Throughout September and October, we’ll be examining all 30 teams in the NBA and previewing the 2013-14 season through the lens of each particular organization. I’ll be going through each team’s roster and expected outcome for the upcoming campaign in reverse order of predicted finish, starting with the worst team in the NBA. At the bottom of each preview there will be a table with each division that will link to already-completed previews.
The coming edition of the Boston Celtics will be unfamiliar to the untrained NBA eye. Gone are the glory days of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Rajon Rondo remains, but the cast of characters he has at his disposal is far thinner and less impressive than the usual cadre of Celtics.
The 2012-13 version of the Celtics wasn’t exactly what the fans in Boston are used to, either. They barely edged over the .500 mark, finishing the year at 41-40 (the second to last game of the season against Indiana was cancelled due to the Boston Marathon bombing). The only players outside of Rondo that were better than rotation-level fodder and remain with the team was rookie big man Jared Sullinger, who played under 20 minutes per game, Brandon Bass, and Jeff Green.
Of course, Rondo is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in February, so it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll get back onto the court and how much his play will be affected in the coming year. The Celtics’ final win total will largely hinge on Rondo’s ability to recover, as the rest of the roster is mostly raw, and devoid of any semblance of a star quality.
Sullinger, who was recently arrested on a domestic violence charge, should be in for a much expanded role this season, provided his legal issues get ironed out and his back doesn’t flare up too much. Alongside him in the front court will be Bass, who is a mediocre player but will play an important role in new coach Brad Stevens’ offensive attack.
Rounding out the likely front court rotation are Kris Humphries, who’s $12 million expiring contract will certainly be moved at the trade deadline in February, and rookie first round draft pick Kelly Olynyk from Gonazaga. Olynyk is an intriguing player with a great deal of offensive skill, especially passing the ball, but his defense remains a question mark.
The rotation of Sullinger, Bass, Humphries, and Olynyk should be mostly serviceable, although teams that are especially proficient down low could give this group some difficulty.
The Rondo-less back court, on the other hand, will have issues. Avery Bradley is still a promising player, but struggled quite a bit in his first chance as a full-time starter last season, and he’ll need to improve considerately if the Celtics are to outperform expectations. Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford remain on the roster while MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans join the stable of guards via the trade with the Nets.
Brooks still has some upside, but both he and Crawford are chuckers for the most part; volume “scorers” who aren’t all that great at scoring, and they’re nothing if not inefficient. Bogans is a 15-20 minute per game player that would hardly play significant minutes for a true contender. Lee is still a rotation-worthy “three-and-D” player for a playoff team, and it looks like he’ll be the best guard on the squad until Rondo is able to return.
The start of the coming season for the Celtics will be owned by Jeff Green and Avery Bradley. They remain the only youngish, upside-possessing players on the roster that will be expected to carry big minutes. The on-court problem in Boston will largely depend on their production and the ability and progress of Sullinger and Olynyk.
Best Case Scenario
Count me as someone that thinks the best case scenario for the Celtics could actually be encouraging, considering the players they’ve lost since the start of the 2013 calender year. Despite the horrible inefficiency of Bradley’s game last season, he should have every opportunity to improve and solidify himself as a starting caliber player under Stevens. Olynyk should hold his own as a rookie, and if Sullinger is able to play bigger minutes, he should be solid in his own right.
The lack of shooters and a bench will cap the Celtics’ win possibilities right around 27-30 wins, but even that feels too high for the current roster.
Worst Case Scenario
If Bradley, Lee, and Crawford all play exactly as they did last year and don’t improve, things look pretty bleak for Stevens’ crew. Throw in the possibility that Rondo won’t return until the waning weeks of the season and likely won’t be near full strength, and a solid front court might not be enough to avoid 21-24 wins.
Most Likely Outcome
They’ll win 25-27 games. Stevens should be a good pro coach, and Lee and Bogans will provide enough serviceable back court leadership that Bradley and Crawford will be able to hold their own. Olynyk and Sullinger will surprise down low, and combined with Bass, the team should be able to grind out enough victories in the Eastern Conference that their lack of a back court and long range shooting in general shouldn’t be able to keep them at the absolute bottom of the league.
|Charlotte Bobcats (26)|
Philadelphia 76ers (30)
|Orlando Magic (27)|
|Sacramento Kings (25)|
Utah Jazz (29)
Phoenix Suns (28)