Tuesday, October 28, 2014

8 Things the Boston Celtics showed us in the preseason

Boston Celtics 2014-2015 preseason
"I missed the Celtics THIS much"
Wit the 2014-2015 now just around the corner, the time has come to take stock of the Celtics. GM Danny Ainge partook in quite some wheeling and dealing, bringing in guys like Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, Dwight Powell, Will Bynum and draftees Marcus Smart and James Young, and trading away Keith Bogans and Joel Anthony. We only have glorified scrimmages the preseason to go by, but the Celtics definitely showed a lot of potential in those games, going 5-3. Do preseason games mean anything? Heck no, but, just like last year, I did take away a couple of things.

Coach Stevens will make better decisions

It's Year 2 for Brad Stevens. With a full year of head coaching experience at the NBA level under his belt, he should be more comfortable with the pace, how to distribute minutes and how to adjust his rotations. With five years remaining on the 6-year, $22 million contract he signed last year, he has ample time to install his blueprint for success, and so with the rookie head coach jitters behind him, I expect him to be more relaxed as he navigates our rebuilding Celtics squad through another long and challenging season.

Marcus Smart is the real deal

No. 6 overall pick Marcus Smart, whom I badly wished the Celtics would get, is a stud. Sure, his shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired, but he can certainly make a difference with his defense, court vision, passing and ultracompetitiveness. Under the tutelage of Rondo and Bradley, Boston's $20.1 million starting backcourt, he could become something special. I wouldn't be surprised if his preseason stats of 8.4 PPG and 4.6 APG carried over into the regular season.

Our backcourt is loaded

Even if the NBA decides against switching to a 44-minute format, minutes will be hard to come by if you're a guard for the Celtics. With Rajon Rondo (who might return in time for the regular season opener after breaking his left hand) and Avery Bradley (who was re-signed to 4-year, $32 million deal) in the fold, C's coach Brad Stevens only has 33-some minutes left to divy up between Smart, Phil Pressey, No. 17 pick James Young, Marcus Thornton, Will Bynum and Evan Turner.

Rondo is our star

The trade chatter might always be on, but, at least for the time being, four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo is still a Boston Celtic. He might even play in the regular-season opener, way ahead of the six to eight weeks he was expected to miss after breaking his left hand Sept. 25 in a fall at his home. When healthy, Rondo is the best passing point guard in the league, and with a bunch of shooters surrounding him, he should have another terrific season. I hope you're ready for some  Grand Theft Rondo.

Sullinger and Olynyk will be awesome

During the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics looked far and wide for big men to fill out the roster. That revolving door of bigs included, among others, Patrick O'Bryant, Mikki Moore, Darko Milicic, Jason Collins and Ryan Hollins, each of whom was a stopgap solution at best. Sure, our days of championship contention are nonexistent for the immediate future, but having young and dynamic bigs like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk on the roster certainly is a breath of fresh air. "Sullynyk" should be even better in 2014-2015, as starting slots and more playing time will aid their improvement.

Jeff Green is Jeff Green

We all want forward Jeff  Green to be a 25 PPG scorer. He has all the tools to do it and, at $9.2 million per year, isn't paid to be average, but he simply lacks the killer instinct that could make him a star. Gerald Wallace has apparently worked on that with him, trying to make Green an All-Star, but his preseason play certainly doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Prepare yourselves for another season of frustrating good-not-great performances, passiveness on the court, and disappearing acts.

Evan Turner is a steal

Former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner joined the Celtics on a modest 2-year, $7 million contract. His ability to do a little bit of everything (he averaged 9.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 4.4 APG in the preseason) is extremely valuable, and his age (28) and durability (a grand total of six missed games over four seasons) only further make Gerald Wallace expendable. Just like Green, Turner is probably not a go-to guy, but his many talents should allow him to thrive in a supporting role.

The future is bright

I am not delusional. If these Celtics win 30-some games, I'll be extremely satisfied. Our team is young and should be focused on gaining experience and getting better. It's up to Danny Ainge to use our assets wisely at the February deadline and make use of the team's considerable cap space in June. With the contracts of Super Bass ($6,950,000) and no-conscience gunner Marcus Thornton ($8,697,000) set to expire at the end of the season, expect them to be showcased these coming months. Bass, especially, a hardworking veteran with a smooth midrange shot and a great attitude, could help a lot of team. And then comes June, when the team's salary is down to $32 million and we could cash in on some of our many draft picks.

The Boston Celtics play their first game of the 2014-2015 season against the Brooklyn Nets on October 29.

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