ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg was kind enough to invite Celtics Life to contribute to it's Summer Forecast series. Through the first four days here are Forsberg's and Celtics Life's columnists' predictions to some pressing questions:
1) Predicting the final regular-season record.
My best guess? Let's pencil in a record of 29-53. November looks incredibly daunting and we're just not sure it makes any sense to rush Rondo back for opening night. Boston plays a whopping 18 games in November, including six back-to-backs, all of which close on the road (those second-night stops are in Memphis, Miami, Minnesota, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Milwaukee).
The Celtics will know right away if they have the ability to overachieve. The guess here is that they'll quickly realize that this is a season to develop further continuity with the young core, identify the future building blocks, and learn Brad Stevens' system. But wins won't come easy, or as easy as they used to come (remember back in 2007-08 when Boston's newly minted Big Three had 26 wins before the ball even dropped to usher in the new calendar year?)
(32-50)The Celtics aren't very good, but neither is the rest of the Eastern Conference's bottom half. Boston will certainly struggle until Rajon Rondo is back and playing at close to 100 percent, but between Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, there is still enough talent to avoid a complete "bottoming out". I also think that between Rondo trying to prove he's healthy (and worthy of a max deal in 2015), Bradley trying to get his next contract, Green trying to prove he's a legit starter in this league, and Kris Humphries playing for his next deal, the Celtics have a ton of guys playing with chips on their shoulders. Of course, if Danny Ainge pulls off another major trade, the C's could see that 32-win total slip well into the 20s. But until that happens, this team is simply bad, not terrible.
2) Predicting how the 2013-14 season will end.
My best guess? The Celtics will be competitive at times next season and finish somewhere in spots 9-12 in the East. There's enough remaining talent in Boston -- particularly in that young nucleus of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger -- that the Celtics will scrap their way toward 30 wins. But Rondo's uncertainty for the start of the season, a first-year head coach, and a brutal November schedule lead me to believe that this team will endure many of its lumps early, then make some strides later in the year.
The question, of course, is whether it's prudent to gun for as many losses as possible to better Boston's draft standing. There's a notion that, if you're going to lose games, lose a whole bunch of them. But I do believe there's something to be said for finishing the year strong. If Rondo can get healthy, if Brad Stevens can get his feet wet and install his system, and if the Celtics can determine the players who will serve as building blocks, then that might benefit them more than shuffling a pick or two higher if they string together some wins later in the year.
(Competitive, 9-12 in East) In my "NBA summer power rankings" column I actually had the Celtics finishing 9th in the East, although that is much more to do with the complete trash that the bottom of the East has to offer than it does with anything the Celtics have done this offseason. The East has 5 teams well above the rest of the field in Miami, Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago and New York, and then the Pistons and Cavs look like pretty good bets to make the playoffs. But after that? Sheesh. I like what the Wizards have done and give them an edge to grab the eight seed, but them, the Celtics, Atlanta, Toronto and Milwaukee are all in the same boat as bad teams with enough talent to stay pseudo-competitive. The bottom of the East is going to be interesting as teams find themselves deciding between making a run at the final playoff spot and making a run at Andrew Wiggins as the trade deadline approaches.
3) Which player won't make the opening-day roster?
The guess here? Jordan Crawford. The Celtics cleared a little bit of their frontcourt logjam by dealing away Melo, but there's still a surplus of shooting guards. Crawford became expendable when Boston brought back MarShon Brooks as part of the blockbuster swap with the Brooklyn Nets.
With the uncertainty surrounding Rajon Rondo and his recovery from a torn ACL, there's a line of thinking that Crawford and his passing skills could hold value as a ballhandling guard should Rondo not be ready for the start of the season. But, ultimately, the question is whether Boston sees a long-term future with 24-year-old Crawford (who is due $2.1 million this season and is pegged for a $3.2 million qualifying offer next season). At the moment, it's hard to see where he fits.
Alas, it takes two to tango and Boston needs to find a home for Crawford. Acquired at the trade deadline, Crawford averaged 9.1 points and 2.5 assists over 21.6 minutes per game in 27 appearances for Boston. He appeared in five playoff games, but his most memorable moment might have been barking at Carmelo Anthony after a Game 5 win in New York.
(Crawford) Only Crawford is gone by Oct. 30, as Ainge finds someone to take him for a conditional pick in 2062, allowing the Celtics to further slide beneath the luxury tax. I think that, by the time the trade deadline hits in February, Bass and Courtney Lee will have new homes, and, if anyone will bite on Humphries (without giving the Celtics salaries that bog them down in 2014 and beyond) he will be gone, too. When push comes to shove, Ainge is going to move the guys who are highly unlikely to be here for the next era of greatness (or merely above-averageness) to allow players like Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk to get the playing time necessary to develop. However, a bigger deal, like one for Bass or Lee, is more likely to happen closer to the deadline, when a contender who is only a piece or two away might be a little more desperate to make something happen.
4) Who starts at center?
Olynyk or Faverani may very well ascend to that starting role during the season, but the guess here is that Humphries is the starting center on opening night. You don't pay a player $12 million to sit on the bench. Boston would be well served if Humphries reestablished his value after a down year in Brooklyn, giving the Celtics a potential trade chip later in the season (contenders would be intrigued by a consistent double-double presence if Humphries can regain his form). Obviously, Boston's best interest is to give minutes to the younger players that will comprise its future core (Sullinger, Olynyk, Faverani), but spotlighting Humphries early could help the long-term future as well.
(Brandon Bass): For two reasons: One, I think Brad Stevens is going to want to run a lot, and will follow the growing NBA trend of using two "bigs" in the frontcourt instead of a real center. I see an opening night starting five of Bass, Sully, Green, Bradley, and Rondo. The other reason for this is that he'll want to show the world that the Celtics are intent on playing hard and winning games; and going with a lineup that carries over from last season is a nice way to remind everybody you still have a talented roster. This may not last for very long however, especially if Olynyk impresses from the beginning.
(Kelly Olynyk)My head says: Start Humphries and Bass, allow them to pile up decent numbers and raise their trade value. Deal them in January/February to teams that need bigs and then start Sullinger and Olynyk in the second half. After all, Humphries did average a double-double in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, and Bass is a rare power forward who can double as an on ball defender agains the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Both have value, but it's up to the Celtics to give them the playing time necessary to show that. My heart says: Screw you head, start the kids. This team is not going to be good, so allow Sully and K.O to give the fans something to cheer about. Both guys have legitimate skills, Sully as a banger and on the glass, Olynyk with combination of old-man post moves and ability to stretch the floor. If we're going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007, let's at least have some fun doing it. Bottom line: Going with my heart.
Agree with Chris, Mike, and Mark? Disagree with them vehemently? Leave your answers to the 4 questions in the comments section.
Check out the full series on ESPN Boston. JR 8/20/2013 03:20:00 PM Tweet Edit