Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings for Boston Celtics
To say that the Boston Celtics are a franchise in flux would be an understatement.
The team saw its the biggest roster shakeup in the last six seasons when they jettisoned franchise stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. One also cannot forget about the deals that sent Doc Rivers out of town and Brad Stevens to the coaching chair in TD Garden.
All of that makes these Celtics one of the more fascinating teams in the league this season. This squad is not bereft of talent, and it is possible that with good coaching and some unexpected chemistry, they could really gel in a meaningful way. However, they could also struggle with scoring out of the gate and wind up falling behind early in an improved Eastern Conference.
There are certainly some quality buillding blocks in place, but there is also some dead weight—players like Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace simply do not belong in a rebuilding situation.
Without further ado, let's break down the Celtics' pre-training camp roster.
No. 15: Vitor Faverani, C
There is not a whole lot to say about Boston rookie Vitor Faverani besides the fact that he is still not NBA-ready.
Faverani is a good offensive player, but he is still a liability defensively, meaning that it will be hard for him to find time off the bench.
While he could become the C’s big man of the future, expect a rough year from Faverani as he adjusts to the NBA game as well as life in the United States.
No. 14: Phil Pressey, PG
Phil Pressey is Boston’s second-best pure point guard, but he is still lightyears behind choice No. 1 at the position.
Even with Boston’s major lack of depth, it is hard to see Pressey being put in a situation where he is forced to actually contribute on a nightly basis for Boston this season.
Pressey has a solid handle and phenomenal court vision, but he struggles at times with turnovers and knowing when to pick his spots, which are two issues that should improve over time.
No. 13: Donte Greene, SF
Despite boasting a non-guaranteed contract, Donte Greene is a fascinating player from a low-risk, high-reward standpoint. He provides ideal size for a frontcourt player as well as the ability to face the hoop and drill jump shots.
It’s unlikely that Greene finds a role with these new-look Celtics, even though he has proven in Sacramento that he is capable of handling himself.
Note: Donte Greene has reportedly been waived and is signing with China's Dongguan Leopards, per Hoopshype.
No. 12: Keith Bogans, SG
The play of Keith Bogans likely will not swing a single game for Boston, but the defensive-minded veteran should at least find his share of minutes off the bench during garbage time.
Boston has a number of promising young wing players who deserve their minutes, but Bogans’ ability to effectively guard the 2 and 3 spots and hit the occasional three-pointer makes him a reliable—albeit unimpressive—option.
The young players may be getting ready to leapfrog him, but for now, Bogans holds onto the 12th spot.
No. 11: Jordan Crawford, SG
Jordan Crawford is very talented. But the problem is that his talent comes along with jacking up ill-advised threes and thinking he’s the best player on the court on any given night.
While he is capable of a few scoring bursts here and there, Crawford is a largely a volume shooter who needs plenty of looks to find a rhythm.
Boston brought in Crawford at the trade deadline last season for an extra offensive spark, but with MarShon Brooks now on the roster, it seems as though Crawford may be the odd-man-out going forward.
No. 10: Gerald Wallace, SF/SG
Players who rely almost solely on their athletic ability usually experience a relatively steep drop in production once they hit their 30s, but the struggles of Gerald Wallace in his first full season with Brooklyn were simply unprecedented.
Once considered an elite rebounding wing, a lockdown defender and a crafty scorer, Wallace wound up averaging a mere 7.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 30.1 minutes of work per night last season.
To make matters worse, he shot a paltry 39.7 percent from the floor and 28.2 percent from three. With his inability to hit outside shots, Wallace became more of a liability for the Nets on offense than anything else.
Though he rebounded slightly and averaged 12 points in the postseason, he is still a veteran player with plenty of miles on his body whose best days are clearly behind him.
He can still guard the wing effectively, but the only reason Boston ended up with Wallace in the Pierce-Garnett trade was to make salaries match, and the remaining three-years, $30 million of Wallace's contract is among the worst in the entire league.
With Jeff Green ready to step into the spotlight, there will be less time for Wallace to prove his worth, and he could find himself shipped out to the first available suitor if Boston wants to rid itself of all veterans.
No. 9: Kris Humphries, PF
Kris Humphries has had some quality seasons and is a nightly double-double threat, but the reality is that his questionable fit with Boston will make it tough for him to be an impact player.
After a year in which he lost minutes to Reggie Evans and wound up coming off the bench while averaging 5.8 points and 5.6 rebounds on 44.8 percent shooting, Humphries finds himself, once again, in a situation where he does not quite fit in with a team’s big man rotation.
Though neither Kelly Olynyk nor Jared Sullinger are ready to log 30-plus minutes per game, both are suited to play power forward and will see plenty of action early on.
The C’s desperately need a top-shelf rebounder, and Humphries should certainly help them in that department. However, his offensive game is relatively limited, and he is pretty much a non-factor on defense due to his lack of quickness.
Last season, he allowed opposing power forwards to post a PER of 15.6 and opposing centers to post a PER of 16.8, according to 82Games.
