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2013-2014 Boston Celtics Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 17, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
It was six summers ago that the Celtics revitalized their franchise by bringing in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join forces with Paul Pierce. For six straight seasons, the Celtics were not only playoff participants, but feared and respected contenders for the crown. However, that window of opportunity has finally slammed shut. The Celtics will begin the 2013-14 campaign without the familiar faces of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the floor; nor will long-time head coach Doc Rivers roam the sideline in front of the Boston bench. As a result, their successive string of postseason berths will likely come to end, as GM Danny Ainge and the Celtics have fully embraced a complete rebuilding project, kick-started by the blockbuster trade that sent Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn.
- Tommy Beer
Additions: Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Vitor Faverani, Phil Pressey
Subtractions: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Fab Melo, D.J. White
We all knew that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would leave the Celtics eventually, but deep down most of us probably thought it would be through retirement, not trade. But the trade with Brooklyn is what happened, and it was a move Boston made to plan for the future. That’s going to be particularly evident in the opening weeks of the season, when Rondo is gone, too, finishing up his rehab from ACL surgery last winter. The draft picks they got for a couple of stars that were on their way out of the league anyway were great gets, but a roster whose best healthy players are Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace, and Avery Bradley is probably headed for the lottery next spring. At least Kelly Olynyk looks like a potential Rookie of the Year candidate. Were it not for that, it would be very challenging for Celtics fans to feel much optimism this coming season.
4th place – Atlantic Division
– Joel Brigham
It’s going to be a long year for the Celtics. After years of contending in the Eastern Conference, the team is clearly rebuilding after parting ways with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers among others. While the Celtics are adamant that they won’t be tanking during the 2013-14 season, it certainly seems like they’ll be accumulating more ping pong balls than wins with the roster as currently constructed. The big question in Boston: Will Rajon Rondo be the next player to be dealt? Moving Rondo for young assets and draft picks is probably the right move, as it could also help Boston get a better selection heading into the loaded 2014 NBA Draft. Kelly Olynyk is going to turn heads and surprise people this season, but he’s one of the few bright spots on this roster.
4th place – Atlantic Division
- Alex Kennedy
Father Time is undefeated. Future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were dealt to Brooklyn to finish their legendary careers as Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge opted to start a rebuilding process centered on youth. Rumors of Ainge’s desire to reshape the veteran laden roster have run rampant for the past two seasons and the investment in a youth heavy strategy led to head coach Doc Rivers’ departure to the Los Angeles Clippers. There is still talent remaining in Boston. Guys like Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green can hold their own against their peers every night, but expecting this team to compete for a playoff berth next season would be a bit of wishful thinking.
4th place – Atlantic Division
- Lang Greene
There has been so much talk about the Celtics tanking this season and when you make a trade like the one they did with the Brooklyn Nets, exchanging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for multiple draft picks and cap relief while letting your head coach leave for a contender, it’s just. However, the Celtics are actually much more of a middle-of-the-road team than they are a true rebuilder that should be mentioned in the same breath as the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. With Rajon Rondo, who is on track to return this season from a torn ACL, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender in Kelly Olynyk team, this team will still be competitive on a lot of nights, despite not being a playoff team on paper anymore. The Celtics don’t appear to have the potential to finish any better than fourth, but this is definitely a team to keep an eye on. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is one of the best in the business and you can’t help but feel like he has a couple of moves up his sleeve.
4th place – Atlantic Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
To tank, or not to tank? That is the question that many believe the Celtics are asking themselves entering this season. The trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets was executed primarily because the Nets were willing to surrender multiple future first round draft picks to the Celtics. Obviously, this is a team that is very much thinking about its future, and with Andrew Wiggins and the strong 2014 draft class preparing to enter the league, there is strong incentive for the Celtics to fight for better odds in the lottery more than the right to enter the playoffs as the seventh or eighth seed. That is especially true since a playoff berth would certainly result in being bounced early by one of the conference’s top two teams. The biggest question for the Celtics is what to do with Rajon Rondo. So long as Rondo shows no ill-effects from his torn ACL, he will be highly sought after on the trade market. He is nearing his 28th birthday and is used to contending. For him, sitting through a two or three year rebuilding effort in Boston may not be ideal. With him fully healthy and engaged, the Celtics have a puncher’s chance of making the playoffs, but odds are, they will be on the outside looking in come May. And that may be best for the long-term interests of the franchise.
4th place — Atlantic Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Offensive Player: Jeff Green. With Rajon Rondo’s health still in question, the C’s will likely run their offense primarily through Green. There were plenty of doubters last year as he made his way back from heart surgery, but Green proved he could still more than hold his own. He was especially effective once Rondo went down and the C’s asked Green to shoulder more of the offensive load. Over Boston’s final 38 games last season (Rondo tore his ACL on January 28th), Green averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 three-pointers. Garnett, Pierce and Terry combined to attempt nearly 35 field goal attempts per game last season, which leave plenty of shots up for grabs. Green will be the primarily beneficiary in their absence, and will almost assuredly set career-highs across the board in 2013-14.
Top Defensive Player: Avery Bradley. One could make an argument for multiple players on the Boston roster as worthy of this honor. Rondo has been a pesky defender throughout his career and is always amongst the league leaders in steals…. Gerald Wallace was a terrific and versatile defender in his prime… However, although still young, Bradley has already earned a reputation as one of the more feisty and aggressive perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Top Playmaker: Rajon Rondo. Whenever he comes back, even if he isn’t even close to 100%, Rondo will undoubtedly be the Celtics top playmaker the moment he steps on the floor. One of the top table-setters in the sport, Rondo has led the NBA in assists for two straight seasons. Even as he works his way back into shape and shakes the rust off his jumper, Rondo will still be able to set up his teammates for baskets.
