Celtics Circuit: 2013-’14 Season Preview

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens faces the challenge of rebuilding the organization into a championship contender.

The Boston Celtics will begin their NBA season tonight in Toronto as they face the Raptors. The 2013-’14 Celtics look much different than last year’s team. Doc Rivers went to Los Angeles to coach the Clippers as the Celtics received an unprotected 2014 first-round pick. Then the Celtics sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry on draft night to the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics acquired Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks,Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, and three first-round selections in 2014, 2016, and 2018. The Celtics can swap picks with the Nets in 2017 if the Nets finish with the higher choice. After the trade, the Celtics waived Joseph.

There was a surprise when the Celtics decided to replace Rivers with Brad Stevens as the head coach. Stevens led Butler University to consecutive NCAA Finals appearances in 2010 and 2011. He is only 37 years old. There are many questions whether Stevens can be successful in the NBA because he is taking over a rebuilding team and the recent failure of college coaches who transition into the professional ranks looms. Also, many fans are skeptical whether headstrong point guard Rajon Rondo can get along with Stevens after he had reported arguments with Rivers.

While the Celtics look toward the future, this season does not look promising. They will not be able to start the season with their most talented player in Rondo. Rondo is out after suffering a torn right ACL in a January 27th game against the Atlanta Hawks. He is not expected to return until at least December. The team has one true point guard (5-foot-11-inch undrafted rookie Phil Pressey) and one true center (the Brazilian Vitor Faverani). Both players lack experience as they have never played a game in the NBA. While Pressey played well in the preseason, he is undersized. Faverani can be physical in the paint and he can shoot from the outside, but how will he fare when he has to defend Brook Lopez?

The Celtics have a logjam at the off-guard and power forward positions. Bogans, Avery Bradley, Brooks, Jordan Crawford, and Courtney Lee will fill the two-guard position. Brandon Bass, Humphries, Kelly Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger will be part of the rotation in the power forward role. Humphries is in the final year of his deal and he will be traded during the season. Sullinger was suspended for the first game of the season yesterday after his arrest for an altercation he had with his girlfriend in August. Olynyk was the team’s first-round selection (13th pick) this year. He will have to be able to defend without fouling. The native of Toronto was impressive during the NBA Summer League in Orlando as he showed an ability to shoot from the perimeter. He will most likely play the “stretch four.”

With Jeff Green and Wallace, the Celtics have two athletic swingmen who can play multiple positions.

In the preseason, the Celtics did not have a go-to scorer down the stretch and they struggled in closing out quarters. Pierce was always the player over the past 15 years who would take the biggest shots in the final minutes. Since Pierce is in Brooklyn, the Celtics will have to rely on Green to score more. Green is 6’9” with a long wingspan and he was taken with the fifth overall pick in 2007. The six-year veteran has shown glimpses of his talent, but he has never displayed consistency.

With 14 players already under contract, the team is just slightly under the luxury tax, there will most likely not be any more additions to the roster.

Many media personnel and fans believe the Celtics will be in the lottery for the 2014 NBA Draft. There are some people who think the Celtics can sneak into the playoffs because the Milwaukee Bucks made the playoffs as the eighth seed with a 38-44 record last year. Some teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, and Washington Wizards are filled with young talent, but they have been out of the playoffs for the past few years.

The Celtics have the Philadelphia 76ers in their division and the 76ers are tanking. During the preseason, the Celtics looked awful in a 97-85 loss to the Sixers.

Prediction:┬áThe Celtics finish with a record of 28-54. They will miss the postseason for the first time since the 2006-’07 season and finish in fourth place in the Atlantic Division ahead of the Sixers. Rondo will take his time to return and he will not be back until mid-January. At that point, the Celtics will be looking to trade veterans like Humphries and Wallace. Many Celtic fans may choose to cheer for the Nets who will showcase some old friends as they try to overtake the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

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