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

Vitor Faverani

Vitor Faverani

Vitor Faverani and Gerald Wallace are both expected to be healthy enough to participate when Celtics training camp begins next week, but whether Faverani will be in uniform on opening night remains a different story.

Each underwent season-ending surgery in March to repair a torn left meniscus, and the 32-year-old Wallace also had left ankle surgery. Both “should be all clear” when official practices begin Tuesday, said coach Brad Stevens, although Faverani faces a potential suspension for his DUI arrest this summer.

“We’re still contemplating [disciplinary action],” said team president Danny Ainge, “but there will be some consequences, absolutely. But I won’t make those public.

“Health-wise, Vitor’s knee has been up and down,” Ainge added. “He’s been on the court some, but he still had some challenges. I do expect him to be ready to go by training camp. We’re just being extra cautious with him right now, but he’s been on the court playing, doing drills. He’s had some setbacks with the swelling, but we’re hopeful that he can make it through training camp.”

As for Wallace, “I don’t know completely on Gerald,” said Ainge. “I think he’ll be ready to go by training camp, but I haven’t seen Gerald yet. He’s an old cagey vet, so we’ll probably see him on Media Day [Monday].”

Following his trade from the Nets to Boston last summer, Wallace didn’t show up until Media Day in 2013, either. Meanwhile, a number of other Celtics, including Faverani, have been working with Stevens in recent weeks.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge continued to straddle the fence on The Rajon Rondo Question — to trade or not to trade his four-time NBA All-Star point guard — during a Q&A

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge continued to straddle the fence on The Rajon Rondo Question — to trade or not to trade his four-time NBA All-Star point guard — during a Q&A session with former WCVB-TV sportscaster Mike Dowling at Worcester’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The truthful answer is I really don’t know,” Ainge told the congregation on Sunday, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. “I have no intention. I’m not trying to trade Rondo, but because he’s a free agent this summer, he assured me that he wants to stay in Boston. We’d love to keep him in Boston.”

On the other side of the fence, “The possibility of a trade is not out of the question,” Ainge added. “Nobody is untradeable, but I don’t see that happening.”

According to the T&G’s Bill Doyle, Ainge told the several hundred gathered that the Celtics approached Rondo’s agent about a contract extension to no avail each of the past two summers. Of course, Rondo’s value the last two offseasons isn’t close to what he could command as an unrestricted free agent next year should he submit another All-Star caliber season. In the meantime, Ainge will keep on straddling that fence.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

I think we can all agree the Celtics won’€™t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon RondoAvery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’€™s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’€™s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’€™s pieces in a series we’€™ll call Asset Management. Next up: Avery Bradley.

In NBA circles outside Boston — and even some in Celtics Nation — Bradley’s four-year, $32 million contract extension received extensive criticism this summer, which seems weird for a player of his caliber. Let’s think about this.

When compared to Detroit’s overpayment of Jodie Meeks (3 years, $19.5 million), Bradley’s average annual value of $8 million doesn’t seem so bad, but teams were frugal with guards this offseason, and a deal like San Antonio’s with Patty Mills (3 years, $12 million) makes Bradley’s price tag appear a bit high.

Play along for a minute and take a look at these numbers from 2013-14.

Player 1: 18.4 ppg (44.4 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 79.5 FT%), 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.9 spg
Player 2: 14.9 ppg (43.8 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 80.4 FT%), 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg

If you were paying attention this past season, you’ll recognize Bradley as Player 2 in this scenario. Player 1? None other than Klay Thompson, the shooting guard Golden State wouldn’t give up to land Kevin Love. The same Thompson whose agent, Bill Duffy, recently dubbed his client, “the top two-way, two-guard in basketball,” in an attempt to land a maximum contract extension from the Warriors that would start at roughly twice Bradley’s average annual value.

Is Bradley the offensive talent Thompson has proven himself to be? Of course not, although his 40 percent shooting on 200 3-pointers wasn’t so bad. Just 12 guards matched that feat in 2013-14: Bradley, Thompson, Curry, Mills, Meeks, Goran Dragic, Jose Calderon, D.J. Augustin, Marco Belinelli, Arron Afflalo, Joe Johnson and Bradley Beal.

