Thunder, Spurs and Blazers all set for a trip to the postseason. Obviously, the seedings are all set to change, mainly because four teams (Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Utah) are all tied for the second spot in the West.

I am going to provide my predictions in the Western Conference playoffs, how far each team can go and their key players. The previews for the Eastern Conference will follow later this week.

1) Los Angeles Lakers (55-22)

The Lakers have sewn up the first seed out West but the defending champs are struggling, losing to the Spurs and the Thunder this week. Their are queries about the quality of their bench, Derek Fisher has been a major problem both on offense and defence this season and you cannot predict which Ron Artest will show up for the playoffs. The Lakers will need Kobe and Gasol at their best to repeat, as well as the likes of Odom and Bynum to step up.

Key man: Kobe Bryant – was it really going to be anyone else?

Prediction: I’m still going to back the Lakers to get out of the West, but not easily.

2) Dallas Mavericks (50-27)

The Mavs have got a great chance of challenging the Lakers for supremacy out West. Dirk is great, they added an underrated piece in Brendan Haywood at the trade deadline and Caron Butler can provide some scoring if Dirk is having an off-night. But can they beat the Lakers?

Key Man: Dirk Nowitzki – no other seven-footer in the NBA can shoot like Dirk, and his clutch shooting is the key for the Mavs.

Prediction: Second round.

3) Denver Nuggets (50-27)

The Nuggets reached the conference finals last year and Carmelo Anthony has continued his fine form this season. Denver have Melo, the clutch shooting of Chauncey Billups and JR Smith can shoot the lights out off the bench. They desperately need the defensive presence Kenyon Martin back though.

Key man: Carmelo Anthony – the Nuggets need Melo at his very best if they want to get out of the West.

Prediction: Conference finals

4) Utah Jazz (50-27)

At times this season, the Jazz have been exceptional, going on a something like a 12 game win streak this year and playing some excellent basketball. Carlos Boozer has been in fine form for the Jazz this year and Utah need him and Deron Williams to perform at their best to get out of the first round. Andrei Kirilenko is a key man for the Jazz, if he does well, the team does well.

Key man: Deron Williams – the point guard is one of the best in the league and his scoring and assists are vital to what the Jazz do.

Prediction: Second round

5) Phoenix Suns (50-27)

The Suns have surprised everyone this season, as many expected them to be lottery-bound. Steve Nash has been at his mercurial best and Amar’e Stoudemire has been a beast recently. The main problem for Phoenix though, is defence. Nash and Amar’e in particular don’t shine on the defensive end and against the better teams, they will get found out.

Key man: Steve Nash – the point guard’s ability to set up his teammates and make the killer pass is key for the Suns hopes in the playoffs.

Prediction: It all depends on matchups, but I think a first round exit is on the cards.

6) Oklahoma City Thunder (48-28)

The Thunder have been a revelation this season, led by their third-year superstar Kevin Durant. Durant has been in excellent form this season, ranking second in the league in scoring at 27.9 ppg, just behind Lebron James. Russell Westbrook has continued to develop into a promising point guard and rookies like Serge Ibaka have impressed. The only problem for the Thunder is that this is the first trip to the playoffs for this team, so they lack the experience that other team’s possess.

Key Player: Kevin Durant – KD is now one of the best player’s in the NBA but will find it  difficult in the playoffs as defences step up and double team him.

Prediction: First round exit.

7) San Antonio Spurs (47-29)

The Spurs are unbelievably unpredictable and you don’t know which team will show up. They have the playoff experience and Tim Duncan will continue to perform at a high level. It’s his teammates that are the worry – Manu Ginobli’s ankles are a concern, Tony Parker is injured and doubtful for the playoffs and the Richard Jefferson trade has been a disaster. If they get a favourable first round matchup, then they could progress, but with the Spurs this season, you never know..

Key Player: Manu Ginobli – Duncan is guaranteed to try hard but Manu is the key. If he can stay healthy, his clutch scoring is a massive asset to the Spurs.

Prediction: I’m going to say a first round exit like last year, but I’m not sure. If they perform to their best, the Spurs could reach the conference finals.

8) Portland Trailblazers (47-30)

And finally we come to Portland. Injuries have hit them hard – with Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla ruled out for the season early on. Marcus Camby has partially filled that gap in terms of rebounding but their frontcourt is definitely a worry. Brandon Roy is dangerous and will put up big numbers, but it looks like Portland will be facing the Lakers in the first round.

Key man: Brandon Roy – Portland’s best player will need to be at his best if the Blazers want to progress, and his pick and pop with LaMarcus Aldridge is the best in the league.

Prediction: First round exit

Stay tuned for the Eastern Conference previews, they will be following soon.

“Fall from Grace” – Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest little men to ever play in the NBA, and a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But there is no doubt that the 11 time All Star and four time scoring champion’s decline has been meteoric.