Top clutch player: Jeff Green. For the last 15 years, Paul Pierce was the guy trusted to take big shots in Boston. However, with Pierce now in Brooklyn, the Celtics will have to find someone else willing and able to take and make important field goals with the clock running down. Given Green’s versatile offensive skill set, expect him to be the preferred option late in the fourth quarter next season.
The Unheralded player: Kelly Olynyk. He may be a bit of a defensive liability in the NBA, but Olynyk is a gifted offensive player, with impressive agility and athleticism for a seven-footer. In addition, with the Celtics cleaning house, Olynyk will be one of the only true centers on the roster, which means he should see plenty of playing time despite being a rookie. In addition, Olynyk was extremely impressive during his initial introduction to the Boston franchise at the Orlando Summer league, where he finished second in the league in scoring, averaging a robust 18 points per contest.
Best new addition: Gerald Wallace. “Crash” Wallace was an all but a forgotten man in Brooklyn, as he never quite fit in alongside Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. However, Wallace will have a new lease on life in Beantown. Although he struggled last season with the Nets, it is important to note that Wallace isn’t far removed from consistently stellar production. From 2006-12 (a total of 465 games), Wallace averaged 16.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks.
1. Rajon Rondo – Yes, there a few flaws in Rondo’s offensive game (i.e. his jumper), and at times he’s been criticized for his inability to get along with teammates and coaches. But when it comes to pure on-the-floor talent, they are very few NBA point guards in Rondo’s class. Despite last season’s injury, let’s not forget just how much he can impact a game on both offense and defense. He’s as good of a passer and facilitator as we have in the NBA today. Back in November, Rondo ran his streak of games with at least 10 assists to 37. Those 37 straight contests with at least 10 dimes is the second longest such streak in league history, behind only the immortal John Stockton.
2. Danny Ainge – It obviously wasn’t easy for GM Danny Ainge to trade away the heart and soul of his franchise. However, it was absolutely the right decision. In today’s NBA, the last place you want to be is squarely in the middle of the pack. As a team on the playoff bubble, you are neither good enough to win a championship, nor bad enough to win the draft lottery. With the bold decision to trade KG, Pierce Jet Terry, Ainge has cleaned house and clearly committed towards a brighter future. The downside is that teams in the middle of a rebuild can often be frustrating, especially for a town and an organization that has been spoiled by so much success. However, Ainge bit the bullet and made the right call for the franchise. He will reap the benefits in years to come.
3. Brad Stevens – In addition to making a blockbuster trade to that reshaped the franchise, Ainge also made the daring decision to bring in an unproven head coach from the college ranks. It says here that this will be viewed as a tremendous hire a few years from now. Stevens has been tabbed and one of the brightest and sharpest basketball minds in the country. Moving from the NCAA to the NBA will obviously present numerous challenges, but Stevens is inheriting a young team he can shape in his image. It will be fascinating to see how the experiment pans out.
4. Kelly Olynyk – On a inexperienced team without much hope of being considered serious contenders, fans are often forced to put their faith into unproven youngsters. As a result, first round pick Kelly Olynyk, will be a focus of Boston fans this season. After his stellar play during Summer League action, expectations will also be high. However, he plays hard and can put the ball in the basket from nearly anywhere on the court – which should help endear him to Celtic faithful…
5. Jeff Green – The incredible obstacles Green has already overcome makes it extremely easy to root for him. And more than that, his superb play over the second half of the season made it impossible not to respect his offensive repertoire. As noted above, Green will have a heavy load on his shoulders with the majority of Boston’s best players relocated to Brooklyn, New York. But he also proved his versatile game is up to the challenge. In fact, over the final three months of the 2012-13 season, Green was one of only four NBA players to average at least one blocked shot and one three-pointer per contest – the other three players were Nicolas Batum, Josh Smith, and Kevin Durant.
The benefit of a full commitment to rebuilding is the youthful exuberance of a young roster. The Celtics will have an abundance of youngsters looking to prove themselves during the upcoming season. In addition, they will have a rookie head coach in Brad Stevens, who is making his first foray into pro coaching after a wildly successful stint at Butler. Just 36 years of age, Stevens is widely regarded as one of true up-and-coming coaches in the sport. The combination of young, hungry players and coaches means the Celtics should be, in the very least, and exciting and interesting team to watch in 2013-14.
Anytime a team trades away its two top scorers and rebounders, and their sixth man, and a long-tenured and extremely well-respected head coach, the flaws on the remaining roster will be easily visible. And not only were the players the C’s traded away their best players, they were also their unquestioned leaders. Garnett was the team’s driving defensive force and, more importantly, the emotional heart and soul of the organization. Paul Pierce is arguably the greatest all-around offensive talent in franchise history. Piece leaves as the Celtics second leading scored in the teams’ storied history. He also ranks fourth all-time in assists, third in defensive rebounds, first in steals, and first in three-point FG’s. Yet, again, it remains impossible to quantify the loss of KG, Doc, and Paul Pierce strictly by looking at the numbers.
What happens with Rajon Rondo, and are the Celtics competing for a playoff spot or ping pong balls?
The health and status of Rajon Rondo will impact the Celtics upcoming season on a variety of levels. First, if Rondo, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL last February, returns to the lineup sooner than expected and shows he is still capable of playing at his pre-injury level of excellence, will GM Danny Ainge consider moving Rondo at the 2014 trade deadline? Or, will Ainge and company decide to build around Rondo, rather than trade away the final piece from their championship squad? If Boston is committed to procuring as many ping pong balls as possible (and thus maximizing their chances of getting a high lottery pick in the stacked 2014 draft) – then parting with their best player may be the preferred course of action.
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