Fortunes change quickly in the NBA. In 2007 the Boston Celtics went all in for a championship run when they traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. This effort brought them one championship in two NBA Finals appearances against the Los Angeles Lakers. As recent as 2012 they were one game away from keeping the Miami Heat from getting the back to the NBA Finals and preventing LeBron James from winning his first ever championship.
This past season the Celtics could not get out of the first round, losing in six games to the second seeded New York Knicks. That is when GM Danny Ainge decided it was time to blow it up and start fresh. Head Coach Doc Rivers was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for an unprotected 2015 first round pick because Rivers did not want to be part of a rebuild process. Then there was the trade with the Brooklyn Nets that we'll get to later.
Head Coach: Some of you might recall last season when we thought that the Sacramento Kings were coming to Seattle and there was a discussion about who was going to be our potential coach. My selection to be the new Sonics coach was Brad Stevens. I was told, nicely (thank you), that Stevens wasn't ready and there was no way he was going to leave Butler.
Brad Stevens is running a training camp practice in Waltham, MA for the Celtics as you read this.
Stevens is probably the best young basketball mind in the entire sport. He's a tireless preparer; not only watching countless hours of film, but spending just as much time analyzing statistics. His indefatigable preparations have allowed him to take his teams from Butler with inferior athletes and talent to two NCAA Final Four Championship games, beating legendary programs and future Hall of Fame coaches along the way.
It wouldn't be completely out of the realm of possibility that Stevens knows the other team better than their own head coach does. Which is why Stevens is perfect for the new analytics heavy NBA on a young, rebuilding franchise. He will have this Celtics team ready to play every night and scrap on every single possession.
Ron Adams, Jaime Young, Jay Larranga, Micah Shrewsberry and Walter McCarty will join Stevens on the Celtics' bench this season.
Last Season's Record: 41-40
Player Losses: Former Maryland Terrapin and Seattle Supersonic, Chris Wilcox, was allowed to walk via free agency. Wilcox has yet to sign with a new team. Kris Joseph, Shavlik Randolph and Terrence Williams were waived from their contracts. Fab Melo was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White were traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
Player Additions: Gonzaga University center, Kelly Olynyk was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the 13th overall pick, but was traded to Boston for the draft rights of Lucas Nogueira. Vitor Faverani and Phil Pressey were both signed as undrafted free agents. Faverani was in the 2009 draft, went undrafted and has played in Spain the past few years. Donte Greene came from Memphis in the Fab Melo trade. Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace came over from the trade with the Nets.
Best Player: Without a question, when healthy, it's Rajon Rondo. He's the team's best defender and best plate setter. He might be a little bit crazy, but that's okay. Before he got hurt he was averaging a career high 13.7 points per game to go with 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds and almost two steals a game. How's he going to be when he returns from injury? We'll have to wait until November. Or December. Maybe even January until we get to find out.
Worst Player: This is a tough one because after Rondo, there's a bit of a drop off until the next tier of players and then after that... eesh. Vitor Faverani though has to take the title. I've only seen one game of his and despite being the biggest guy on the court he shied away from contact, as the game went on he drifted further away from the basket on offense, defense was non-existent and seemed disinterested (could be because his team lost by 31). I don't remember his stat line, but I do remember he had more turnovers than he had points, rebounds and blocks combined.
Players due to breakthrough: Going with two players here because they are going to have to be the leaders with Rondo out. Jordan Crawford being the first. Rumors have it he's a surprise candidate to beat out Avery Bradley as Rondo's replacement as the starting point guard to start the season. Crawford is a better scorer than Bradley and leads him by three full assists on their per 36 minute stats. What Crawford does need to improve on though is his shot selection (atrocious at times would be an understatement) and his defense (atrocious at times would be an understatement). Apparently he's come in focused this year and is ready to be a leader.
Jeff Green is the other. Green has all the tools to be a top 20 player in the league. He can score inside, outside and even has a decent mid-range game. He plays hard defense, rebounds, blocks shots, takes charges and does all those little things to help a team win.
Except he doesn't do any of them consistently.
Every time you think Uncle Jeff figures it out and is going to be a bona fide superstar in this league he'll disappear for a week or two.
With Rondo out, this is his team and he needs to show up every night and I think he's going to. This is his chance to prove he's not a bust at the five pick and he is definitely worth the $10 million he makes every season.
The Starters: With a new coach it's hard to predict exactly who is going to be a starter. I'm certain that Jeff Green is going to be starting at small forward, with Crawford beating out Bradley at point guard, MarShon Brooks at shooting guard, Gerald Wallace will get the nod at power forward with the rookie, Kelly Olynyk, starting at center.
The Bench: With Ainge looking to swing more trades to stock up on draft picks and to dump the contracts of Wallace and Humphries off on someone, expect to see a lot of Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Bradley and Courtney Lee off the bench. Bogans, Faverani and Pressey will be hanging out on the bench quite a bit as the season goes on.
Random Seattle Connection: We all know that Ray Allen was traded to Boston for Jeff Green and that Green played one season in Seattle before the Sonics moved. What some might not know is that Green spends quite a bit of time in the Seattle area in the offseason. Avery Bradley is a Tacoma native.
Best Case Scenario for the Season: Ainge is able to get rid of the contracts of Wallace and Humphries while somehow bringing back picks for the 2014 draft, the Nets can't gel at all as a team, are ravaged by injuries, lose 60 games and give Boston another lottery pick. While the Celtics play inspired ball all year, but still lose 59 games, have a high lottery pick, Jeff Green turns out to be an All-Star and Jordan Crawford develops into another Jamal Crawford type sixth man going forward. Basically: player growth for the guys they keep and as many ping pong balls as possible come May.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season: Ainge can't unload any of the contracts, Jeff Green improves, but not that much, Stevens gets the team to play really inspired ball, making the playoffs where they are swept by the Nets in first round on their way to a championship and Paul Pierce says, "This is the greatest team I've ever played on."
Most Likely Scenario for the Season: Rondo stays out until the All-Star game, plays two games and is traded at the deadline to a contender for an expiring contract and a few picks. Ainge isn't able to move Wallace or Humphries because both spend various points of the season injured and their contracts are terrible. Stevens develops the young guys better than anyone thought and the future looks extremely bright.
Prediction: With Brad Stevens being better prepared over just about everybody he has the Celtics play hard every possession of every game, but because this is the NBA and not college, the talent gap is going to be much more prominent and there will be some blow outs, but not as many as people think. The Celtics will be one of those bad teams that hang around longer than you like, especially during a back-to-back. No win against this team is going to come easy and if you have League Pass, I'd recommend putting in your early DVR recording slot. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch this team grow throughout the season.
Boston Celtics: CelticsBlog | Celtics Green | LucidSportsFan | CLNS Radio | Celtic Fan Chat | Truth On Causway | Sonics Rising
Brooklyn Nets: Nets Daily | Baller Mind Frame
New York Knicks: Posting and Toasting
Philadelphia 76ers:†Liberty Ballers
Toronto Raptors:†Raptors HQ
Golden State Warriors: Golden State of Mind
Los Angeles Clippers: Clips Nation
Los Angeles Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll
Phoenix Suns:†Bright Side of the Sun
Sacramento Kings:†Sactown Royalty |†Baller Mind Frame
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