A new Celtic season is less than a week away. This year’s team figures to be better than the team last year – at least that’s how it seems on paper and in preseason games. Nobody is expecting a run in the playoffs, that’s for sure. But at the very least, green-teamers like myself would rather see this team contend for a low playoff seed, than tank for a second straight year. What does this team need to do to make that happen, you ask? Well, in this 2014-15 Celtics season preview, here are five things that the team needs in order to be successful this year, and contend for a playoff spot.
The Team Gels and Finds an Identity
The Celtics roster boasts some good young talent, and the current roster as it stands is cut out to run. The team is surprisingly deep across all positions. In fact, almost too deep, to the point where some players may see undeserving time cuts. However, many players on this team can play multiple positions which gives Brad Stevens the ability to mix and match more lineups. Jeff Green can play both forward positions as can Gerald Wallace. Rookie point guard Marcus Smart may see some time at shooting guard backing up Avery Bradley, and so will Marcus Thorton and newcomer Evan Turner, who is slated to back up Green at the small forward position. Also backing up Green are Wallace, and rookie James Young. The power forward and center positions are not much different, with Bass, Sullinger, Olynyk and Tyler Zeller, the only “true” center on the roster. Many players on this roster could start, but outside of Rondo, nothing is set in stone. It will be interesting to see if Stevens can get all of these players into a rotation that can click and play team ball at all times. The deeper the roster, the more difficult that can get. Stevens has his work cut out for him this year.
Rondo Has a Max Contract Season
It does not matter how many times Ainge says he doesn’t intend on trading Rondo, or how many times Rondo says he wants to stay in Boston. He could still get traded, especially considering Ainge is prone to pull the trigger on the right trade. The Celtics will look at all options to trade their veteran point guard at any sign of a repeat of last year. It certainly does not help that Rondo is slated to miss the start of the season after breaking his hand in the shower. The Celtics will only go as far as Rondo leads them. It’s clear Ainge wants him to be the man who leads this team for years to come. Rondo needs to prove he can do that this year. If the team gets off to a poor start, he could be gone come trade deadline. If he is dealt, the promising rookie Marcus Smart would likely assume the point guard position.
Jeff Green Shows Consistency
Only 28 years old and in the prime of his career, Jeff Green could be due for a much improved season. Despite having an up-and-down year last year, he still has a high ceiling as a player and as a leader of this club. Stevens has boasted about Green’s swagger that he has seen from him coming into training camp, which is a very encouraging sign. His main issue last year was his consistency both in his game and his intensity. Last year, he was considered the go-to-guy on a team that didn’t have many other options. With more scorers around him this year, a lot of that pressure could be alleviated.
Evan Turner Finds His Role
Evan Turner officially inked a 2-year deal on Monday, worth $6.7 million. As of now, Turner will back up Jeff Green and Avery Bradley at shooting guard and small forward. It’s unclear how much time he will see off the bench, especially with premium the Celtics have in the backcourt and at small forward. Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers after what looked to be a break-out year for the 76ers. Coming off the bench did not suit Turner, as he struggled to contribute in a limited role down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. The hope for the Celtics would be for Turner will find a way to make the most of his minutes off the bench as this team’s sixth man. I could also see him getting some action down the stretch in close games. He has a dangerous mid-range game and great court vision, and could gel well with the Rondo. However, with Avery Bradley’s new four-year, $32 million contract this offseason, it’s clear who the main man at shooting guard will be.
People Can Understand Gerald Wallace
That probably won’t happen. In all seriousness, Wallace may actually find himself playing some power forward this year, on a team that lacks some depth at PF and C. He is an above-average defender with a big enough frame to defend the PF position. Wallace is the team’s most veteran player, and plays a bigger role than most think in terms of veteran leadership and the intangibles, something this young team really needs. It would also be nice for the Celtics to get the most out of his $10 million contract this year.