Monday, September 30, 2013
Boston Celtics 2013-2014 Season Preview
Last Year's Record: 41-40
Key Losses: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Head Coach Doc Rivers
Key Additions: Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kelly Olynyk, Head Coach Brad Stevens
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
Probably no team in the NBA made such drastic moves this summer as Boston did. They traded away two future Hall of Famers. team captain and 15 year Celtic Paul Pierce, as well as Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn for a package of players and draft picks. The move signified the beginning of a rebuilding process for the C's, with the future picks being the key ingredient in the deal. Not wanting to be a part of the rebuild, Head Coach Doc Rivers left to join the Clippers in LA. Boston replaced Rivers with 36 year old Brad Stevens, a stats guy (think "Moneyball" of the NBA) who had a lot of success making the most out of minimal talent at Butler University.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Without a doubt the Celtics best player is point guard Rajon Rondo. Beyond that Boston's greatest strengths appear to be the way they are positioning themselves for the future. Jared Sullinger showed great promise as a rookie last season, and this year's top draft pick Kelly Olynyk (#13 overall) was one of the shining stars of the summer leagues. The trade with the Nets and the deal allowing Rivers to go to LA have also left the Celts with an extra first round draft selection in 4 of the next 5 years (2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018).
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
The enormous array of weaknesses is why the focus is clearly on the future for Boston. Rondo is returning from ACL surgery and likely won't be ready to go for the start of the season. The Celtics only back up point guard is an undrafted rookie (Phil Pressey). The C's are extremely thin at the center position as well, with Brazilian import Vitor Faverani (who's not expected to have much of an impact) being the lone traditional "five" on the roster. They have a glut at both power forward (Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries, Sullinger, and Olynyk) and shooting guard (Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, MarShon Brooks, and Keith Bogans), but no real stars in the bunch. Their best scoring option is small forward Jeff Green, who looks great on the days he puts it all together, but is also wildly inconsistent.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The common perception is that the goal in Boston is to "tank" the season and attempt to secure the best possible pick in a very deep 2014 draft. Allowing Rondo to take all the time he needs and more (a lot more) to come back would be one step in this direction. So would giving the younger and unproven guys like Olynyk, Pressey, Brooks, and Faverani a chance to develop through extended playing time. As a rookie head coach in the league, Stevens could gain valuable on the job experience while experimenting with a variety of lineups and styles of play; this might also help determine who and what fits best into the Celtics long term plans. On the other hand, there is another option...
5. Can (and should) the Celtics make the playoffs in 2014?
Yes, they can. It definitely hinges on whether or not Rondo returns fully healthy and within a reasonable amount of time, so for the sake of argument lets say he does. For the first time in his career Rondo will be the clear cut "top dog." My feeling is he will be highly motivated to prove all his doubters wrong, and may flourish in this role. His backcourt mate Avery Bradley can go also go back to being the defensive terror he used to be before assuming the ball handling duties in Rondo's absence. A "running lineup" featuring Rondo, Bradley, Green and any two of the aforementioned power forwards could prove to be surprisingly effective at scoring easy baskets.
It's also possible to win a lot of games in the NBA simply by working hard and playing good defense night in and night out, and I think Stevens will demand that. I don't see Stevens as the type of guy who'll be satisfied with just playing the youngsters and not trying his hardest to win every night. For example I wouldn't be surprised to see Kris Humphries earn a bigger role on this team than most people expect; he's been a great rebounder throughout his career on a per minute basis, and since he's in the final season of a $12 million a year deal and only 28 years old, he'll be looking to earn another big contract.
So that's how Boston can make the playoffs next year, now here's why they should: Losing sucks. Celtics fans have been spoiled for the last 6 seasons with quality teams and high expectations. Many have forgotten what it's like to watch a club that fails to compete on a nightly basis. Not only that, but playoff basketball is fun and exciting, regardless of the final results. If you don't believe me go back and re-watch Boston's first round defeat at the hands of the Knicks last spring. And who knows, grabbing one of the final seeds in the East could land the Celts a first round matchup with Pierce and Garnett's Brooklyn squad.
There's also significant historical data that shows "tanking" is not the best path to winning future championships.
posted at 6:00 AM