And how many of them have an NBA All-Defensive nod on their resume? Only one: Avery Bradley, who at 23 years old also happens to be the second-youngest member of that group behind Beal. The backcourt mates for much of that shooter’s dozen were also fairly impressive. Mills and Belinelli had Tony Parker, Dragic had half a season of Eric Bledsoe, Calderon had Monta Ellis, Johnson had Deron Williams, Beal had John Wall, Thompson and Curry had each other, and Bradley had, well, Jordan Crawford, Phil Pressey and 30 games of Rajon Rondo‘s rehab stint.

So, why the criticism? Bradley’s inability to stay on the court has been the biggest roadblock on his path to success. His 2012 double shoulder surgeries cost the Celtics a shot at a third NBA Finals in five years and set him back 30 games the following season. Ankle sprains and an Achilles strain cost him another 22 games last year. The shoulder issues haven’t popped up since and Bradley has been training all summer in a program designed to limit the injury risk to his lower extremities, but that “injury prone” label won’t go away until he proves otherwise.

Since playing 33 games alongside Rondo and essentially saving the Celtics season in 2012, the apparent backcourt of the future has shared the floor in just 26 games over the past two years. Somehow, Rondo and Bradley have only played a combined 63 games in their four years as teammates. Every season, we’re teased by the possibility of this wonderfully complementary pair — Rondo’s passing wizardry offensively and off-ball gambling defensively combined with Bradley’s 3-point-splashing, backdoor-slashing ways on one end and on-ball lockdown ability on the other. And every year we’re left wondering what might have been. Barring a preseason injury or a blockbuster trade involving Rondo, we’ll at least see them in the same season-opening starting lineup for the first time, and that’s something.

If Bradley keeps displaying that All-Defensive talent and 40 percent shooting from 3 while avoiding serious injury for the next four seasons, he’ll be worth that $8 million annually and then some, regardless of whether Rondo or Marcus Smart mans the other guard position by the end of that contract. The Celtics are banking on it.

Asset Rating: B+

This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.

Asset Management: Jeff Green’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Tyler Zeller’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Kelly Olynyk’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Marcus Smart’s Celtics future

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 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.

Brad Stevens showed signs in his first season with the Celtics that he can be an elite NBA coach. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Brad Stevens showed signs in his first season with the Celtics that he can be an elite NBA coach. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Despite just 25 wins in Brad Stevens’ debut season in Boston, the verdict is in on the coach: He’s the real deal. That was the hope when Ainge lured Stevens away from Butler with a six-year contract, but now we have clarity. After dazzling in his first season on the NBA sidelines, Stevens has made it clear that he is going to be as much a cornerstone of the Celtics’ rebuild as anyone.

Of course, much like the young players he coaches, Stevens must reach his full potential if he is going to lead the Celtics back to contention. The C’s were a solid defensive team right away last season; they were 14th in defensive rating heading into the All-Star break, but finished 20th at season’s end. Stevens wants to establish a defensive identity, and with Avery Bradley (who sees Boston having a top-10 defense this season) returning and the addition of Marcus Smart (whom scouts believe is the league’s next great perimeter defender), improvement on that side of the ball is expected.

Defense will be Stevens’ focus when training camp begins, but the Celtics’ offense, untraditionally, is where the biggest improvements are needed. Frankly, last season was a mess offensively, regardless of whether Rajon Rondo was on the floor or not.

Boston finished the season 27thin offensive rating and 28th in turnover rating. Until those numbers change, the losses are going to continue to pile up. Last year’s plan was to make Jeff Green the featured piece on offense. Yet, he failed to prove himself as a consistent option when all signs pointed to Green compiling career numbers.

On the other hand, Bradley (23 years old) and Jared Sullinger (22) stepped in as strong offensive options when healthy. Stevens would be silly not to present his younger stars with larger roles in the offense this season. Obviously, beginning the season with a healthy Rondo to go along with the additions of Smart, fellow rookie James Young, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner have to prove to be of some help.

Stevens likely will be dealing with an offense by committee like he was last season, this time with Rondo at the helm from the get-go. Bottom line is that there must be more offensive fluidity if the Celtics expect to up their win total from a year ago, particularly in terms of attempting to find some sort of consistency that Green couldn’t provide.

When it comes down to it, Brad Stevens is a fantastic leader for the Celtics going forward. His job is certainly not in any kind of jeopardy at all, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect improvements this season. Stevens has had a year to settle in and learn the ropes of the NBA. This season, prepare to watch him take the next step toward becoming one of the elite coaches in the league.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow