The Celtics are approaching the depth of both the Grizzlies and the Pistons, though their frontcourt is probably not as loaded as Detroit's nor as fragile as Memphis's. They are three deep at every position, so not only would scrimmages between the first and second unit be exciting, but the third unit could pull an upset once in a while itself.
The Celtics have a long history of their second unit being able to beat the first in scrimmages, at least for the past decade or so. The reasons are five-fold:
1) The difference in talent between the first and second units have not been
2) The second unit tends to be more aggressive, as they are looking to impress the coaches for more playing time.
3) In scrimmages of limited time, anything can happen.
Besides, they don't win every game.
How will the second unit do this year against the first?
Suppose the starters are Mark Blount, Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Paul Pierce, and Gary Payton. Then the second unit would be Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson, Ricky Davis, Tony Allen, and Marcus Banks. Banks would slow down Payton tremendously. Allen would body up Pierce but wouldn't really be able to contain him. If it were a game, Pierce would explode for 30+ points, but in a scrimmage, he'd be willing to risk losing if it meant his unit ran plays more sharply. LaFrentz would draw Jefferson to the perimeter and shoot jumpers over him. Blount and Perkins would battle for the boards. And Ricky Davis would play his heart out against Welsch, trying to get himself into the starting lineup. That would be an exciting game to watch. In a seven-game scrimmage series, the first unit would probably win 5 games.
What about the third string? That leaves Ernest Brown, Tom Gugliotta, Walter McCarty, Justin Reed, and Delonte West. Reed would be playing way out of position at the shooting guard spot. Allen would drive right by him every time. On the other end of the court, Reed would post up Allen every time. Perkins and Brown would battle for the boards, with an edge to Perkins's versatility. Gugliotta would, like LaFrentz, try to draw Jefferson out on the defensive end to shoot jumpers, but would have to rely on every scrap of his wily veteran defense to mitigate the damage Jefferson would do on offense. McCarty would shoot long threes over Davis but be unable to defend his slashing any better than Reed could stave off Allen. West and Banks would be like mirror images of each other: a slow, deliberate, pass-first point guard taking on a quick, chaotic, scoring point guard. In other words, the second unit would be slashers playing against the third unit's shooters and out-of-position postmen. In a seven-game scrimmage set, the second unit would probably win 6 games. The one game they could potentially lose would be on the back of a lot of made three-pointers by the third team and some spectacular set-ups by West.
The point of this mental exercise in these slow weeks of the offseason? Simple: the Celtics have a very deep team. They are three deep at every slot, with the point guard position, which for the past several years had been their biggest trouble spot, now in far sturdier hands. The rookie West is a third-stringer, as he should be on a playoff team. Yes, he could probably either start or be the second-stringer on a less competitive team, but putting a Hall of Famer and a returning point guard ahead of him helps both the team and his own development.
The Celtics are approaching the depth of both the Grizzlies and the Pistons. The Pistons tend to be more loaded in the frontcourt, with a fairly tight backcourt rotation. The Grizzlies are more loaded in the swing and backcourt positions, with a possibly too-tight frontcourt rotation. The Celtics seem to be a little bit more balanced than either of those teams, probably leaning a little more towards the Memphis style than the Detroit style, but not by choice, and certainly not for long. If Perkins remains healthy he will develop just as fast as Jefferson. Between Perkins, Jefferson, LaFrentz, Gugliotta, and Blount, not too mention the possibilities of McCarty playing the four-spot as he often did last season, the Celtics are about as deep in the frontcourt as Detroit.
By the end of this year if not by the All-Star break, the Celtics will become quite a force. The fact that they are virtually all reportedly working out already together only makes the potential chemistry all the greater, and their potential all the more awesome.
Now if only they would broadcast their practice sessions. Are there really some secrets that other teams wouldn't otherwise be able to notice and exploit? But that's the topic for another exclusive.