15 Bold Predictions for the Boston Celtics
Boston's roster and potential may seem rather lackluster, but the team is not without some intrigue. There are interesting pieces and storylines that will develop through 2014. What those pieces do and where those storylines go are difficult to predict, particularly with a roster as confusing as this one.
With that in mind, sweeping declarations are the only way to go.
Cheers, Bill Walton.
Jared Sullinger Will Participate in the Rising Stars Challenge
Many thought Jared Sullinger was snubbed when he was left off the rosters for last season's Rising Stars Challenge.
Shaq and Chuck didn't deem Sullinger worthy, as 10 other freshmen were picked to play in the game. It doesn't mean much in the end, and Sullinger wound up missing the second half of the season with an injury anyway.
However, this year, it is doubtful that Boston will have a representative in the All-Star Game. Rajon Rondo may not return in time, and Jeff Green plays a stacked position. Therefore, a Sullinger appearance that weekend keeps the Celtics relevant and gives Boston something to cheer for.
In 2013-14, it will be tough for Shaq and Chuck, or whoever picks the teams, to ignore Sullinger. If new head coach Brad Stevens gives him minutes, he should produce enough to be deemed worthy as a sophomore participant.
Kelly Olynyk Will Start in the Rising Stars Challenge
The next step of Kelly Olynyk's rookie season will be proving himself in regular-season NBA games.
Once he is successful at that, Boston's rookie will look to be elected a starter at the Rising Stars Challenge.
Given the opportunities Olynyk is expected to have with the Celtics, he'll have ample time to prove himself worthy to the drafting parties.
As we'll find out later on, this is just a small step in the first year of Kelly's NBA career.
Kris Humphries Will Average a Double-Double
This could be the perfect storm of things lining up for Kris Humphries to have a comeback season.
The Boston Celtics don't have much of an incumbent frontcourt. Jared Sullinger was hurt and Brandon Bass had a down year last season. Kelly Olynyk is more of a perimeter big, and the chances are Vitor Faverani just isn't good.
Humphries is the most experienced option to fill out the frontcourt from the get-go. He has a lot of NBA experience and was a prolific rebounder not long ago. Averaging about 30 minutes per game between 2010 and 2012, Humphries was a nightly double-double.
If the Celtics can find him 27-30 minutes a night for the whole season, Humphries should return to form and average a 10-10 or better.
Phil Pressey Starts More Than 20 Games at Point Guard
The Boston Celtics will play 31 games before 2014 rears its head.
If they are without Rajon Rondo for at least that long, there is a good chance Phil Pressey finds his way into the starting lineup. Avery Bradley running the offense last year was mostly poor and at times disastrous. In the preseason, he hasn't been able to show a ton of improvement in that area.
If Boston's goal for the season is rebuilding and moving forward, having Bradley play point guard doesn't jive. For the team to improve overall, it can't simply tread water until Rondo returns; the C's need to work on getting better without him as well.
That means letting Pressey, a natural point guard, take the reins for a while. Although he may not help the team win games as much as Bradley, the style it plays with Pressey will aid Boston in the long run.
MarShon Brooks and Rajon Rondo Finish Season as Starting Backcourt
This prediction involves two major items coming to fruition.
First, Rajon Rondo must return, play well and not be traded. Perhaps none of that is bold enough a prediction for you. Well, secondly, the Rondo-Avery Bradley pairing doesn't work out.
There have been questions surrounding this duo for some time. Because they have both experienced lengthy injuries, we don't have an answer yet. Both are short but solid defensively. Neither is a particularly strong shooter, especially from long range. I'm unsure if that style of play can win in the NBA.
Therefore, MarShon Brooks will be slowly eased into a larger and larger role. As he continues to prove himself to new head coach Brad Stevens, Brooks will earn confidence. Eventually, Brooks will overtake Bradley for the starting gig.
Brooks is bigger than Bradley and a better offensive player. Alongside Rondo, both those characteristics may be more successful.
This prediction could also come true if Bradley suffers an injury, which, given his recent history, wouldn't be that big of a surprise.
This Is the Final Year of Tommy Heinsohn
Comcast SportsNet New England, the channel that broadcasts the televised version of Boston Celtics games, has gone through as much change as the roster it will be covering.
Greg Dickerson, Gary Tanguay and Donny Marshall will no longer be a part of the broadcast. On top of that, Tommy Heinsohn, the longtime color man, will only participate in home games.
This is understandable, as Heinsohn is now 79 years old. The Celtics legend is known for his over-the-top bias and vocally overreacting to calls against Boston. He has also made noise in recent years for overrating mediocre Celtics players and comparing them to some of the best the game has seen.
I believe the shtick has run its course and that Heinsohn will be hanging up his mic for good this year. It has been a fun run, but the man needs to take care of his health and let a fresh voice lead Celtics fans into this new era.
Brandon Bass Won't Be in Boston Come April
Of all the Boston Celtics' available trade pieces, Brandon Bass is the most likely choice to be dealt this season.
Bass is a nice mix of contract, size, attitude and talent. He would do well on a contender, as he showed two years ago with Boston and the year before with the Orlando Magic. However, he serves little purpose on a team like the Celtics now.
Bass is under contract for the next two seasons at $13.35 million total. That is a manageable salary for a player who can give you 12 points and six rebounds with solid defense and no attitude issues. Bass doesn't need designed touches to score and plays a complimentary style on both sides of the ball.
The Celtics need to see what they have in guys like Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani, leaving little playing time for Bass. If they can clear some extra cap space or get a draft pick in return for Bass, Boston will pull the trigger before this season runs out.
Kelly Olynyk Wins Rookie of the Year
Now we're getting close to Guinness bold.
After Kelly Olynyk starts on one of the Rising Stars Challenge teams, he'll continue his fantastic rookie season, ultimately winning the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
Olynyk was taken No. 13 overall in June's draft, making 12 players more likely to have the talent to win the award. However, Olynyk starred in the summer league while others were quiet. Some have serious injury concerns, like Nerlens Noel, Alex Len and Anthony Bennett. That was the case last season, when No. 6 overall pick Damian Lillard took home the award while Anthony Davis was dinged up a bit.
Others simply may not have the opportunity to perform as much as Olynyk. Boston will be using him quite a bit. Players like Otto Porter, Cody Zeller and Bennett have legitimate, established NBA players in front of them on the depth chart and play on teams with serious playoff hopes.
Olynyk's talent, coupled with opportunity and a lack of star competition should allow him to sneak into a surprise Rookie of the Year spot.
Avery Bradley Does Not Sign an Extension Before Summer
This prediction may seem a bit contrarian, but I just don't see the Boston Celtics being in a rush to sign anyone long term at this point.
They should probably give serious thought to this with regard to Avery Bradley. He is a 22-year-old who is almost assured an All-Defensive Team spot year in and year out. However, he is also a liability on offense right now and may never develop beyond this.
Because things are so up in the air with this roster and rebuilding plans, Boston doesn't want to tie up a chunk of its future flexibility by overpaying for an average one-trick pony it isn't sure can be a starter at this level.
For a light price, Boston will get it done, but that probably wouldn't be in Bradley's best interest.
Brad Stevens Will Finish in Top 5 in Coach of the Year Voting
Expectations are shockingly low for the Boston Celtics this season. Therefore, the pressure is pretty lax on new head coach Brad Stevens.
If Boston fails to be relevant this season, Stevens won't receive a heavy dose of blame. Boston is almost expected to lose at this point.
If the Celtics win, however, Stevens will be praised quite a bit. He brings a fresh new set of ideas to the table and appears to be a generally likable person. All of this will help his chances of receiving votes at year's end.
When a new head coach turns poor expectations on their head, it is a good bet he'll be recognized for the accomplishment.
Rajon Rondo Will Return with the New Year
The Boston Celtics play a game on Jan. 2 at the United Center against the Chicago Bulls. That will be 31 games into the season and about 11 months since Rajon Rondo's ACL injury.
That is the bold prediction on when Boston's star point guard will return.
Depending on how their record is looking at that point, the Celtics may wish to hold him out a big longer, but that will be hard to do with a player as strong-willed as Rondo.
It would also give them plenty of time to showcase him or other pieces if they hope to pull off a trade. The deadline is February 20, giving the Celtics 24 games to decide if they want to finish the season with the current roster.
