The Celtics are coming off of their worst season since 2006-07. Despite high expectations this offseason, the team is entering 2014-15 with a similar roster to last season, which comes with similar expectations. However, Brad Stevens will be in his second season as coach, Rajon Rondo will begin the season healthy should play most of the season and Danny Ainge has added some new, young talent. But it’€™s still clear that the Celtics are entering yet another rebuilding season, leaving us with some major questions. We’€™ll try to find some answers in this five-part series called Rebuild Spotlight.

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

When a team has a season like the 2013-14 Celtics did, much of the conversation amongst fans shifts from the play on the court to the potential that the future holds. We’€™re all guilty of it. Talking about who Boston’€™s next star could be is just more appealing than discussing why the C’€™s couldn’t get it done that game, again.

The problem is, those hopes and dreams rarely come true, as was the case this offseason. It started with the idea of winning the draft lottery, which would allow the Celtics to get their hands on either of the top prospects — Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. When that didn’t happen, the focus moved to trading for a star like Kevin Love. What actually happened wasn’t the flashiest move, but Ainge made the most of his opportunity selecting at No. 6 and 17 overall.

Many believe the Celtics selected the best available player with both of their first-round picks — Marcus Smart and James Young. The rookies came to the Celtics with completely different expectations for the upcoming season, but both figure to play huge roles Boston’€™s long-term success.

Here’€™s what they were able to accomplish statistically in their college careers at Oklahoma State and Kentucky, respectively:

Smart: 2012-13 as a freshman: 15.4 ppg (40.4 FG%, 29.0 3P%, 77.7 FT%), 5.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 3.0 spg, 33.5 minutes in 33 games

2013-14 as a sophomore: 18.0 ppg (42.2 FG%, 29.9 3P%, 72.8 FT%), 5.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.9 spg, 32.7 minutes in 31 games

Smart didn’t quite make the jump that he was expected going into his sophomore season, but he did show improvement. He shot the ball a little bit better and proved to be as versatile as any player in the 2014 draft. Smart upped his scoring in slightly fewer minutes by attacking the basket more, while maintaining highly productive numbers in rebounds, assists and steals.

Young: 2013-14 as a freshman: 14.3 ppg (40.7 FG%, 34.9 3P%, 70.6 FT%), 4.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 32.4 minutes in 40 games

Young played a lot of games considering he helped carry a youthful Kentucky team all the way to the NCAA championship game. Obviously, on a roster stocked with McDonald’€™s All-Americans, shots can be limited at times. But Young seemed to be the player that John Calipari gave the ball to when the Wildcats needed a bucket. Young is a fantastic scorer, but he arrives as a much more raw talent than Smart (Young just turned 19 in August). Despite not being able to contribute immediately, Young was thought of as a lottery pick much of the season and a top-10 pick in 2015 had he chosen to return to Kentucky for another season.

Smart has some of the highest expectations of all rookies this season, despite joining a crowded backcourt. Already deemed to be the next great perimeter defender, Smart is going to have to earn his minutes playing behind Rajon Rondo (when he returns from his broken left hand) and Avery Bradley. Combine Smart’€™s talent with his physical abilities and there is no chance that Brad Stevens can deny him a major role in Boston’€™s rotation, especially if Rondo ends up missing any serious time.

But can Smart be a serious contributor in just his first season? Absolutely.

Much like Kelly Olynyk last season, minutes as well as production could be inconsistent to begin with for Smart. But Olynyk really flourished after the All-Star break, and I expect that breakout to occur even earlier for Smart. It’€™s not out of the question to think Smart can play over 25 minutes per game while averaging in double figures and providing lockdown defense. Failing to become a first-team All-Rookie would be a disappointing debut season for Smart. Big things are in his future and they start right away.

Young projects to be a good player in the league as well, but unlike Smart, expecting any kind of contribution from him this season would be foolish for a couple of easons. For starters, as mentioned, the backcourt is packed. Smart has the skill set and body type to crack the rotation; Young does not. Guys like Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner will be much more attractive options off the bench for Stevens, especially early on in the season.