Iverson’s decline began in his disastrous stint in Detroit with the Pistons, where he was criticised for refusing to come off the bench, and his arrival saw the team slide from Eastern Conference contenders to first-round whipping-boys, as Lebron James and Cleveland made short work of the Pistons. It wasn’t all Iverson’s fault, but it didn’t help his situation in free agency last summer, when no one wanted anything to do with the 34 year old guard.

Eventually Memphis stepped in, but we all know how pear-shaped that union went. Three games, constant moaning by Iverson about having to come off the bench and a leave of absence for personal issues, saw Iverson waived by Memphis.

In December, Iverson re-signed with the Sixers, and I believed he could help the team push for the playoffs. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as the Sixers stink this season, and have currently lost five straight, after the loss to the Knicks last night. Iverson was released by the Sixers this month, only playing in 25 games for the team, after a series of personal issues and the extended absence from the team, that Iverson had to have to look after his ill daughter.

These personal issues have derailed Iverson’s career and look to threaten his post-basketball well being. ESPN reported last week that Iverson is suffering from gambling and alcohol issues, has been banned from numerous casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City, and will “either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away”.

Add to this the impending divorce from his wife and the situation with his daughter, it seems that Iverson’s mind is not on basketball at the moment. But what will happen in the summer? Iverson is a shadow of his former self, there is no doubt about that. But he can still put up points, averaging 13.9 points and 4.1 assists this season for the Sixers.

But the excessive baggage, the non-existent defense and the refusal to come off the bench will cost Iverson dear. No team wanted him before this latest debacle, so it is hard to see who will take a chance on him this summer. He was playing for peanuts in Philadelphia anyway this season ($650,000), so he is great value for money. But it is hard to see who will gamble on the All-Star guard, especially if he refuses to play a reserve role. I hate to say it, but I think Allen Iverson’s career in the NBA is over.

The end of Boston’s Big Three?

A triple-threat of games against rival title contenders in the same week, how many of those games would you expect the Boston Celtics to win? None was the answer, as the Celtics dropped three straight to the Lakers, Magic and Hawks and came away with nothing but hurt pride.

Shaun Powell summed it up in his NBA.com column, asking whether Boston’s “Big Three” were done. I would have to agree. Boston’s blockbuster trades in 2007 transformed the fortunes of the franchise, acquiring Ray Allen from Seattle for Delonte West, Wally Sczerbiak and Jeff Green, and then an 8 player trade that brought Kevin Garnett from Minesotta. The Big Three, supported by young point guard Rajon Rondo, fulfilled expectations and won an NBA championship in 2008. Powell says:

“It was an intoxicating blend of Russell-like intimidation (KG), buttery outside shooting (Allen) and old-fashioned Celtic pride (Pierce) that carried the Celtics in 2008 and threatened to keep a choke hold on the East, if not the league, until LeBron James and/or Kobe Bryant got help.

But is that it for the Celtics? Is the KG-Pierce-Allen combination done after one championship? The problem is that injuries and age have taken their toll on the Celtics. Garnett is an old 34, Pierce is 32 and Ray is 33. Whilst they still have three players on the All-Star team this year (Pierce, KG and Rondo), you could argue only Rondo deserved the honour, with KG and Pierce only chosen because of their reputations and the weakness in the East’s roster. The Celtics are banged up, KG’s knees are a permanent issue, having missed all of the second half of the season last year and then three weeks of this season with a hyperextended right knee; Ray Allen’s game is declining and Paul Pierce, while still producing, cannot carry the team by himself. 

To show how far the “Big Three” have regressed, here are their scoring averages this season, compared to when they won it all in 2007/08:

                                                          2007/08                                                                      2009/10

Kevin Garnett                  18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg,  3.4 apg                                       14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.6 apg   

Paul Pierce                         19.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg                                         18.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.4 apg

Ray Allen                             17.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg                                         15.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg

This shows that KG, Ray and Pierce have all declined. KG in particular is averaging near career-lows this season. The acquisition of Rasheed Wallace has been a disaster, with Sheed more interested in committing technical fouls and jacking up bad threes than contributing to the team’s offence. The Celtics have been carried by the form of Rondo this season: who, despite not being able to hit a jump shot, is a constant triple-double threat and is averaging 14 points and 9 assists this season.

Don’t get me wrong: if the Celtics are healthy, they can beat any team in the League. I just don’t think they will be. And with Ray Allen’s  contract expiring in the summer, the Celtics won’t pay anything near the $20 million he is earning this season. Yahoo! sports have reported that the Celtics could trade Allen to the Sacramento Kings for Kevin Martin and an expiring contract (reported to be Andres Nocioni), which even though K-Mart is not as good a shooter as Ray, would make the Celtics younger and help that rebuilding process when they lose KG and Pierce, and have to build around Rondo in the future.