At the other end of the spectrum, it gives Rondo plenty of time to push the Celtics. If they are playing well at the time and have a decent record, Rondo has the ability to boost them into a playoff spot, with 51 games remaining.
Jeff Green Will Not Lead the Team in Scoring
Jeff Green leading the Boston Celtics in scoring seems too easy. I'll take the field on this one.
I've never quite been sold on Green as a consistently elite scorer. Instead, I see the Celtics being more like that 2011-12 Philadelphia 76ers team that sneaked into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed and created a little havoc. Lou Williams wasn't their best, or most dynamic player, but he led the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game.
There is a chance MarShon Brooks or Jordan Crawford could be in that mold. Kelly Olynyk might surprise everyone and average 16 points per game. Even Rajon Rondo could come back with a new directive on offense and post 17-18 points a night for half the season.
Green definitely makes the most sense as the focal point of this offense, if there has to be a focal point. However, if Brad Stevens goes with an evenly distributed group effort, Green will split a lot of time with Gerald Wallace and could slip to the second- or third-highest scorer on the team.
The Celtics Will Lose One Player to a Season-Ending Injury
For a team with a mascot named Lucky, the Boston Celtics have been anything but in recent years.
Jeff Green, Ray Allen, Chris Wilcox, Leandro Barbosa, Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley are all players who have missed significant time due to injury over the past couple seasons.
Four of those players are still on this team and must be considered fairly cautious injury risks.
Green was fine last year, but he missed a whole season after heart surgery prior to that. Rondo is still recovering from an ACL injury and had a fair amount of time missed before that as well. Bradley's shoulders and Sullinger's back will always be a concern.
New additions aren't 100 percent worry-free, either. Keith Bogans missed nearly all of 2011-12 after tearing his deltoid and being waived. Kris Humphries has been dinged up pretty consistently in his career and is currently dealing with a foot problem. Gerald Wallace is rapidly aging, and his mind may not realize what his body can no longer do. Even rookie Kelly Olynyk had a case of plantar fasciitis, which isn't something that goes away with ease.
This isn't a prediction anyone likes to make, but the evidence is on the table.
Boston Celtics Broadcasts Ratings Will Surprise
There are a lot of factors fighting against the Boston Celtics being successful from a ratings standpoint entering this season.
As we touched on earlier, there are a fair amount of changes happening with the television broadcast. The radio broadcast is in just as much disarray.
The franchise was unable to come to a new contract agreement with longtime Boston sports station WEEI to broadcast their games. This left the Celtics to be picked up by 98.5 The Sports Hub, Boston's other sports station. However, 98.5 also holds the rights to Boston Bruins games, which will create some in-season conflicts, forcing one team to a secondary station.
Speaking of the Bruins, they are a big reason for concern with Celtics interest. The Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Final last season and are a contender once again. The New England Patriots are still going to be there come late January, and the Boston Red Sox have another month or so left in their World Series buzz.
The Boston Celtics are not title contenders and would have to shock the NBA world to just get a playoff spot. With so many other options, it would be understandable for New Englanders to look elsewhere for their sports fix.
However, this is a very passionate fanbase that does love its basketball. I believe because of all the detractors, the Celtics will surprise quite a few people by posting solid ratings despite a possibly subpar team.
Boston Celtics Will Make the Postseason
What is the sense of having a list of bold predictions if you aren't going to go really bold.
The Boston Celtics will finish 39-43 and earn a No. 8 seed in the 2014 NBA playoffs.
If we include the Celtics, there will probably be six teams fighting for the last two spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. If Boston isn't tanking, they can be included in that group with the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks.
All those teams have question marks and injury concerns as well. However, all their moves point at a push for the playoffs, while Boston's recent moves appeared to have been done for the sake of shedding salary. That is probably the biggest reason the aforementioned teams are seen as definitive favorites over the Celtics in the conference.
The other big reason is, of course, Rajon Rondo and his return date. Since we've already predicted a Jan. 2 comeback, that leaves plenty of time for him to help right the ship and battle for a playoff spot.
Now, if you'll excuse me, predicting the 2013-14 Boston Celtics as a playoff team really does deserve a Guinness.