With a $12 million expiring contract, it is also highly likely that Boston ships Humphries out before the year is over, as there is simply not enough of an opportunity for Humphries to shine like he did with New Jersey.
No. 8: MarShon Brooks, SG
The only player acquired in the Pierce-Garnett deal that the C’s actually want around for the future, Brooks gives Boston a wing player who can create his own shot and get to the rim with regularity.
Brooks struggled to find a role backing up Joe Johnson last season. However, he was a pleasant surprise as a rookie in 2011-12, averaging 12.6 points, 3.6 boards and 2.3 assists, despite shooting just 42.8 percent overall and 31.3 percent from three.
His shaky outside shot notwithstanding, Brooks actually has a pretty strong all-around offensive game. He can handle the ball in some spots, create contact and get to the foul line. He can even play the facilitator role for some stretches.
While he likely won’t be used as more than an instant offense spark off the bench to start his Boston career, Brooks has a shot to prove himself as a key cog in the C’s rebuilding effort if he can play well and master Stevens’ system quickly.
These Celtics could desperately use another scoring option, and though Brooks needs to expand his game to include three-point shooting and some semblance of defense, he is the best choice Boston has for someone to adopt the sixth-man role.
Expect Brooks to start slowly but come on by the end of the year, similar to Jeff Green last season.
No. 7: Courtney Lee, SG
Courtney Lee’s debut season in Boston did not exactly go as planned, but he is still a solid two-way player who should have an important role in 2013-14.
Miscast as a point guard when Rondo went down with an injury last season, Lee wound up averaging just 7.8 points, 2.4 boards and 1.8 assists while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from deep. He fared a little better as a starter, bumping those averages up to 9.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 46.8 percent and 37 percent shooting splits, respectively. But that production was still underwhelming for a talent like Lee.
Though he will still play some minutes at point out of necessity, Lee should slide back to playing more 2-guard this season, a position that better suits the 6’5” wing.
He had some trouble with Rivers’ systems on both ends of the court, but he remains a good perimeter defender who is capable of covering most shooting guards very well and even some of the NBA’s tougher point men.
With Brooks in town and a major decision on Avery Bradley’s future looming, there may not seem to be a ton of minutes for Lee. However, he should be able to carve out a role thanks to his quickness, floor spacing ability and overall defensive acumen.
No. 6: Kelly Olynyk, PF/C
Although Olynyk has not logged a true minute in the NBA, it’s tough to argue that he isn’t one of the six best players on the Celts’ roster.
Few players in NBA history have benefitted from the Orlando Summer League like Olynyk, who went from being a questionable pick at No. 13 overall this year to looking like the steal of the draft.
In five summer league games, he averaged 18.0 points, 7.8 boards, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 57.8 percent from the floor. He also did all that in just 24.2 minutes per game.
A phenomenally polished offensive talent, Olynyk has the ability to score from the block, knock down mid-range jump shots and hurt opposing defenses with his passing.
Olynyk was a guard before a growth spurt in high school, and he sees passing angles that it seems few other big men can. Several times in summer league, he could be seen taking the ball coast-to-coast for a layup.
His defense on the block and rebounding both need work, but that will come with experience and time in the weight room.
Even if he remains a liability on defense, though, Olynyk’s sheer scoring ability figures to get him plenty of minutes as a rookie on a team that is desperately looking for a center of the future.
No. 5: Jared Sullinger, PF
The 21st pick in the 2012 draft, Sullinger had some struggles early on last season but found his role before being shelved for back surgery just before the All-Star beak.
He wound up averaging 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds on 49.3 percent shooting during the time he played, and he had upped those numbers to 7.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in January before he went down.
Despite his lack of size and sheer athleticism, Sully may be the best and most complete big man on Boston’s roster. He is a great rebounder, a capable finisher on the inside, and he is the only big besides Olynyk who can be considered any kind of a post threat.
His injury history is undoubtedly troubling, and the fact that he will likely log minutes out of position at center is somewhat of a frightening proposition. However, it is important to remember that Sully has just 45 NBA games under his belt and plenty of learning and improving to do.
He won’t provide world-class defense like Garnett, but the 21-year-old Ohio State product is the player who is most likely to plug the hole left by the Big Ticket over the long-term, even if he is not yet the team’s best 4.
No. 4: Brandon Bass, PF
Brandon Bass’ 2012-13 campaign was not very impressive from a statistical standpoint. The bruising forward averaged a mere 8.7 points, 5.2 boards and 1.0 assist on 48.6 percent shooting, but he provided the Celtics with underrated defense and crucial mid-range jump shooting from the frontcourt.
Despite losing minutes to Sullinger during the regular season, Bass still managed to have a solid campaign and provided Boston with surprisingly strong defense against Carmelo Anthony in the postseason.
The 6’8” Bass compensates for his lack of height with his incredibly strong frame and his ability to stretch the floor and create mismatches. He has also shot less than 46 percent on 16-23 foot jumpers just twice in the last seven seasons, per Hoopdata.
As long as Rondo and Bradley are around, the C’s will need bigs who can create space for them to slash, making Bass an invaluable, if underutilized, part of the offense.
With KG gone, Bass should shoulder a heavier load offensively. And while a healthy Sullinger has more upside right now, the veteran Bass remains the better and more reliable player heading into training camp.
No. 3: Avery Bradley, SG
Avery Bradley’s offensive game has not quite developed as smoothly as many Boston fans would have hoped, but the fourth-year shooting guard is still capable of doing one thing better than almost anyone in the league: defending the perimeter.
Bradley, who made the All-Defensive Second Team in 2012-13 while only appearing in 50 games, is a relentless on-ball defender who is capable of making opposing point guards work just to get the ball over midcourt.
While his relatively small stature means that he struggles somewhat against bigger 2-guards, Bradley is capable of giving opposing guards fits with his relentless style.
Last season, he held opposing point guards to a PER of 12.8 and 2-guards to a PER of 13.5, according to 82Games, both below the league average.
Still, for all of the impact Bradley has defensively, he will need to step up on the offensive end of the floor this season.
A shaky outside shooter, Bradley relies on his off-ball cutting game to get open, but at times, he struggles to finish in close. He shot an unacceptable 51.5 percent at the rim last season, per Hoopdata.
With no proven point guard on the roster besides Rondo, Bradley will be relied upon more as a backup ball-handler than ever before, and he is going to need to prove that he can do a better job running the offense than he did against New York in the playoffs.
As a potential restricted free agent in 2014, this is Bradley’s season to prove that he is truly indispensable for Boston.
No. 2: Jeff Green, SF
Green’s 2012-13 campaign started slowly, but he blossomed as a starter after the All-Star break and showed the kind of two-way skill that earned him a four-year, $36 million extension during the 2012 offseason.
After averaging just 10.3 points, 3.3 boards and 1.0 assist on 44.3 percent shooting before the All-Star break, Green came to life, notching 17.3 points, 5.0 boards and 2.7 assists on 49.3 percent shooting in 29 contests following the festivities in Houston.
Green continued to impress in the playoffs, averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 boards and 2.3 dimes while shooting 45.5 percent from three, as Boston lost to the New York Knicks in a gritty six-game series.
Now thrust into the starting small forward role occupied by Pierce for the last 15 years, Green must prove that he can not only dominate the way he did in the latter half of 2013, but he also must not succumb to the slow starts and mental lapses that have plagued him throughout his career.
Despite his tremendous athleticism and pure talent, Green often cannot seem to snap out of a funk, and he often has games where he is a complete non-factor.
That was more tolerable when Pierce and Garnett were around to do the heavy lifting, but with those two now gone and Rondo returning from an injury, it means that those poor games from Green must come far more infrequently than they have in the past.
Though he has a solid handle and the ability to attack the basket at will, Green sometimes has problems settling for outside jumpers, and he does not attack the hoop enough.
He figures to be Boston’s first option offensively, meaning that he will be relied upon to not only score, but he must also be a playmaker who can help make his teammates better as well.
This is not a make-or-break season for the 27-year-old combo forward, but it is the season in which Boston will learn whether they can count on Green to be a franchise cornerstone going forward or merely another complimentary piece as they search for a star to pair with Rondo.
No. 1: Rajon Rondo, PG
The gradual transition of the Celtics from being Pierce’s team to Rondo’s team was already essentially complete when the latter went down with an ACL injury in January. But now that the last pieces of the Big Three era are gone, Boston is officially Rondo’s franchise.
While there is still no timeline on his return, per ESPNBoston’s Chris Forsberg, he will rejoin the team in a position where he will be forced to be more of a scoring option and less of a pure playmaker than he has been at any point in his career.
Even if it takes a while for him to return to peak physical shape, Boston lacks a player capable of consistently dominating in the way that a motivated Rondo can. Though he is prone to taking some games off and forcing passes, Rondo has shown in the past the kind of talent that could potentially make him a top-10 NBA player.
In the 2012 playoffs, he averaged a staggering 17.3 points, 6.7 boards, 11.9 assists and 2.4 steals while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor, as Boston came within one game of reaching the NBA Finals.
Though his numbers regressed slightly during the 2012-13 regular season, he was still averaging a career-high 13.7 points to go with 5.6 rebounds and 11.2 dimes before injuring himself against the Atlanta Hawks.
He lacks a reliable three-point shot and is still shaky from the foul line, but the idea that Rondo is an offensive liability is a misconception.
He shot a phenomenal 48 percent from 16-23 feet last season, per Hoopdata, and he has proven more willing to make defenses pay for sagging off of him.
With less capable finishers around him, Rondo’s assist numbers should inevitably dip, but he will remain Boston’s engine offensively and be forced to shoulder a tremendous load offensively.
As crippling as an ACL injury can be for a player as athletically gifted as Rondo, the four-time All-Star has accomplished enough during his time in green that he gets the title of "Best Pre-Training Camp Celtic" until someone surpasses him.