|Wallace & Humphries will make a combined $22 million this season. Nice face Kobe.|
ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg was kind enough to invite Celtics Life to contribute to it's Summer Forecast series. Last week we posted the first four days of Forsberg's and Celtics Life's columnists' predictions to some pressing questions. Here's Part 2:
5) What are your expectations for Kelly Olynyk?
The guess here is that Olynyk carves out a consistent role off the bench, getting something like 25-28 minutes per game and seeing his numbers slowly climb as the season progresses (particularly if Boston unclogs the frontcourt with additional moves). If he proves he can carry over that summer success, there's a chance for those minutes to spike, maybe sharing the frontcourt at times with Sullinger (in that pairing, Sullinger is more likely the 5).
Olynyk is so smooth offensively that it's probably not out of the realm of possibility that, on a team that needs scoring, he could be a double-digit scorer by season's end (something that Boston's bench has desperately needed in recent seasons). Go ahead and put him on the McHale path and see if he can emerge as a starter down the road as Boston navigates this rebuilding process. We still have to see if he can play consistent NBA defense and improve his rebounding numbers. He'll get a bit more rope than he might have seen on Doc Rivers' veteran teams.
While this writer won't rule out the All-Rookie squad (the potential lack of competition for those 10 available spots will help his cause), we'll take the Ainge approach and suggest that if Olynyk can show the same sort of comfort level and basketball IQ that Sullinger did in his abbreviated glance last season, then Olynyk will have had an excellent rookie campaign.
(All Rookie) Expectations? To be better than Dirk Nowitzki, shoot 100 percent from the floor, and lead the Celtics to 14 championships in the next 15 years (he will take 2019-20 off to attend a summit on -- and then solve -- global warming). OK, I may be going overboard, but after his summer league breakthrough (18 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 58 FG%), Olynyk is primed to have a big role on this year's team. The lack of true No. 1 scoring option should help the former Zag put up solid scoring numbers for Boston, and the lack of impact players in this rookie class will help him make the All-Rookie team this season. His ceiling isn't incredibly high (sorry to the folks who think he'll be Nowitzki) but he is going to be an impact player for this team. Stat line prediction: 12 points, 6.5 boards and 2 assists in just over 30 minutes per game.
(Sullinger-like impact): Funny to use the phrase "Sullinger-like impact," because that is both what I am hoping for and afraid of. I expect Olynyk to have a lot of big moments that C's fans can get excited about, but this plantar fasciitis has me worried him could miss a fair amount time as well.
6) When will Rajon Rondo return?
Rondo returns before Christmas. It wouldn't surprise us to see Rondo navigating the final stages of his rehab when training camp opens in late September. But Boston ought to follow the model it used with the likes of Avery Bradley last season (who was coming off double shoulder surgery). The team didn't allow lofty goals or aggressive timelines cause them to rush Bradley and risk re-aggravation (or confidence loss while not playing at 100 percent, which still might have occurred anyway given the lingering aftereffects).
For the Celtics, slower is better with Rondo's return.
(Opening Night) Opening night is Oct. 30, eight months and 16 days after Rondo underwent ACL reconstruction on Valentine's Day. While many folks have the Derrick Rose 18-month plan stuck in their heads, it's important to remember that Rose is the exception and not the rule when it comes to ACL's. Some recent examples of players who have made it back in under nine months: Iman Shumpert (8 months, 20 days), Al Jefferson (8 months, 20 days), and Kendrick Perkins (7 months, 10 days). Of course Rondo's style of play is built on speed and changing direction far more so than someone like Perk, whose style of play is simply being large and strong. With that said, this is the same Rondo who played 12 minutes on a torn ACL against the Hawks, so he's not a normal guy. While there has been a lot of talk about holding Rondo out until he's 100 percent, it's important to remember that he may very well be 100 percent on opening night. There is a chance that it may take him a little longer, but I for one would be surprised if he is not back by Thanksgiving.
(Opening Night): I think Rondo desperately wants to prove all the doubters wrong. Time and time again you hear things like, "He's a great talent, but not a guy you'd like to build around." Now that he'll have the opportunity to be the undisputed leader and best player on the Celtics, I expect him to embrace the challenge and flourish in his new role. There's no better way to do that than to return opening night and show that this is his team.
7) Who will be the biggest overachiever?
Both Humphries and Lee will have a chance to overachieve by getting back on track, but it's Wallace that will surprise most observers. Maybe it's simply the fact that he was absent when Boston introduced the players acquired from the Nets last month, but Wallace seems to be an afterthought given how we haven't heard from him this offseason. What's easy to forget after Wallace's forgettable season in Brooklyn last year is that "Crash" is a hard-nosed player who will give premium effort each second he's on the floor and, if his offensive game doesn't rebound, he's still a positive defensive influence.
Remember that Wallace was feisty enough to get under Kevin Garnett's skin last season. You hate that player when he's on the other team, but Boston loves an instigator in green. Wallace, with help from those intangibles, should be Boston's biggest overachiever this season.
