With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.
Next up, a young, rebuilding Boston Celtics team reeling from the loss of two leaders and the absence of an injured point guard.
[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]
With a blockbuster trade that sent their two core players, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to Brooklyn, the keyword for Celtics fans in 2013 is patience. For the first time in 15 years, Boston will have a new face at the small forward position and have to find a fourth quarter closer â€“ a near impossible task as Pierce is the Celtics second all-time leading scorer. Garnett provided veteran leadership and toughness in the paint as well as solid scoring production, even with his durability issues late in his Boston tenure. And to make matters worse, Doc Rivers left for the Clippers, leaving a huge vacancy at head coach.
In short, the Celtics are no longer an elite team in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve been chugging along even with their lack of star power. Boston received five players â€“ Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, and Keith Bogans â€“ and three future first-round draft picks in the Brooklyn trade. They also drafted Kelly Olynyk and picked up shifty point guard Phil Pressey in free agency. With Rondo still recovering from his ACL tear, general manager Danny Ainge hopes that his young players can develop at a rapid enough pace to contend in the conference. Or he’s hoping to fall far enough for a chance at a franchise-changing pick in this summer’s mammoth draft class.
Here are five things to watch for with the 2013-14 Celtics:
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Who Will Replace Rondo for First Half of Season?
Now that Pierce and Garnett are gone, Rajon Rondo is the undisputed leader of this Celtics roster. So, naturally, not having the All-Star guard for the first 30 games of the season could prove disastrous for this young Boston squad. However, the Celtics have enough pieces to be productive collectively at the point guard position.
Avery Bradley has shown glimpses of defensive excellence, but his improvement on offense will determine Boston’s fate. His athleticism makes him a worthy slasher to the basket, but he’s still a below-average jump shooter who’s not a natural distributor. Pressey is quick as a cat and embraces Brad Stevens’ heavy ball movement system, averaging a team-high 4 APG during the preseason. Though he’s listed at a very generous 5-11, and could get bullied by bigger guards on defense, he provides both poise and excitement to a team that lacks the flair of year’s past.
Stevens said that there are all kinds of point guards that are having success in different ways, and that indirectly means they don’t have another proven, prototypical point guard like Rondo, so others to step up. I expect Bradley and Pressey to do so, with the latter stealing some starting minutes. It also wouldn’t be surprising if the Celtics enlisted Courtney Lee to assist in the point guard circus until Rondo gets back.
Can Jeff Green Become a Superstar?
Green is entering year 7 in the NBA, and it’s looking like “put up or shut up” time. Green was James Harden before James Harden, averaging over 15 points for the Thunder/Sonics during his three-year stint before heading to Boston. The Celtics forward is now on his second year of a four-year, $36 million contract and everything is in place for him to have a breakout season. He’s shown us that he’s capable of taking over a basketball game. He averaged over 17 PPG after the All-Star break last season, including over 20 points per contest in the playoffs. Green’s most memorable game came in a 105-103 loss to the Heat, where he dropped 43 points, snagged 7 rebounds, blocked 4 shots, and looked like the best player on the floor â€“ LeBron included.
Teams are sure to lock in on Green with the lack of scoring options on the Celtics roster this year. But Green’s offensive game is multifaceted enough for him to become a 20-point scorer. He can shoot from the perimeter, but he’s at his best when he attacks the rim relentlessly (ask Al Jefferson). Green is also active on the defensive end, playing the passing lanes intelligently and helping from the weak side on mismatches for possible blocks. If he can stay healthy and spearhead this team to a winning record, Green could be a dark horse All-Star selection.
Can Brad Stevens Sneak this Team Into the Playoffs?
The short answer is no. But Stevens was a great college coach and will eventually become a great NBA coach. At Butler, he took a mid-major destined for peanuts and ended up with filet mignon. One doesn’t take a non-powerhouse college to two consecutive National Championship games without being a quality coach.
Stevens is neither Rick Pitino nor John Calipari, both of whom had a slight ego trip during their coaching tenure in Boston. He’s a players coach â€“ as clichÃ© as it sounds â€“ who has the best interest of his players in mind and will put them in the best possible position to excel as a team every night. Even with Rondo and Green, there aren’t very high expectations for this Celtics squad, so Stevens will have an opportunity to experiment without facing blame for the woes that will surely occur during this growing season. He’s an excellent play-caller whose schemes rely on heavy ball movement, and once Rondo returns, we’ll see this team in full form. But by then, it could be too late for Boston to contend.
Surprise Perimeter Shooting
There are numerous spots up for grabs on this Celtics roster, and to crack the rotation means becoming a viable scoring option next to Jeff Green. If we count on Stevens using his brilliant coaching mind, he’ll have Green as a stretch four who’ll spend a good amount of time attacking the rim. Therefore, shooters must be ready to knock shots down when he penetrates to draw the defense in before kicking it for the open outside looks.
Gerald Wallace can shoot the corner thr3ee (h3 hit 3838 percent from the left corner in 2012-13), but he’s pretty much average everywhere else. Brandon Bass has a money midrange jumper but doesn’t step out further than 14-15 feet. If new acquisitions MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans can provide reliable perimeter scoring, it’ll spread the floor for Green and Kelly Olynyk in the post.
They can’t wait to start gunning it. Just look at those smiles!
Kelly Olynyk: Surprise All-Star Nod?
Green will be the primary scorer for the Celtics this season, and even then, I think it’ll be a reach for him to get an All-Star nod. especially if Boston has a losing record at the break. However, if they surprise teams and accumulate more wins than expected, it’ll be because of Olynyk’s production.
Coach Stevens wants Olynyk to be more aggressive since he has such a versatile offensive repertoire. He’s so unselfish that he can occasionally over pass â€“ though he’s a fantastic distributor for his size â€“ but it’s his dexterity in the post coupled with his dangerous outside jumper that makes him such a crucial piece for this roster. NBA GM’s just named him the biggest steal of the 2013 NBA Draft, and you’ll see exactly why after this season.
What do you think?
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