1) Will the Celtics trade Rajon Rondo?
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?)
There are three possible options with Rondo: Trade him, re-sign him, or let him walk as a free agent. Mathematically, it seems like a bad idea to bet on any one of those scenarios over the other two. The fact that Ainge has consistently shown an unwillingness to deal when he feels he'll get less than his perceived value of his players in return also bodes well for Rondo staying put. And, finally, how many times in the past has Ainge actually traded Rondo? None. How many times has he not dealt his point guard despite rumors to the contrary? Countless.
Rondo will not be traded this season because any trade would not return the value Rondo brings to Boston. Ainge is not trading Rondo because there’s no one out there he wants for him; only players he wants to pair with him. Trading Rondo in 2014-15 wouldn’t help the Celtics win any faster, so why do it? Unless another Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce too-good-to-be-true offer comes along, Rondo stays in Boston.
It's getting to the point where there is just no other option unless Ainge is prepared to watch Rondo walk in free agency. The trade/free-agent market over the next year does not have much to offer when looked upon in realistic fashion. It makes no sense to lose Rondo for nothing and there are no stars available to pair him with in Boston. By my count that leaves one possibility: A trade must happen. Ainge needs to do whatever it takes to find the most attractive package of young talent to get back in return.
2) What are your expectations for Celtics rookie Marcus Smart? .
This year's rookie class appears deeper and more talented, and it'll include the likes of Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel, who sat out last season while rehabbing from ACL surgery. Regardless, this writer agrees that Smart has All-Rookie potential. His NBA-ready defense should help separate him from some of his rookie peers and aid his case to earn a spot by season's end.
What's working against Smart, at least initially, is Boston's seemingly deep backcourt. The team returns Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in starting roles, while there will be motivation to showcase the likes of Marcus Thornton -- and Evan Turner, too, if he plays some minutes at the 2 -- in reserve roles at the start of the year.
But Smart showed NBA-ready skills at summer league and got experience against top-level competition with the USA Basketball select team, all of which should help him immediately carve out rotation minutes with the potential for his role to grow, especially should Boston make additional in-season moves to shed guard depth.
If Smart develops his jump shot and can impact the game at both ends of the floor, he'll muscle his way into the All-Rookie conversation.
Rotation Player. I had trouble choosing a category here because I think "All-Rookie team" and "rotation player with immediate impact" can definitely overlap. I see Smart as the first guy off the bench, and playing 20-25 minutes per game in a three-guard rotation with Rondo and Bradley. Whether or not fellow rookie James Young earns minutes as well may determine if Smart is on the court enough to make the All-Rookie team.
Rotation Player. I expect great things from Marcus Smart ... in the future. The Celtics have no shortage of options in the backcourt which will lead to Smart having plenty of time to learn from Rondo, understand Stevens’ offense and defense, and live up to his lottery pick status without the pressure of having to do it himself as other lottery picks on tank-a-palooza teams have done in the past.
3) What are your expectations for Celtics rookie James Young?
It's hard not to compare Young's potential career path to that of Avery Bradley. Back in 2010, a chipped bone in his ankle contributed to then-19-year-old Bradley's slide to Boston at No. 19. The injury kept Bradley out of summer league (and some of the preseason, too) and that stunted start to his pro career contributed to Bradley playing only 162 minutes for the Celtics his first season.
Bradley spent nine games in the D-League that season before being recalled for emergency depth. Now, the Celtics were coming off a Finals appearance the year before and were still pegged as a potential contender in the Big Three era, so minutes were tougher to come by for a rookie. But even on a rebuilding team, Young is going to struggle to find playing time.
Young finds himself deep on a swingman depth chart that already features Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, and fellow summer addition Evan Turner. It seems fair to wonder if Young will need some trips to Maine early in the season to get some game reps early, though trades and his own development could help open doors later in the year.
Even with the potential for D-League visits, this writer voted for the "role player with limited impact" because the rebuilding nature of Boston's roster ought to give Young some opportunities to earn playing time late in the 2014-15 season. If Boston fades from playoff contention, particularly after the trade deadline, it might be in the team's best interest to get Young some NBA game action and hope that accelerates his development.
Just keep in mind how things worked out for Bradley. That first year wasn't much to rave about, but by the end of the 2011-12 season, his second pro season, Bradley supplanted Ray Allen as the team's starting shooting guard late in the season. Even a limited late-season role could help Young build towards a brighter future.
'm not picking "D-League" for Young because I don't think he can play in the NBA, I just feel as if it might be the best situation for him this season considering all the other shooting guards and small forwards on the roster. Wouldn't it make more sense for the 19-year-old to play big minutes every night down there, rather than sit on the end of bench in Boston?
Young has the ability to add instant offense off the bench, which is something I expect him to do in Boston. Much like Smart, I expect Young to keep the energy up in the late second and early third quarters -- a time where the Celtics’ collective foot almost always comes off the gas. Expectations are lower for Young than they are for Smart. Any significant contributions he adds would be all upside.
Young is a very talented player, but is going to be a project to begin with. I expect him to flop around between being a limited role player for the Celtics and being a star at the D-League level. If the season goes how many of us expect it to, we may get to see a lot of Young in March and April.
Agree with Chris, Mark, Padraic, and Julian? Disagree with them vehemently? Leave your answers to the 3 questions in the comments section.
Check out the full series on ESPN Boston. JR 8/28/2014 12:55:00 PM Tweet Edit