NBA Season Preview: Boston Celtics


Projected record: 28-54, 12th in East


Rajon Rondo
The Celtics will be without Rajon Rondo for 6-8 weeks. (AP)

Head coach: Brad Stevens
Projected record: 28-54 (12th)
2013-14 record: 25-57
2013-14 ORtg: 99.7 (T-27th)
2013-14 DRtg: 105.2 (20th)
Players in: Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton, James Young, Tyler Zeller
Players out: Jerryd Bayless, Kris Humphries
Projected Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger

Watch the show “Deal Or No Deal” just once. It seems perfectly entertaining. Look at those people winning all that money!

Then watch Deal or No Deal for an entire season. After a couple of episodes, you’ll realize it’s got no substance. By the end, you’ll question why you aren’t watching something else entirely.

This Boston Celtics team is “Deal or No Deal” on an NBA floor. They’re so tempting. Look at the roster: you want to believe in them. But that’s hard to reconcile with the facts.

You see flashes in Rajon Rondo — who may miss the start of the season after breaking his hand — and Jeff Green, and you can picture Marcus Smart bullying his way to the hole as he did so often as a college freshman, but those shining moments will be few and far between.

Their best players are young, their frontcourt is inexperienced, and while they’ve got talent, they lack in star power. Ten different players on this roster could be rotation players on most NBA rosters, but most of those players would be 7th, 8th, or 9th men. It’s like those Houston Rockets teams a few years ago, building and biding their time until they decided to empty their war chest for James Harden. The Celtics too are acquiring picks and young players, possibly to make a similar move.

These Celtics are fortunate that they have the Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic too. That’s the only reason they won’t be in the cellar of the division this year.

Rondo is the key. His first attempt returning from a torn ACL was a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from the All-Star guard: his shooting percentages were down and he just didn’t look like himself.

Now, looking at another rebuilding year, will Rondo’s talents be wasted again? If they decide to move him, they could still fetch quite the haul, especially if he restores some of his value with his play before the All-Star Break.

The rookie Smart was Ainge’s prize. After all the “tanking” that occurred throughout the NBA last season, the Celtics wound up with the 6th pick. They used that pick to select Smart out of Oklahoma State, a big, physical guard that with defensive intensity and occasional theatrics.

He’s in the mold of Boston’s backcourt: he’s a talented player that can attack the rim, but won’t hurt teams with perimeter shooting. Because of that, a Rondo-Smart backcourt could clog the paint and disrupt the flow of the entire offense. That’s not viable in the long run, which fuels speculation that Rondo could be moved. For now, Smart will get plenty of run in Boston, and he’ll be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

Avery Bradley did an admirable job in filling in while Rondo was hurt, and flanked him well when Rondo returned. Bradley is a defensive stopper, and showed last season that he was more than just a role player. Ainge believes in Bradley, and signed him to a 4-year deal worth $32 million this offseason.

With these two, the Celtics should have respectable production from the point guard spot nightly, while limiting the opposing floor generals. Rondo should still be able to put this cast and crew in positions to succeed. If he can get his midrange shooting back to normal, he could challenge for another All-Star selection.

Beyond that, there’s a lot of waiting and wanting in Boston. They’ve got a bevy of future draft picks and a boatload of young talent. But this year, it won’t be pretty.