Early Predictions for Boston Celtics' Starting Lineup
The Boston Celtics have had a busy offseason thus far.
After selecting point guard Marcus Smart and swingman James Young in the 2014 NBA draft, they wasted no time re-signing guard Avery Bradley. Since then, they've added veteran Evan Turner and swung a three-team deal that netted them Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton.
And yet there are still so many more moves to go. They've been thrown into the ring as a potential trade partner with Minnesota for All-Star forward Kevin Love, although now CSN New England's A. Sherrod Blakely recently reported they've "moved on" from their pursuit. They have plenty of young assets and multiple expiring contracts. There's always another move on the horizon.
And we haven't even gotten to speculation about what they're going to do with their own All-Star, point guard Rajon Rondo.
All that aside, here's an early glimpse at the Celtics' projected starting lineup, as we look ahead to the 2014-15 season.
Center: Jared Sullinger
This is probably the hardest position race to handicap, considering the plethora of young bigs on the Celtics roster.
I penciled in Jared Sullinger, who started 44 games last season, over the likes of Vitor Faverani, Kelly Olynyk, newcomer Tyler Zeller and veteran Joel Anthony.
Sullinger wasn't particularly efficient last season—he had a 49.7 true shooting percentage, per Basketball Reference—but his per-36 numbers of 17 points and 10 rebounds are nothing to sneeze at. Former first-round picks Olynyk and Zeller will push Sullinger for playing time.
For a big man who attempted 208 three-pointers last season, he needs to shoot better than 26.9 percent. He shot much better (47 percent) on two-pointers, so it behooves him to adjust his game before his shooting percentage suffers even more.
Sullinger's contract has a $2.26 million team option after this season, so the Celtics will be keeping a close eye on his development this year. If they decide to move on from him, either during or after the season, they have some other young horses in the stable.
Power Forward: Brandon Bass
Brandon Bass started 73 games for Boston last season and is slotted as the Day 1 starter at the power forward position.
He's one of those reliable veterans who plays hard, gives you a little bit of everything and can knock down some open shots. He shot an impressive 56 percent on jumpers between 10 and 16 feet out, per Basketball Reference. That area around the elbow is his sweet spot, where he is often the recipient of a Rajon Rondo kick-out.
Bass and his $6.9 million expiring contract may be in play when the February trade winds come blowing through the entire NBA.
Gerald Wallace and his horrendous contract (two years, $20.21 million remaining) will be coming off the bench and leading the second unit. Last season, he posted his worst scoring and rebounding averages since 2004 while shooting an abysmal 46 percent from the free-throw line in only 53 games. As if that contract wasn't ugly enough.
Bass is dependable, solid and the starting power forward for Boston come Game 1.
3. Small Forward: Jeff Green
Jeff Green was the only Celtic to start all 82 games last season. He led the team in scoring, averaging 16.9 per game.
Green has long been an enigma in the NBA. He's always been a solid player, but as a guy blessed with his size (6'9"), strength and range, he's never been able to put it all together and live up to his billing as the No. 5 pick in 2007.
Last season, when his usage percentage (23.6 percent) was the highest of his career, he saw his true shooting percentage (52) and effective field goal percentage (46.9) drop to their lowest marks since his rookie year. In fact, his player efficiency rating ranked only eighth on his own team (13.17, per ESPN).
Hopefully, a full season with a healthy Rajon Rondo will see him take better shots and rebuild his repertoire. He'll be relied upon to score once again this season. The Celtics signed Evan Turner to a portion of the mid-level exception, per Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, so the former No. 2 overall pick will help spell Green and Avery Bradley off the bench.
Green is making $9.2 million this season and has a player option for 2015-16.
Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley
The Celtics showed that Avery Bradley was one of their top offseason priorities, inking him to a four-year, $32 million deal at the onset of free agency.
Bradley shot 39 percent from three-point range and 80 percent at the line en route to a career-high 14.9 points per game last season.
His defense is always exceptional, and he's now become a reliable shooter. His new contract means management values him and wants him to be around when the team comes out of its rebuild.
The Celtics drafted 6'7" James Young out of Kentucky, who slipped to them at No. 17. He'll be in the mix as a backup to both Avery and Jeff Green, along with Turner. Marcus Thornton, the streaky shooter who can stuff a stat sheet, was brought in during a three-team summer deal with Brooklyn and Cleveland.
Thornton and Turner have proved they can play a little bit in this league, and Young is a talented prospect, but make no mistake about it—2-guard is Bradley's job for the foreseeable future.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo
Now if this article was titled "Final Boston Celtics' Starting Lineup," I don't think I'd have Rajon Rondo on the list.
He's been at the center of a dozen trade rumors—most recently with the Houston Rockets, which the Boston Herald dismissed—for the last year, recovered from a devastating injury and just watched his team draft the best available point guard—Marcus Smart—with the No. 6 pick.
Rondo is the last remaining piece from the 2008 championship team. He hasn't played in more than 68 games since the 2009-10 season. He's making $12.9 million on the last year of his contract.
He's still productive, and when healthy, an elite point guard in the NBA. It just appears that general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens are still, at the very least, undecided on Rondo's ability to lead this team into the next era of Celtics basketball.
Smart may be the future, but Rondo is the present...at least for the time being.
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