5 Reasons Why Boston Celtics Will Make The Playoffs
5 Reasons Why Boston Celtics Will Make The Playoffs
Since blowing up the franchise, parting ways with head coach Doc Rivers and trading Celtics Legends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics are entering the 2013-14 season with a whole new look and a ton of inexperience.
After finishing last season with a 41-40 record and claiming the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics ultimately lost in the first round of the playoffs. Deciding to officially enter the rebuilding process, one of Boston's first moves of the offseason was to look for a new head coach. The Doctor may have been out, but the young and inexperienced Brad Stevens was in.
In six years as the head coach for Butler, Stevens led the Bulldogs to four Conference Championships, two Final Four appearances and flaunts a very impressive 166-49 record. Despite his impressive resume, statistics are not on his side as historically, college coaches have a hard time adjusting to the NBA level. Most notably, Rick Pitino from Kentucky (102-146 NBA record) and Tim Floyd from Iowa State (49-190 NBA record)
Being the youngest coach in the NBA next season at 36, it will be interesting to see if he can bring his college success over to the pros and most importantly, to the Boston Celtics.
Having a young core to build around, the sky is the limit for what Boston can accomplish this season. Here are five reason why the Celtics will make the playoffs.
5. Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo is coming off a plagued year as he only played in 38 games all season, averaging 13.7 PPG, 11.1 APG and 5.6 RPG while shooting .484 from the field. Rondo was on track to break the NBA assist record of 46 straight games with at least 10 assists per game set by Magic Johnson in the 1983-84 season. Unfortunately, Rondo came up short after he was involved in a brawl with Kris Humphries and the Brooklyn Nets and was ejected from the game, finishing the night with three assists, ending his streak of 37 consecutive games with at least 10 that dated back to March 11 of the 2011 season. That ties John Stockton for second-longest in NBA history.
Though they lost Rondo, who was hurt during the course of a Jan. 25 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics, at one point, were 13-4 that began with a double-overtime victory over the first place champion Miami Heat.
Despite their success, the Celtics found themselves booted out of the first round of the playoffs by the New York Knicks to a large extent because they lacked a true point guard. For the Celtics, Rondo has solidified his importance at the position. As he may be forced to take on more of the offensive load after a career-high 5.9-12.2 FGM-A, Rondo has proven to be resilient and up for any challenge that may come his way -- even if it's just improving his jump shot.
4. Avery Bradley
With Avery Bradley making his best attempts to fill Rondo's shoes and taking on the reins at point guard in the postseason, the Celtics couldn't put the pieces together. Bradley was non-existent with a sub-par 6.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG and a mediocre 1.3 APG while shooting .405 from the field. Though he struggled in the playoffs, Bradley played in 50 games last season averaging 9.2 PPG, 2.1 APG, 2.2 RPG, and shot .402 from the field. To say he is injury-prone is an understatement; he hasn't played over 64 games in any of the three years he has been in the NBA.
Although Bradley struggles to stay healthy and may not be a top offensive player, he is amongst the elite perimeter defenders in the league as he averaged 1.7 STLPG and has shut down some of the best in the game.
Bradley will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Celtics will have to make an important decision on whether they want to resign him. Boston already has depth in the backcourt, most notably consisting of Jordan Crawford and Marshon Brooks, so letting Bradley walk may not have much significance. For now, expectations are high that he will play a much-improved game as he is in his contract year.
3. Jeff Green
Jeff Green is entering his fifth season in the NBA and may be primed for a breakout year. The 26 year old missed all of the 2011-12 season after he underwent heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and many questioned whether Green would ever return to the court again. Though he averaged career-lows in points with 12.4 and rebounds with 3.9, he shot a superb .467 from the field and played his role to perfection, backing up Pierce and Garnett at both forward positions. Green showed glimpses of hope with his emergence as a potent offensive threat, but was inconsistent and at some points, lacking aggressiveness. Looked to be one of Boston's main offensive contributors this upcoming season, Green will be forced to take on a much bigger role both offensively and defensively.
As he is in the prime of his career, Green needs to prove his value this season if he wants to be a part of Boston's future plans. When Green signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the Celtics in the 2012 offseason, there was debate over the length and value of the contract considering he only played in 26 games for the Celtics in the 2010-11 season, averaging 9.8 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 23.5 minutes. This is especially true since the Celtics broke up team chemistry by giving up defensive big man Kenderick Perkins in the deal, which arguably cost them a championship.
For the Celtics, they'll hope that inserting Green into the starting rotation and giving him an increased role and minutes will result in production like his 2008-09 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That year, he averaged career-highs with 16.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2 STLPG and shot .446 from the field in 36.8 minutes.
2. Jared Sullinger
The no. 21 pick out of Ohio State, Jared Sullinger, saw flashes of potential last season before being shut down due to nagging back problems. In 45 games played, Sullinger averaged 6 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 0.5 BLKPG while shooting .493 from the field in 19.8 minutes. Almost half of Sully's rebounds were offensive boards.
Sullinger was projected to be a lottery pick back in the 2012 draft, but was medically red-flagged by NBA doctors in concerns of his back. Subsequently, Sullinger fell to the Boston Celtics despite his great college performance. In two seasons with the Buckeyes, Sullinger averaged 17.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG and shot .530 from the field. Sully showed a lot of heart on the court and was praised for his high basketball IQ. He was starting to become a mainstay in the Celtics rotation and his play and energy reminded many of former Celtic Glen "Big Baby" Davis, but with a much better shot.
If Sullinger can stay healthy, then he will be projected to start alongside Gonzaga product Kelly Olynyk. With an deep front court that consists of names like Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace and Brandon Bass though, it's not a done deal that Sully wins the starting job.
1. Kelly Olynyk
Gonzaga standout Kelly Olynyk is entering his rookie year under a lot pressure to succeed, as he has been continuously hyped up by the ever-famous Boston media. In his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, the Canadian big man averaged 5.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 0.1 BLKPG while shooting .574 from the field. Due to his lackluster performance and minimal minutes, Olynyk decided to red shirt as a Junior, meaning he would be able to practice with the team, but not play in any games.
Upon return, Olynyk re-invented himself, as he beefed up his 7-feet frame and became a monster down low both offensively and defensively. On the season, he averaged 17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BLKPG and shot .629 from the field, leading Gonzaga to a number one seed in the NCAA national tournament. Due to his much-improved season and helping to lead the Bulldogs to a 16-0 Western Conference mark and a 29-2 regular season record, Olynyk was named the player of the year.
Olynyk played great in the NBA summer league as he averaged 18.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.8 SPG while hitting 58 percent of his shots. Though there was some knocks on his defensive game, he showed the ability to hit the mid-range jumper and inhabited a variety of post moves. Olynyk has the potential to be an important piece in the Celtics' rebuilding puzzle. After dominating the NCAA, he brought over the same mentality and level of efficiency in Orlando as he did in Gonzaga.
What's In Store For the Celtics' Future?
Though many have already sealed the Celtics' fate as being bottom-feeders in the Eastern Conference and tanking this season, the Celtics have enough talent statistically to make the playoffs whether you believe it or not. Although they are nowhere close to being legitimate contenders, they may be one of the few teams that can muscle their way into the postseason.
There is also the possibility that the Celtics can rebuild the franchise without tanking. If Brad Stevens can make a positive adjustment at the NBA level and prove history wrong, then the Celtics may find unexpected success as they attempt to build around a young and inexperienced core that may ultimately lead to championship no. 18.