The Celtics are one of the most successful franchises in sports history, tying for the most NBA Championships of all time with their rivals, the Lakers. Their years of constant success are highlighted by some of the best players in NBA history.
With legends like Larry Bird, Bill Russel, and more recently Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, there is an unlimited supply of legendary talent to come out of Boston. However, because of such riveting success, some great players go unnoticed.
There were stars hidden in the shadows of some of the most powerful Celtics rotations. In a better situation or without some of the players ahead of them, these players could have easily been all-stars or even Hall of Famers.
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3. Rajon Rondo
The only thing keeping Rondo from the top 2 spots is recency bias. However, he will rise up this list as his name starts to fade after retirement.
Rondo was the third star on a championship roster highlighted by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Although his name is very recognizable and he was a part of that dynamic trio, he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
He is considered an incredible passer and a passable scorer, but that doesn’t nearly do him justice. He’s 14th on the all-time assists leaderboard and had 5 seasons averaging a double-double with points and assists.
Without Rondo, the Celtics wouldn’t have a championship in recent memory. He was an integral part of that lineup, and one of the best passing point guards of all time.
2. Dave Cowens
In his 10-year career, Cowens was the definition of consistency and stardom. Coming into the league averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds, he won the 1971 Rookie of the Year. A couple of seasons later, in 1973, he won the MVP.
His career averages of 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds are incredibly impressive, yet his playoff stats were significantly better. He averaged almost 19 points and 14.4 rebounds in his playoff career, winning 2 championships in the process.
Not only this, but Cowens was an outstanding defender. He made 3 all-defensive teams in his career, with two second-team selections and 1 first-team.
He has over 10,000 points and rebounds in his career, solidifying himself as an all-time great. However, his name rarely gets mentioned in the all-time Celtics debate, even while making the NBA’s 50th and 75th-anniversary teams.
1. Dennis Johnson
A star sitting in the shadows behind the Bird, Parish, and McHale big three, he showed his value on the roster. Even as the 4th option, averaging a career 14 points and 5 assists.
He was the guy who picked up the slack when the big three couldn’t take it. If a guy was out on injury, someone was having a bad night, DJ stepped up. Larry Bird even said that Johnson was the best player he had ever played with.
In 1986, DJ showed his true colors during their Finals campaign. He averaged almost 16 points, 6 assists, and about a steal and a half per game. A lockdown perimeter defender and an easy bucket, DJ could have easily been a star point guard somewhere else.