Being patient could be a very good thing for Young, though. Frankly, he is not yet ready to play consistent minutes in the NBA. It would have been nice for his preparation had Young been able to play in the Orlando summer league, but injury prevented him from doing so. All of these factors point to Young being a perfect candidate to take his talents to the D-League. It’€™s similar to a top prospect in baseball; Young’€™s options are to ride then bench in Boston, or play major minutes in Maine for the Red Claws. One of those options presents much more upside at age 19: playing time.

Young would be a star in the D-League and ideally get a huge confidence boost while playing 35-plus minutes on a nightly basis. Of course if Boston has another disappointing season, which is likely, Young could gain some NBA experience later in the season when the games carry less meaning.

Ainge could very well pull the trigger on a deal that would force Young to suit up for the Celtics at any time. But if all goes to plan, it seems likely the team will try to bring Young along slowly, while letting Smart off the leash right out of the gates, especially following the news of Rondo’€™s injury.

Check out the full rebuild spotlight series here:

Rebuild Spotlight: What to expect from Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller

Rebuild Spotlight: What to expect from Brad Stevens 

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

In a press release, the Celtics announced that point guard Rajon Rondo required surgery this morning after breaking his left hand in a fall at his house on Thursday night.

In a press release, the Celtics announced that point guard Rajon Rondo required surgery this morning after breaking his left hand in a fall at his house on Thursday night. Rondo is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, according to the team, which would mean that he’d miss approximately eight to 14 games depending if he returns between mid-November and the beginning of December.

Here is the press release from the team:

“The Boston Celtics announced today that guard Rajon Rondo underwent successful surgical fixation of a left metacarpal fracture this morning at New England Baptist Hospital. The injury was a result of a fall at his home last night. The surgery was performed by Dr. Hervey Kimball and Celtics Team Physician Dr. Brian McKeon. Estimated timetable for return is six to eight weeks.

“Rondo, a 6′€™1′€ guard, appeared in 30 contests (all starts) for the Celtics last season and averaged 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 1.33 steals in 33.3 minutes per game. He recorded a season-high 22 points against Atlanta on February 26, a season-high 11 rebounds against Philadelphia on April 4. On March 9 against Detroit, Rondo recorded 18 assists and zero turnovers, passing Bill Russell for fifth highest assist total in Celtic franchise history.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Days before training camp begins, the Celtics announced a series of roster moves, exchanging non-guaranteed deals and second-round picks with the Cavaliers, picking up a trade exception and releasing two players.

Days before training camp begins, the Celtics announced a series of roster moves, exchanging non-guaranteed deals and second-round picks with the Cavaliers, picking up a trade exception and releasing two players.

The C’s dealt Keith Bogans and the two heavily protected second-round picks from the Kings in 2015 and 2017 to the Cavs in exchange for Dwight Powell, the expiring contracts of John Lucas III, Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas, Cleveland’s 2016 and 2017 second-round selections and a $5.3 million trade exception.

Additionally, the C’s released Chris Babb and Chris Johnson. Got all that?

Powell, Cleveland’s second-round pick out of Stanford this past June, has a guaranteed deal, so the Celtics aren’t done dealing, since the addition of Evan Turner over the weekend would give them more guaranteed contracts (16) than the maximum allowed (15) once the season starts. The 6-foot-11, 234-pound Powell averaged 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists as a power forward for the Cardinal this past season.

Lucas, Murphy and Thomas will all likely be cut at some point in the near future, although Murphy — a former St. Mark’s star in Southborough, Mass. — is an intriguing addition if the C’s could stash him on the Red Claws.

So, why the deal? Well, those Kings picks will either fall from 56-60 in the draft or go back to Sacramento, so they weren’t worth much anyhow. The two second-rounders from Cleveland — barring protection — should fall somewhere in the 31-40 range with LeBron James and Kevin Love now on the Cavaliers.

But the big return in this trade is the exception. The $5.3 million TPE the Celtics received in return for Bogans allows them to still trade for a player of the same value without keeping paying the dead weight on the roster.

Thus ends the illustrious Celtics career of Bogans: 12 points in 55 minutes.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics are coming off of their worst season since 2006-07. Despite high expectations this offseason, the team is entering 2014-15 with a similar roster to last season, which comes with similar expectations. However, Brad Stevens will be in his second season as coach, Rajon Rondo will begin the season healthy and Danny Ainge has added some new, young talent. But it’s still clear that the Celtics are entering another rebuilding season, leaving us with some major questions. We’ll try to find some answers in this five-part series called Rebuild Spotlight.

Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are keys to the Celtics' youth movement in the frontcourt. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are keys to the Celtics‘ youth movement in the frontcourt. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In the minds of many, the Celtics were a relatively guard-heavy team last season. One of the main reasons Danny Ainge traded away the likes of Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford (aside from clearing cap space and adding assets) was simply to make room for Rajon Rondo when he returned.

This season, Boston will begin the year with not only a healthy Rondo, but the additions of guards Marcus Smart, James Young, Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner to the roster. To say the least, the backcourt will be a crowded one yet again.

Brad Stevens‘ frontcourt is a far different story.

Stevens is going to need to rely heavily on young bigs to produce — Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and newcomer Tyler Zeller to be specific. Sure, guys like Brandon Bass, Joel Anthony and Vitor Faverani are still around. But the former trio provides much more youth and potential, the direction in which the C’s seem to be trending.

Take a look at how they performed on the court last season:

Sullinger: 13.3 ppg (42.7 FG%, 26.9 3P%, 77.8 FT%), 8.1 rpg, 1.6 apg , 0.7 bpg, 27.6 minutes in 74 games

Olynyk: 8.7 ppg (46.6 FG%, 35.1 3P%, 81.1 FT%), 5.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.4 bpg, 20.0 minutes in 70 games

Zeller: 5.7 ppg (53.8 FG%, 71.9 FT% — attempted and missed one 3-pointer), 4.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 bpg, 15.0 minutes in 70 games

It’s worth noting that Zeller came off the bench much of last season. He posted averages of 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 26.4 minutes during his rookie campaign in 2012-13.

Sullinger clearly has the most star potential of the group; it’s evident whether you are judging by the eye test or simply eyeing the numbers. Sully is locked in as the starting power forward in Boston. The question is: Can we expect to see growth from Sullinger for a second straight season? If he can find consistency, then the answer is yes.

Sullinger had 19 games in which he scored 19 or more points last season, highlighted by his 31-point, 16-rebound performance against the Kings and a 25-20 game vs. the 76ers. But Sully seemed to suffer from “Jeff Green syndrome” at times, finishing with 20 games when he was only able to score in single digits. But unlike Green, Sullinger’s inconsistencies hinged on … well, Stevens’ inconsistencies with distributing playing time.

Green played in all 82 games last season, only playing under 30 minutes on 12 occasions. Sullinger played less than 30 minutes 39 times last year, and that’s while sitting out eight games. On top of that, Green played 38 or more minutes in 22 games while Sully only got that many minutes only twice.

Sullinger made major strides in his game last season, but this year should provide an opportunity to reach another level. If Stevens gives him the chance to play big minutes on a nightly basis, Sully could find himself developing into a star.

So who gets the nod at center for the Celtics? Zeller or Olynyk?

Both had strong finishes last season. Zeller averaged 15.7 points and 7.5 rebounds in his final four contests in a Cavs uniform, while Olynyk went off for 25.6 points, 9.3 boards and 3.6 assists during his last three games as a rookie. Sullinger happened to be sidelined during those final games, but when given the minutes, both Olynyk and Zeller have shown they have potential.

The starting center job most likely will be an ongoing battle through training camp, and probably beyond. But I would give the slight edge to Olynyk at the moment, simply because he has already been in Stevens’ system for a year and has familiarity with the majority of the players on the roster. Like last season, I would also expect Stevens to tinker with lineups, creating constant battles for starting roles, particularly between Olynyk and Zeller.

The verdict still is out on Olynyk and Zeller, so this season is going to provide a lot of clarity as to if either are going to be part of the future in Boston. Ainge is going to keep a close eye on them, as well as Sullinger, and monitor their development. Fair or not, all three will be counted upon in major roles if the Celtics are going to have any success up front.

Check out previous Rebuild Spotlight posts:

Rebuild Spotlight: What to expect from Brad Stevens

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Asked by one reporter to name his favorites in the NBA’s Eastern Conference this season, Celtics president Danny Ainge listed the Cavaliers, Bulls and Wizards.

