Boston Celtics: Prediction: 14th in Eastern Conference
2014 Record: 25-57
Coach: Brad Stevens
Significant Additions: G Marcus Smart (draft), F James Young (draft), G Marcus Thornton (trade), G Evan Turner (free agent), C Tyler Zeller (trade)
Significant Subtractions: F Kris Humphries (trade), G Jerryd Bayless (free agent)
Projected Starters: C Brandon Bass, F Jared Sullinger, F Jeff Green, G Avery Bradley, G Rajon Rondo (3.5/10):
To say this group will be "in flux," is putting it mildly. They might not start more than a handful of games together, if that. Rondo had surgery Sept. 26 on his left metacarpal after suffering an accident at home and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks, which would mean somewhere between the third and tenth game of the regular season. There is constant speculation as to if and when Rondo will be traded, with new stories being reported almost daily. Usually in cases like this it means a player wants to be dealt, but not just anywhere. Rondo wasn't particularly good in his half season after ACL surgery, playing mostly disinterested basketball for a tanking team, and I'm intrigued to see if he'll regain his superstar form. The best way to create a market for him is for Rondo to look like his old self. The rest of the starters are pretty blah. Green flashes now and again, but he's another candidate for being dealt. Bradley is a terrific on-ball defender, but miscast as a two guard and overextended as a scorer. Sullinger has shown he can score and rebound, but he's undersized and a woeful defender and has a history of back problems. Bass is also undersized and yet more trade-bait.
Projected Reserves (5/10):
As was the case last year, the Celtics have okay depth for a bad team. Well, a bunch of guys you've heard of anyway. Gerald Wallace, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton (both of whom they acquired via trade from teams desperate to shed salary), Kelly Olynyk, Vitor Faverani, Evan Turner, plus the two draftees, Marcus Smart and James Young. The problem is in terms of quality as everyone outside of Rondo is virtually interchangeable -- a C-/D+ kind of player. And that gets you beat every time. Olynyk was a disastrous defender as a rookie, Turner couldn't even get off the bench in the playoffs after Indiana traded for him, and Wallace is calcifying before our very eyes. I didn't like either of their first-round picks. Smart has great size and is fairly athletic, but he can't shoot and doesn't seem to have any point guard skills, and he's a hothead to boot. Young, meanwhile, was the fourth-best guy in Kentucky's starting lineup and doesn't look like anything special.
Coach/Front Office (4.5/10):
Stevens brought some fresh energy to Boston and strongly declined any and all accusations of tanking even though some rotation decisions indicated otherwise. Mostly he was hamstrung by a collection of players who were too undersized to defend, too unathletic to get to the rim, and not even remotely good from outside. It was a team assembled by GM Danny Ainge with the sole goal of landing very high in the lottery, and they failed in that mission, just like in 1997 and 2007. Ainge gets credit for unloading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce while they still had a semblance of value, fleecing the Nets for three first-round picks, but this soap opera with Rondo is getting old. Either trade him or sign him to a long-term extension already.
Team Rating: 41.5
(2.5x starters rating + 1.5x bench rating + coach rating) x 2 = 41.5
Did You Know:
ESPN personality Bill Simmons, who recently made news for getting suspended after harshly criticizing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on his podcast and accusing him of covering up the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, is a huge Celtics fan. Yes, it's true! So here's a list of scandalous things Simmons might get himself in hot water for if he were to say them about his hometown team.
3. "Look, I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I'm glad the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett. No, I'm sorry, but somebody had to say it. His skills were clearly eroding and I'm happy they got some picks for him. And I defy anybody at ESPN to tell me I'm wrong!"
2. "Can we just come clean for one second and just be real for once? Sometimes, every now and then, I kind of feel that Tommy Heinsohn is sort of a homer. I know, I was in denial at first too, but after so many years of listening to him, every now and then, if you're objective about it, you have to admit there's definitely some favoritism for the Celtics with some of his opinions. And if the executives want me to just bury my head in the sand about this stuff... well I guess we're going to have a serious conversation about it."
1. "(Audible sigh). Guys, I was watching the game the other night, and coming out of a commercial they showed the Celtics dance team, and these young women were quite attractive and not wearing very much clothing, and the camera was lingering on one of them, and for a moment there I'm ashamed to admit my thoughts drifted away from basketball... and... it got me thinking... are these ladies there to lead cheers or is there something more sinister at play? I think this is a real, legitimate question we have to ask ourselves. What kind of message is the league trying to send? Listen... important people listen to this podcast and I guarantee you that Commissioner Adam Silver will NOT be happy I brought this up."