The Boston Celtics come into the 2014-’15 season with similar questions from the end of last year. Will Rajon Rondo, who is a free agent next summer, still be with the team at the end of the season? How will Marcus Smart fare in his rookie season?
The Celtics did not improve their team from the 25-win 2013-’14 squad. Many prognosticators are predicting the Celtics to finish with a similar record this year.
When the season starts on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets, Rondo might be on the floor. The All-Star point guard broke his left hand on September 26th. He has missed all of training camp and he just went through his first full-contact workout on Friday.
During camp, the Celtics have had more moving parts than Freshmen bringing their belongings into their dorm rooms on Labor Day. Danny Ainge packed Keith Bogans and his non-guaranteed $5.3 million salary to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the non-guaranteed deals of John Lucas, Erik Murphy, and Malcolm Thomas. Also, the Celtics acquired forward Dwight Powell, who was the only player with a guaranteed contract in the transaction. The Celtics gave up their second-round picks for 2015 and ’17 that are top-55 protected by the Sacramento Kings. The Celtics also received the Cavaliers’ second-round selections in 2016 and ’17. During this month, the Celtics released Lucas, Murphy, and Thomas. They also waived key contributors from last year’s team such as Chris Johnson and Chris Babb. In another transaction, the Celtics shipped Joel Anthony to the Detroit Pistons for guard Will Bynum. Currently, the Celtics have 16 players on their roster, but they are expected to either release Bynum or trade him this weekend.
Fans should expect the Celtics to make more moves during the regular season. Brandon Bass is also in the last year of his contract and the Celtics could move him before the trading deadline in February. Evan Turner could be like Jordan Crawford from last year. Turner is in the first year of a two-year contract that will pay him a total of $6.7 million. The fourth-year veteran was the second pick in the 2010 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. When he was traded to the Indiana Pacers last February, he failed to help the Pacers beat the Miami Heat and he barely played in the postseason. The 6-foot-7-inch swingman does not have a defined position and he has a history of clashing with coaches and teammates. Turner needs to prove the naysayers wrong and build himself into a proven commodity.
The Celtics have a lot of depth at guard and forward. They lack a true center who can protect the rim and they do not have a go-to scorer down the stretch.
Rondo, Smart, and Phil Pressey will be the point guards. When the Celtics drafted Smart with the sixth choice in the NBA Draft, Brad Stevens said that he could use Rondo and Smart on the floor together. Though,neither player can shoot from the perimeter. While Avery Bradley improved his three-point shooting to 36 percent last season, he is not as much of a threat from the outside. Also, Bradley has never been able to play a full season. The most games Bradley has played has been 64 in the lockout-shortened 2011-’12 season. He suffered two broken shoulders in the playoffs. The Celtics’ other first-round pick, James Young, has struggled with injuries throughout training camp and he has hardly seen the floor during the preseason. Young is expected to play very few minutes this year. Marcus Thornton brings instant scoring off the bench, but he is not a very good defender.
The Celtics have Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, and Turner at the small forward position. Both Green and Turner are high picks who have been maddeningly inconsistent in their careers. Wallace is coming off arthroscopic surgeries on his left knee and ankle in March. Ainge is just hoping that some team will take Wallace (with two years left on his deal) off the books. Bass and Jared Sullinger are both undersized power forwards. Sullinger is still developing his outside game, but he is a tenacious rebounder and he still carries a chip on his shoulder from being overlooked by lottery teams in the 2012 NBA Draft. Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller will be expected to man the center position as Zeller is the only legitimate 7-footer on the roster. Olynyk has an array of offensive skills and the hope is that Olynyk will be a force by being able to stretch the opposing center outside. The Celtics also do not have an inside scoring threat.
Prediction: The Celtics will finish with 23 wins this year. The schedule in November is a beast and fans will see more of the same from last year. Rondo will be traded during the season and the Celtics will have to take something at less than face value. Bass’ expiring contract will bring back something significant. The Celtics will accumulate more draft picks during this season. Green and Wallace will still be in Boston in April.