5 Players Who Will Go Big for the Boston Celtics This Season
These 5 Players are Going to be Big for the Celtics this Year
I’ll be honest. There are very few rational Boston Celtics fans in this world. Most of us are still in the denial phase of officially losing their Big Three (and Rajon Rondo until December) and believe the Celtics will be fighting for Banner 18 come spring. While unfortunately, those days are long gone from the TD Garden, a new day shall dawn.
The Celtics, like any team, will only have a future as bright as their players. Teams like the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers are typically credited with being full of bright, young talent who can carry them comfortably into the future. However, the Celtics have a lot of players who are not quite struggling rookies, yet are still on the verge of being something special in the NBA. On the Celtics, there is an overwhelming need for each and every player to step up their effort and do their designated job harder and better than ever.
I have no doubt the team will go all out in hopes of restoring pride to a now struggling franchise. However, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett gone, the Celtics will need a lot more than smiles and effort. There is a major hole left in scoring and in defense in the Celtics future; a hole that Pierce and Garnett once filled. However, there are five players on the Celtics roster I see really improving play in order to fill these holes.
These players are particularly unique in that the league has seen them before, and never found them better than average. However, this time and place with the Boston organization will bring out the best in these players, leading them to do big things.
5: Jeff Green
Often absent-mindedly thought of is the future of the Celtics, and many fans are now looking to Jeff Green, because the future has arrived -- and it’s not pretty. However, Green stands as one of the many silver linings of the young Celtics team moving forward. In spite of crippling heart surgery, Green returned to the Celtics last season with a vengeance, even earning the nickname “Iron Man” from the fans for his intense play. Green’s defense is tough to come by for a player of his offensive play style.
Green is also the size of the average three, but can swing up to the four when Brad Stevens wants to play small ball. He has proved himself in a number of important situations, highlighted by his guarding of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and the occasion on which he dropped 43 on the Boston-hated Miami Heat. While the incidents are isolated and do not represent Green’s overall game, they do illuminate his potential all the more.
The last time fans saw Green, he was averaging 20 points in the Celtics first and only playoff series against the New York Knicks. However, don’t be surprised if Green’s incredible quickness and athleticism leads him to become Boston’s No. 1 scoring option in the season ahead. At his best, Green's stats could emulate those of a young Tracy McGrady in the next season or two. It’s hard to find someone to replace Pierce, but Green might be the man for the job.
4: Phil Pressey
Alright, so maybe this is cheating. Phil Pressey has never played on the Celtics. He has never scored a point in the NBA. He probably hasn’t even been to the TD Garden before. So to say he will be better for the Celtics than he was last year is a moot point.
However, for a rookie, I believe Pressey will prove to be a valuable part of the Celtics lineup. His size and incredible leaping ability is reminiscent of Nate Robinson, but aside from that, he is a very unique player. While his ball handling skill could use some work, I am at a loss for any players better suited to aid him than his new teammate, Rondo. His defense is not at a high level either, partly due to the fact he is a not a defensive-minded player, and partly because he is undersized. Yet again, he has a golden opportunity to learn from an elite undersized defender in the ever-aggressive Avery Bradley.
Finally, Pressey is in a unique position because he has so much opportunity. Rondo is out for a while. Bradley is just now becoming a swing guard. And that leaves Pressey as the only point guard on the team. Sure, he played the two-guard in college, but in the NBA, he is simply too small to be anything besides an effective point guard.
All I’m suggesting is that for an undrafted Summer League product, Pressey is going to do work for Boston this season. He may not rack up any triple-doubles, but you can look for some big moments as the season marches on.
3: Courtney Lee
As previously mentioned, Courtney Lee did not get a fair shake last season. He was in an odd system, one of many two-guards, couldn’t find his shot and was never given a set role on the team. The factors led to a largely underperforming Lee, and some rather irked Celtics fans.
It's a new season, though, so a new Lee is likely to emerge. While this isn’t true of every player, it may be of Lee. Stevens represents a new system, and a new chance. Aside from Stevens, however, Lee’s biggest shot at stepping up comes via Bradley. With Rondo gone until December, Bradley will more than likely spend a great deal at point, and open up the log jam at the shooting guard spot. Behind Bradley and with Jason Terry gone, the Celtics next in line shooting guard will be Lee. If nothing else, Lee will get to play more. Odds are that will lead to him shooting more.
Much of the flak Lee took last season was related to his inability to shoot the three-ball with consistency. But to be fair, last season Lee was shooting .464 from the field, the best percentage in his career. If Lee was doing that under the flawed conditions he had, imagine what is possible now. Also, for whatever reason, Rivers tended to keep him on a rather short leash. The Western Kentucky guard hardly saw any action during the playoffs either, only averaging nine minutes and one point. While I don’t expect Coach Stevens to give the “green light,” it would make sense for Lee to have more options and freedom in the coming season. We can expect big things from Lee this season, because he can finally do them.
2: Avery Bradley
The story of Avery Bradley is as inspiring as it is odd. Bradley rode his success as a Texas Longhorn to a spot on the Celtics D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. From there, he earned himself a spot on the very end of the Celtics bench. From the Celtics bench, Bradley guarded and hustled his way to the starting lineup, where he has resided ever since. The odd part about Bradley’s story is how a player so good could have gone so unnoticed for so long.
Expect history to repeat itself with Bradley this season as he turns out to be an even more effective player than initially thought. While teaming with Courtney Lee, you can expect Bradley to keep up his high level of defense displayed last season. However, Bradley does lack something he had last year. During the Doc Rivers era in Boston, defense was job one. Sure, Stevens is a solid overall coach, but I don’t see him being known for defensive strategy in the NBA the same way Rivers was. That said, Bradley is a defensive gem partly because of his own devices. While he can’t coach himself, his defense should be about as good as it was last year.
So how will Bradley step it up?
The improvement will take place on the offensive side of the floor. Last season, Bradley added nine points a game to the Celtics scoring, most of which came off of back door cuts from Garnett. Even with Garnett gone, Bradley’s offense will be better for a number of reasons. First of all, he’s put on 16 pounds since last season, and even developed his skills where he is willing to run point. This season, we are going to see a healthy, bulkier and more skilled Bradley actually be able to play a full season with increased minutes and a more-defined role. Anything short of an extra five points per game would be entirely surprising.
1: Brandon Bass
If there ever was an example of quiet persistence, it was Brandon Bass. When Bass was brought in for Glenn “Big Baby” Davis from the Magic, there was no fanfare. Currently, he doesn’t trash talk the other teams. He does not give rambling interviews. He has not been known to get into legal trouble. Bass is a simple player, playing a meticulous game not seen in most players his size. Whether he’s blocking shots, splashing his patented mid-range corner J or putting an unsuspecting victim on a poster, Bass goes big.
Last season, Bass averaged eight points, five rebounds and an assist. Not impressive numbers, but rather than being a mixture of big games and little games, these were the sorts of figures Bass was producing on a consistent basis. Often times, players are not constant enough in which stats can give you an idea of what they will do on any given night. While Bass might not be anyone’s Dwight Howard, he is exactly what the Celtics need this coming season. Things are going to be weird and unstable in Boston, and a steady performer like Bass can soothe the effects of that. Aside from that, now that Garnett has left town, Bass will be called upon all the more to step in and take charge of the paint. I understand that Boston has added some serious size in Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries, but Bass has a serious leg-up on the others. As a Celtic for a couple seasons, Bass will more than likely be trusted with more minutes than would the other two. My only point is that despite the bigger additions to Bass’ position, he will still get even more minutes than last season.