(Kris Humphries) The expectations are so low for Humphries that I think he will surpass them by simply showing up every night, crashing the boards (something he is fantastic at and the Celtics are always lacking) and playing with a lot of energy. A lot of the stuff he is hated for (marrying a Kardashian, fighting Rondo, etc.) has nothing to do with the type of player he is. Before a disappointing season last year, Humphries averaged a double-double in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, and while he may not quite reach those numbers in the power forward timeshare here, he could average something like 8 and 8 for this team. Of course, he could be traded by the time training camp starts as well.
(Courtney Lee): I'm way out on a limb with this one, but I think most people have pretty much written off Lee. There were brief moments last season when it looked like he and Bradley were an All-Star-caliber defensive backcourt. If the Celtics choose to run a lot this year (and I believe they will), I envision Lee as a key component in a three-guard rotation with Rondo and Bradley. Maybe he becomes the knockdown shooter the Celtics thought they were getting in 2012.
(Gerald Wallace): I'm taking overachiever to mean a player who will produce more than fans expect. All everyone is talking about is Wallace's contract. The guy can still play. Just a few seasons ago Wallace averaged 18.2 ppg and 10 rpg. Yes, he had a bad season in Brooklyn last year, but at just 31 years old, he has plenty left in the tank. Average a double-double? Probably not, but having a versatile weapon like Wallace coming off the bench is a problem many teams would like to have, contract aside.
8) Who will be the biggest underachiever?
Green is the most likely to underachieve. Before the Jeff Green Fan Club jumps to his defense, let's keep in mind one thing here: Very few members of the Celtics have expectations this season, so it's going to be hard for guys to underperform. Even All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo will have the bar set a little lower as he works his way back from ACL surgery.
But Green finished the 2013-14 season strong, thriving in the playoffs against the New York Knicks, and -- fair or not -- some are setting that as the starting point for expectations next season. While a young roster thin on proven talent will give Green the opportunity to thrive and take the next step in his development, there is also a lot of pressure on him to start as strong as he finished.
(Courtney Lee)I know a lot of people are expecting a bounce-back season from Lee this year, but I just don't see it. For a guy making more than $5 million you'd expect Lee to have at least one skill that was better than "pretty good" by NBA standards. But he doesn't. He's a good 3-point shooter (career 38%, last season 37%) but he's not outstanding. He doesn't distribute the ball particularly well (1.5 assists per game for his career) meaning it's difficult to play him without a guy like Rondo on the floor next to him. And defensively, despite a pretty good reputation — he's just not that good. According to Synergy Sports he allowed 0.87 points-per-possession last season, ranking 195th in the league, and that was actually an improvement from the 0.88 PPP he allowed in 2011-12 (282nd in the NBA). While I think Lee will be an adequate backup guard, I just don't see him ever approaching the production necessary to validate the contract he got last summer. The skill-set just isn't there.
(MarShon Brooks): I'd like to say Gerald Wallace or Kris Humphries, but it's hard to underachieve when you have literally zero expectations. Of the 4 former Nets, Brooks is the only one people in Boston really seem to have anything positive to say about. While he probably has the most long-term potential/upside, I think this year he ends up buried on the bench at the 2-guard spot behind Bradley, Lee, and Crawford.
(Kelly Olynyk): Full disclosure: I wanted the Celtics to draft German point guard Dennis Schroeder in the worst way. A ready-made Rondo replacement without the attitude issues? What's not to like? That being said, I like Olynyk's game. He can score and has a good motor. I'm just not sold on Olynyk having a breakout season going against players every night who are just as talented and probably more athletic than he is. Calling him an underachiever has more to do with fans' expectations after a great Summer League performance and less of a knock on Olynyk. He'll be a decent contributor off the bench, but he has "role player" written all over him. And that's OK.
(Rajon Rondo): This would've been easier if I could still say Fab Melo. Instead, I'll go with another obvious choice: Rajon Rondo. I'm a big fan of the point guard but one thing has been abundantly clear in his career as a Celtic. He can turn it on at any moment and become one of the most entertaining players in the league to watch, but he can also turn it off. You've heard it before. There's "National TV Rondo" and there's "Monday Night at Detroit Rondo". There's not going to be a whole lot of opportunities for the former to come out this season. I'm always interested to see how players who have been so used to winning year in year out react when they're suddenly on a bottom feeder. Most of the time, they don't take it too well. Will Rondo be the best player on the team? Absolutely. But a losing situation, his recovery from injury and lack of talent around him will cause the star point guard to fall short of the great expectations we've come to have of him.
Agree with Chris, Mark, Eric and the Mike's? Disagree with them vehemently? Leave your answers to the 4 questions in the comments section.
Check out the full series on ESPN Boston.
Related: Celtics Life writers talk the upcoming season on ESPN (Part 1) JR 8/26/2013 11:31:00 AM Tweet