Culture of Hoops

2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Boston Celtics

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Most Important Player: Rajon Rondo
“As goes Rondo, thus goes the Celtics” applies this season more than ever. Rondo needs to either be stellar or take an off-year for tanking. No middle ground.

X-Factor: Brad Stevens
Of all the question marks on the Celtics roster right now, this one is the biggest. A coach untested in the NBA with a great college record is always interesting to watch as the season begins.

Rotations: Boston’s depth chart at center is like a row of street fair foodtrucks: lots of foreign cuisine that could either be amazing, mediocre or terrible, probably the latter two, but there’s no way to tell early. Expect rookie Kelly Olynyk to start. I love when Rondo and Avery Bradley are on the floor together, but expect Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and MarShon Brooks to get more playing time, against my better judgment. Jared Sullimger, Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and Keith Bogans is a formidable rotation of forwards. And to paraphrase Jay Pharoah’s Stephen A. Smith impression, Kris “Humphries” Kardashian should not be allowed to have arms to shoot a basketball.

What Needs To Go Right: Everything needs to go wrong! Let your stars sit and rest as long as they need to. Let Olynyk get a lot of playing time. Let Brad Stevens get his bearings. Take baby steps. Tank and snag Jabari Parker or whoever we limbo our way down to.

It’s Really Bad If: The team plays to their full potential. Let’s face it, there’s zero chance this team wins the whole shabang. Too many young players, too many injuries and a brand new coach. Even if we make the playoffs, we’re out in the first round and missed out on the best draft class since King James and the Also-Rans and are forced to five more seasons of rebuilding, with Rondo either leaving or wasting his prime.

Bold Prediction: Boston bombs hard. Really hard. Bottom ten teams in the NBA. Jeff Green re-injures himself, as well as Olynyk and Rondo is a sulky mess all season, which likely won’t even start for a while.


Brandon Bass, PF
Strengths: Bass is strong both offensively and defensively on the block, and has a pure jumper all the way out to about 17 feet. He’s also an incredibly cerebral player with a nose for loose balls and rebounds.
Weaknesses: While it isn’t that he ever lacks effort, at times he does appear to check out of games—as if flipping an on and off switch.
Season Prediction: Bass will have solid numbers—around 16 points and nine rebounds—and will step up in his role as one of the leaders of the team.

Avery Bradley, PG/SG
Strengths: Bradley is a remarkable on-ball defender and an excellent overall team player. He’s fearless going to the basket, but also deferential when it comes to acknowledging the primary offensive threats on the team. Also, he’s by now garnered some tenure in the minds of the fans.
Weaknesses: With the season fast approaching, he’s dealing with a flood of consuming personal affairs—from the tragic recent death of his mother to expecting the birth of his first child. While these matters, of course, should be afforded priority in his life over basketball—at least to begin the season, his play could be less than stellar.
Season Prediction: He’ll be a key contributor to a middling Celtic’s squad, and will earn a spot on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.

MarShon Brooks, SG
Strengths: Brooks is lithe, but in a quick and crafty way, and he’s got what’s known as the Clutch Gene. He’s young and seems to play with a chip on his shoulder, which in the NBA, is more often than not—a good thing.
Weaknesses: At times, he over-compensates in order to try and make His mark, and is therefore prone to turnovers.
Season Prediction: Brooks is a great young talent and is primed to usurp Lee as the go-to guard in the lineup. This will be a breakout year for him and he’ll be a valuable offensive X-factor—or Microwave, as the term has affectionately come to be known.

Jeff Green, SF
Strengths: Green has prototypical small forward talent. He’s smart, long, athletic and just about to enter his prime. Plus, being that, with Paul Pierce gone, he’ll be starting at his position, he’ll be hungry to demonstrate his abilities.
Weaknesses: He has a tendency to overthink on the court and, at times, is perhaps too sensitive. Moreover, while it’s reported he’s fully recovered from the heart condition that nearly took his life a couple of years ago, his motor hasn’t appeared to be the same since his surgery.
Season Prediction: Mostly by default, he’ll be the leading scorer on the team—in all likelihood, averaging over 20 points per game. He’ll also be a fringe NBA All-Star selection.

Kris Humphries, PF
Strengths: Humphries is an agitator—the type of player Boston has historically sought after and valued within their various systems. He’s also nearly always among the league leaders in rebounds.
Weaknesses: He’s famously had beef with the team’s star player, Rondo (though it was squelched at his welcoming press conference) and that lack of chemistry could ultimately keep him parked at the end of the bench. That, and he’s fairly incapable of creating his own shot down low.
Season Prediction: Beef aside, he’ll be a serviceable role player; he’ll get in the way of physical altercations on the court and average over 10 rebounds a game.

Courtney Lee, SG
Strengths: Lee is a smart shot-taker and a great asset on the wing on a fast break—something of which, under new coach, Brad Stevens, the club will likely be running a great deal. He’s also an excellent team defender, especially when flanked by the likes of Rondo and Bradley.
Weaknesses: Much like Bass, while Lee is always physically involved when on the court, he sometimes gets lost in the effective flow of the game, becoming not necessarily a liability, but somewhat of a redundancy.
Season Prediction: As the senior off-guard on the team, he’ll provide a decent contribution—with numbers probably somewhere in the region of 14 points, four assists and a few rebounds a game.

Kelly Olynyk, C
Strengths: Like Brooks, the rookie Olynyk comes to Boston as a certified X-factor. He’s got an ebullient court personality, he hustles and he’s an outright two-way prospect for the future.
Weaknesses: He’s a rookie. Period.
Season Prediction: Olynyk will get at least 15 productive minutes a game and will begin to ingratiate himself with the fans.

Rajon Rondo, PG
Strengths: Rondo is not only a premier facilitator, an excellent rebounder and defender and a much-improved shooter, he’s also bedecked with championship, as well as Celtics pedigree.
Weaknesses: He’s currently still injured and won’t be back until around Christmas; also, once he returns, his recalcitrant temperament—especially on the horizon of a new coach and revamped roster—could prove to be a less than positive influence on the team.
Season Prediction: He’ll lead the league in assists per game, yet again, and also assert himself and rightfully claim the role of Boston’s franchise player.

Jared Sullinger, PF
Strengths: Sullinger is a brick house in the post, and maybe the hardest worker the Celtics have. After undergoing back surgery in the middle of the season last year he’ll be ready to prove his mettle as a rebounder and blue-collar scorer.
Weaknesses: The reason Sullinger originally fell to the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft was because of his chronic back issues. The referendum, then—especially seeing as, firstly, the Cs are so stacked at the power forward position, and secondly, that he hasn’t played since his surgery—this season, will be about how fit he is to compete.
Season Prediction: While it’d be of huge benefit to Boston if he could play an integral role, as he vies for playing time among the herd of Bass, rookie Kelly Olynyk and transplants Chris Wilcox and Kris Humphries, Sullinger’s back issues are likely to return and thus, inhibit his performance.

Chris Wilcox, PF
Strengths: Wilcox is a savvy veteran, a very good rebounder, and yet another brute big man body for the Cs to put out on the floor.
Weaknesses: In no way is he an offensive threat and his conditioning has often been a question mark.
Season Prediction: Wilcox will play utility minutes in the wake of other players’ injuries or poor performance.

Top section by Evan Turissini; Player profiles by Ryan Keith


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