As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Boston Celtics who last year had a record of 41-40 and did make the playoffs.
Team: Boston Celtics
Coach: Brad Stevens
General Manager: Danny Ainge
2012-2013 Record: 41-40
Place in Conference: Seventh in East, Third in Atlantic Division
Leading Scorer: Paul Pierce (18.6 ppg.) (This year, who knows?)
Key Additions: Kelly Olynyk, Marshon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Brad Steven (Head Coach)
Key Losses: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Chris Wilcox, Fab Melo, Coach Doc Rivers
After a successful run that included six straight playoff appearances, two trips to the NBA Finals, and an NBA Championship, the Celtics decided it was time to move on from the Big Three era and begin a long-expected rebuild. This really began in 2012 when Ray Allen signed with the Miami Heat and the Celtics invested in rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. This summer the Celtics fully committed to the rebuild, which is no surprise, although the moves they made along the way were a bit unexpected. First, the Celtics allowed long time coach Doc Rivers to move on to the Clippers in exchange for a first round pick. Considering Rivers’ long history with the team and close relationship with GM Danny Ainge, this was somewhat surprising, although one can see Rivers’ point of view. Right now he is arguably the most respected coach in the league other than Gregg Popovich and could pick the coaching job of his choice. A few seasons of losing during a rebuild would quickly change that and possibly cost Rivers his coaching position in Boston. One can’t blame the man for looking out for his career. While trading Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets, (a contender where they could continue to playing together), was not a great shock, seeing Pierce playing for anyone other than Boston after 15 seasons will take a while to get used to. Now the Celtics will begin to build around Olynyk, Sullinger and guard Avery Bradley, as well as Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo if they are not traded to contenders. These men, along with new Head Coach Brad Stevens, will be the ones to lead the Boston Celtics into the ost Big Three Era.
Rondo offers a lot to the team both as their best player and as a trade chip. A gifted passer who can get the rim at will, Rondo has also improved his midrange game even if his defense is a bit overrated. Obviously how much he contributes this season will be based on when and how well he returns from ACL surgery, but Rondo is an All-Star who is more than capable of being the second-best player on a championship team. He is also young enough to lead the Celtics into the future or bring back tremendous value in a trade. Rondo, Avery Bradley, Green, Courtney Lee, Keith Bogans and Gerald Wallace should also form a solid defensive unit on the perimeter. Olynyk and Jared Sullinger give the Celtics two big men with a high level of offensive skill. They and forward Kris Humphries will keep the team solid on the boards as well. Stevens comes to the Celtics with a sterling reputation from his time at Butler, where he led the team to a pair of NCAA Finals appearances. He is known for being an extremely well-prepared and detail-oriented coach who uses analytics as a large part of his preparation. What the Celtics lack in talent this year, they will try to make up for in execution. Finally, Danny Ainge is one of the most proactive general managers in the league and will do anything he can to improve the team’s future.
The Celtics are a team in transition as they trade off their veterans for assets. With Rondo out for the foreseeable future, Green is arguably the only current Celtics who could play major minutes for a contender, and his issues with offensive consistency are well documented. With Rondo out, Bradley will start at point guard, and for all of his athleticism that is not a natural fit for him. Bradley simply doesn’t have the court vision of a true point guard, and may fit best as a defense-oriented combo guard. The Celtics also are lacking a balanced roster. They are stocked at shooting guard and both forward positions, but extremely thing at point guard and center. This will be an issue on offense where the lack of a true point guard other than the injured Rondo will hamper ball movement, and defense as the team lacks a center who can protect the rim. It would not be a shock to see the Celtics trade any of Brandon Bass, Humphries, Bogans, Lee, Wallace, Marshon Brooks, or Jordan Crawford to help balance their roster or acquire future assets, even if it does make the team better in the short term. Stevens and Ainge may also bring just as many negatives to the upcoming season as they do positives. While the general consensus is that Stevens will be a successful coach in the league, the differences between college basketball and the NBA are enormous and it may take him a while to adjust to those differences. Meanwhile Ainge is going to do anything he can to help the Celtics rebuild in the most effective way possible, which could include dealing contributing veterans for future assets and to ensure the Celtics have a high pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, which is expected to be loaded.
2013-2014 Season Predictions:
Whether he returns as the cornerstone of the team or is traded for assets, no player is more valuable to the future of the Boston Celtics than Rajon Rondo. While he has said all of the right things about embracing the role of leader on the team, Rondo’s history being a somewhat difficult presence in the locker room cannot be ignored. As the losses mount, and frustration builds, how Rondo deals with it bears watching. If he becomes a problem in the locker room, Ainge won’t blink before sending him to one of the many teams that will be interested in his services. Because of all of these factors, as well as the Celtics desire to acquire more young talent, it looks like Rajon Rondo’s time as a Boston Celtic is nearing its end. Final Prediction: 27-55, 13th in the Eastern Conference