After a disappointing 2012-13 season, the Celtics decided it was time to move on and focus on the future. The Celts dealt away head coach Doc Rivers, along with aging stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry and brought in Butler head coach Brad Stevens.
Not exactly in rebuild mode, the Celtics are in a bridge year. That is, they’ll have to eat the salaries of the players they got from the Nets in return for the big three before they’ll be able to clear up cap room to actually build a roster. The one positive of getting so many lousy players from the Nets and having so many of their own is that it should open up opportunities for some younger guys to shine.
The Celtics traded for Mavs’ first-rounder Kelly Olynyk and brought in European star Vitor Faverani, both of whom could fill Boston’s holes up front. Meanwhile, younger guys who were still developing in Doc Rivers’ system will get the chance to play big minutes and it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that one of their defensive specialists has a Paul George-like offensive awakening.
With one of the ugliest looking rosters in the league, the Celtics haven’t given Stevens a whole lot to work with but that doesn’t mean the young coach can’t make it work.
Points Per Game: 18th
Points Allowed Per Game: 12th
Rebounds Per Game: 29th
Notable Losses: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry
It’s unclear when Rondo will be back from his ACL surgery but he’s undoubtedly the best player on this team. He has a league-best 11+ assists in each of the last three seasons and shot .484 last season. He’ll contribute his 12-14 PPG but his job is to dish the ball. That could become problematic since no one on this team can shoot. The one knock on Rondo is his paltry 64.5% free throw shooting. As they say in football, 64.5%? C’mon man.
Bradley will have his work cut out for him as he starts in Rondo’s place. He did not impress in any offensive aspect last season, averaging 9.2 PPG, 2.1 APG, and shooting a mere 40% from the floor. He’s a good defender but let’s be honest, he’s a place holder at best and not a particularly good one that’s going to help you win games.
Pressey is an undrafted rookie out of Missouri and one that can play defense as well as Bradley but has offensive problems of his own. He averaged a strong 11.9 PPG, 7.1 APG, and 1.4 3PPG last season in college but shot just .376 from the floor. Still, you know what you’re getting with Bradley. If Pressey can shoot at a decent rate, he could see some time in the backcourt while Rondo heals up.
Lee is another defensive guy thrust into a starting role. He averaged just 7.8 PPG last season but he shot a solid 46.4% from the floor and nailed 86% of his free throws. He doesn’t hurt you but he doesn’t help much on the offensive side.
Brooks came over from the Nets in their blockbuster trade and could see a lot more time than the 12.5 MPG he saw in Brooklyn last season. Although he averaged just 5.4 PPG, he shot .463 from the floor and is only a season removed from a strong 12.6 PPG season in his rookie year.
Crawford came over late last season from the Wizards in return for Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins. He’s a wildly inconsistent shooter and while he averaged 11.6 PPG last season and 14.7 PPG the season before, he owns a .402 career FG% and doesn’t offer much help in any other department.
Bogans is another largely defensive player who was a throw in in the trade from the Nets. The fact that he’s due to make $16 million over the next three years is nothing short of a travesty. He played just 19 MPG last season and shot a miserable 38% from the floor – just as he did in 2011-12. He doesn’t contribute in any other categories and is a 65% free throw shooter. How does his agent sleep at night? Actually, how Bogans got the pay raise is an interesting story filled with contract quirks and excessive overpayment but too long and complicated to explain here so I’ll refer you to Mark Deeks for the explanation.
Small Forwards: Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace – C+
After missing the entire 2011-12 season with a heart problem, Green returned to the NBA and was one of the bright spots among the Celts’ role players. A strong defender himself, Green averaged 12.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and shot a career-high 46.7% from the floor and 38.5% from three-point range. As far as the Celts’ starters go, he’s one of the better ones.
On the other hand, nothing positive can be said of Wallace’s 2012-13 campaign. The Nets inexplicably gave this guy a $40 million contract and in his first season in Brooklyn he shot a miserable career-low 39.7% from the floor and 64% from the free throw line. He gave the Nets 4.6 RPG, down from 6.7 the season before. It could have just been a bad fit and Wallace could rebound to the 18 PPG/10 RPG player we saw in 2009-10 but at 31, that seems highly unlikely. I don’t understand the reasoning in taking on $30 million in guaranteed money on this guy, draft picks or not.
Bass is a solid shooter in the paint, owning a .492 career FG% but his scoring dropped from 12.5 PPG in 2011-12 to 8.7 PPG last season. He’ll give you a few rebounds here and there and is a good free throw shooter but, like the rest of this team, isn’t anything to write home about.
Sullinger is recovering from back surgery and it’s not clear when he’ll be able to return. He looked impressive as a rookie last season, shooting a very strong 49% from the floor and averaging six rebounds per game while playing just 20 MPG. Over 36 minutes, his rookie production extrapolates to 11 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG, and 1.0 SPG. He could be a sleeper when he returns.
Olynyk was the Mavericks’ first-round pick and was quickly traded to the Celtics for draft picks. On a team that needs all the help it can get, Olynyk could prove to be the best one of the bunch if he gets the opportunities. In his final year in Gonzaga, Olynyk averaged an excellent 17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, and shot a phenomenal 63% from the floor. He ranked third in the entire NCAA in FG%, first in Player Efficiency Rating (and best all time in the WCC), and first among all college players in Win Shares per 40 Minutes (best all time in WCC). If anyone is going to emerge as a surprise star on this team it’ll be Olynyk and given the Celtics’ lack of big guys, he should get enough court time to make a Rookie of the Year run.
Centers: Kris Humphries, Vitor Faverani – D to B
You can’t be a center who shoots just 44% but that’s exactly what Humphries was last season. His role was completely diminished after early struggles and he ended up with just 18.3 MPG (35 in 2011-12), 5.8 PPG (13.8 in 2011), 5.6 RPG (11 in 2011), and only started 21 games. Again, perhaps last season’s Nets were a bad fit and Brad Stevens can resurrect his career but it just seems unlikely given that he’s only been good in two of his nine seasons. Luckily, his contract expires after this season which is more than we can say for Wallace.
Humphries problems could very well open the door for another sleeper, recently-signed Brazilian center Vitor Faverani who has been a star in Spain. Last season he averaged 9.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.7 BPG, and shooting a phenomenal 55% from the floor while playing just 17 MPG in 23 games in Europe. At 6’11” and over 230 pounds, he has the size and the talent to succeed in the NBA and should have plenty of opportunities with so many question marks on the team.
Coach: Brad Stevens – Grade: Time will tell
At 36, Stevens is the youngest head coach in the NBA and has been highly sought by pro and college teams alike over the past two years. Stevens opted to help rebuild the Celtics and he certainly has his work cut out for him in this bunch. Stevens is the new breed of NBA coaches, using stats as his guide for in-game decisions. Being a guy who focuses on team play and fundamentals, he could be the best option for a team without great scorers. They’ll have to eat some contracts first but Stevens will eventually be rid of the dead weight and get the young talent he needs to build a contender.