Editor’s note: From Dec. 12-23, we’ll countdown to the Celtics’ Christmas matchup with the Knicks (Dec. 25 at 12 p.m. ET) by hitting on 12 big topics facing the Green this season.
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics return their All-Star backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen this season and will look to a new-look supporting cast featuring veteran Keyon Dooling and youngsters Avery Bradley and E'Twaun Moore to increase guard production off the bench. A complete breakdown of the team's current backcourt personnel:
2010-11 stats: 10.6 points, 11.2 assists, 2.3 steals
2011-12 outlook: Rondo is coming off a season in which he battled a cocktail of injuries and his stats suffered a bit because of it, his scoring average dipping three points per game and he shot just 47.5 percent from the floor overall. More troubling was a lack of aggressiveness getting to the basket (maybe because of his poor free throw shooting). That said, he's still maybe the most important player on this team and it will be interesting to see if Rondo can carry an aging core through a condensed season. The subject of preseason trade rumors, Rondo says only championships fuel him, but you have to believe he's got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder this year.
2010-11 stats: 16.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists
2011-12 outlook: Not even Father Time can slow down the 36-year-old Allen, who is coming off a season in which he posted career highs in field goal (49.1) and 3-point (44.4) percentages. It's hard to imagine him maintaining such lofty numbers (at least percentage-wise), but the one thing you know you'll get from Allen is consistency and you can count on similar overall production. One thing to watch: Can Doc Rivers keep his minutes down (36.1 last season; up a minute from the year before), especially with no veteran backup currently behind him. Despite his conditioning, Boston can't run Allen into the ground before the playoffs.
2010-11 stats: 7.1 points, 3.0 assists, 1.5 rebounds (with Milwaukee)
2011-12 outlook: The Celtics might have finally found a veteran guard who can tackle the ball-handling responsibilities behind Rondo. That's something they've desperately lacked in recent seasons. Dooling is a high-energy guy who plays solid defense and can provide the occasional offensive burst. Doc Rivers said he's tried three times in the past to lure Dooling to his teams as a free agent (including twice in Boston) and it's easy to see why. He's exactly what the Celtics need: a reliable option who can make the rare spot start and maintain the intensity this team needs at that position.
2010-11 stats: 1.7 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists
2011-12 outlook: As Rivers likes to note, Bradley never had a chance last season. He injured his ankle in a pre-draft workout (likely contributing to his draft-day slide) and after missing both summer league and training camp, he had little chance to carve out a role in Boston during his rookie campaign. This year, the addition of Dooling should allow the Celtics to use him more at the shooting guard spot (taking the ball-handling responsibilities off his plate and allow him to just play). Bradley's defense should keep him on the court and provide the opportunity for his offensive game to develop. Even Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge thinks he just needs floor time to blossom.
2010-11 stats: 18 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists (Purdue)
2011-12 outlook: You don't expect much out of late second-round picks, but Moore -- the 55th overall pick in June's draft -- is displaying the sort of confidence you expect from someone picked 50 spots earlier. Whether it's in 5-on-5 practice work, last week's intrasquad scrimmage at the TD Garden, or the preseason opener against the Raptors, Moore has fearlessly put up -- and connected on – a number of big shots that should build the coaching staff's confidence in him. The Celtics are thin on depth at shooting guard and Moore has the ability to push Bradley to be in that mix behind Allen despite his draft status.
The Celtics feel like they have some versatility and Rivers hinted the team could use both Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic at the shooting guard position, though both are more natural small forwards. Expect to see the Celtics mix-and-match at times, trying to either match up against an opponent or exploit a potential height advantage. Against Toronto to start the preseason, we even saw some three-guard sets. Gilbert Brown, a training camp invite, could sneak his way onto the roster after Jeff Green's injury. Brown is an athletic defender who could offer flexibility on the wing. The Celtics will also probably examine what remains of the free-agent crop of shooting guards as the regular season nears, hoping to potentially snag a veteran at a bargain price to fill out the roster.