Playoffs? Celtics president Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens aren’t talking about playoffs. Are you kidding me? (Getty Images)

Asked by one reporter to name his favorites in the NBA’s Eastern Conference this season, Celtics president Danny Ainge listed the Cavaliers, Bulls and Wizards.

“You left off the Celtics,” another media member countered.

“I did. Yes, I did. Good observation,” said Ainge, pausing, and then adding, “but I do believe the extraordinary is possible.”

Ladies and gentleman, the 2014-15 Boston Celtics, where the extraordinary is possible, but the reality is the roster looks an awful lot like the edition that won 25 games this past season.

“There were things that we wanted to do that we weren’t able to do,” said Ainge. “There were some things that were tempting that we didn’t do, that I’m very glad we didn’t do. I like that we were able to get some things accomplished, although we weren’t able to get a big, big deal accomplished that we wanted to. But I’m excited about our two young guys that we drafted, I’m very happy that we have Avery [Bradley] coming back and I really like our young core.”

It’s no secret the Celtics wanted Kevin Love, but all reports indicated their interest never amounted to much. Now, it seems, there was another trade ownership considered “a major deal” this summer that Ainge dismissed.

“I expected a lot of activity, phone calls and possibilities,” said C’s owner Wyc Grousbeck. “We got all of those. We didn’t consummate a major deal that I certainly would’ve welcomed, probably, to be honest, but we have a lot of assets, and I like how we used our first-round picks. I’m not claiming to be the basketball guy, but what I see from my fan’€™s standpoint is [James] Young and [Marcus] Smart both look like they can really add something to this team.”

Asked to clarify if “a major deal” reached his desk, Grousbeck retreated. “I always welcome a major deal in a sense, because that’s what happened in ’07, and I have fond memories. It’s not going to be easy to rebuild. We’re on that path. I think that we’re going to be better this year. That’s my hope. That’s my expectation, and we’ll let it play out.”

Whatever the deal was — whether it was Josh Smith or any number of second- or third-tier talents — it wasn’t ’07. Grousbeck’s motivation for making a deal, any deal, major or minor, was twofold: 1) “fireworks” and 2) tickets.

Ainge, however, has ulterior motives.

“It’s challenging, because there are always things you think you might be able to do to get a tiny bit better, but our goals are much bigger than that,” Ainge said of the temptation to make a trade for the sake of making a trade. “We want to hang banners in Boston, and ultimately that’s what drives all of our decisions.”

So, the C’s instead made the best of their trade exception from dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett  — adding Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton’s expiring contract and another first-round pick — drafted the best players available at their two slots and signed Evan Turner off the scrap heap, letting Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless walk.

“We obviously lost some pretty good players from last year’s roster, obviously, that went to other teams, and I’m happy for those guys, but I really like what we’ve added,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I like the fact that we can improve individually with the guys that were here, and I’m a big believer in that this is a game of small details that really add up at the end, and hopefully we can be better in all of those other things with the people that were here, and hopefully the new guys add to our collective ability to win, and obviously that’s the goal.”

That coach-’em-up mentality worked at Butler, but even if it translates with another young NBA roster in his second season, how many extra wins are we talking about here? 30? 35? Enough to make the playoffs in the East?

“I don’t know what my expectations are,” said Ainge. “I really want to see this team get together. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what my expectations are. It matters what their expectations are, the trust that they have in each other and the belief in what they can accomplish together. I think they’ll build a unity as this training camp goes on, but I’m excited to see them. I’m excited to see how it all works and how Marcus Smart sort of fits in with Bradley and [Rajon] Rondo and Jeff [Green] and how Evan fits in — I think two terrific players — and how Kelly [Olynyk] and [Jared Sullinger] have improved over the offseason. So far, they look really good, and I’m excited about them.”

This is the sell Ainge and Stevens and Grousbeck are making to Celtics fans after a fireworks-free summer, and it’s a tough one to buy. But, hey, at least they’ve still got all those assets. And Rondo. For now.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics want none of your Rajon Rondo questions. (Getty Images)



Vitor Faverani and Gerald Wallace are both expected to be healthy enough to participate when Celtics training camp begins next we