SUMMER FORECAST 2014
Throughout the month of August, we'll break up the summer doldrums by trying to predict exactly how the 2014-15 season will play out for the Boston Celtics. A rundown of the series:
Coming later this week ...
We wanted to get our readers involved this year, so we distributed a link for you guys to complete the same summer survey as our "experts." We figured only a handful of diehards hankering for some summer hoops chatter would take the time to navigate the questions.
So consider us floored when more than 500 responses poured in over the first couple days. It became apparent that you guys deserved your own post to sound off on the future. And, hey, you'll probably make us "experts" look bad when we look back in a year's time.
Maybe not surprisingly, our readers tended to be more optimistic than our panel. Only a few responders really inflated Boston's win total (there were a couple of 82-0 suggestions in there that we had to classify as outliers), but reader votes were pretty balanced. Overall, those votes averaged out to a final record of 35-47. That's still seven wins higher than our panel, but readers seem hopeful that the team can make a big jump this season.
Here's a sample of responses from our readers, broken up into categories:
Matty Cocktails (52-30)
I think Boston is extremely underrated at the moment under coach Brad Stevens' watch and may be one or two small changed at the deadline, this team is a sleeper. The East is wide open (and Green has to get mean fast, or see you later buddy, be the[bleep]-hole that KG told you to be!). Now I know RayRay and KG (in their prime) are not dropping by to make us go from 24-58 to 66-16 in a year BUT with the right effort, attitude, and game plan, this team can flip it around quickly (no need to tank for draft picks either, we are sitting on enough).
The team has more talent then they're given credit for. They have young tough guards that will be one of the best defensive backcourts this season. Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the league when healthy. They struggled last year because they didn't have a true center. Now they have Tyler Zeller to fill that role and get some boards. I think Jared Sullinger will go to another level this year. Celtics will be the surprise team this year.
Reasons for improvement: 1. Brad Stevens. Although the record didn’t show it, a severely undermanned team was significantly competitive and lost a ton of games. There is more talent this year with a year of experience under Stevens’ belt. 2. Rajon Rondo. A healthy Rondo making a statement is worth several wins itself. 3. Tyler Zeller. Backline protection didn’t exist last year. Often, the Celtics would play great defense only to give up a last-second shots under the basket, or allow the other team to grab an offensive rebound. You can’t teach size, and Zeller has serviceable size.
I really believe the C's have a very good chance of surprising all the 'experts' as this team has a lot of talent and, with a much improved rebounding focus, they will run more and defend better. The East is also weak, so the challenge initially will be to learn to play together with the rookies getting quality time. I believe they will finish strong and, if they can stay away from any serious loss of time from injuries, then they could end up 4-5 in the playoff standings. FYI, getting rid of Jeff Green is imperative and will greatly help in achieving what I believe can happen.
John in Boca Raton (44-38)
Rondo will have a great season. Sullinger makes a big jump, as does Olynyk. Turner contributes. Smart all-rookie first team. Celtics three-man backcourt among the best in NBA. Pacers out of playoffs, Heat start solid and fold, Brooklyn tanks.
Disjointed parts and redundancy. Rondo and Smart vying for supremacy. Not enough shooting, rebounding or 'rim protection'
I expect every team in the East outside the Nets, 76ers and Pacers to improve this season. With the lack of teams "Riggin’ for Wiggins" in 2014-15, I see the Celtics struggling out of the gate and eventually dealing Rondo at the deadline to start the path down towards a longer rebuild than many Celts fans hoped for.
The youth movement is in full swing and Rondo will be gone before the season starts.
Celtics Tankapalooza 14-15: Danny Ainge will systematically strip the team of all good players, culminating in Rondo's trade by Jan. 15. I expect to have a roster of mostly D-leaguers by the trade deadline.
Danny is an idiot and they have no center.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Rob, @CelticWelch (30-52)
Last season proved one thing: this group of Celtics doesn't give up. The team could have easily cracked the 30-win mark with better late-game execution. Add a contract year for Rondo, who we all know is listening to the haters, makes for a few more wins. Plus the additions of Marcus Smart and a healthy Avery Bradley could make the C's a defensive force.
I believe the focus of this season will be similar to last season: Rebuilding and showcasing assets to facilitate more trades (see: Courtney Lee) as Boston positions itself for a bunch of first round picks in the next NBA draft.
Adrien in Belgium (33-49)
The good news : Rondo is gonna be healthier and coach Stevens is more experienced after a season of acclimation. Plus, each position is overloaded by young players trying to make a name for themselves. And we have a true and legit center in Zeller. But Kris Humphries is gone; this team is inexperienced and will go through lots of growing pains and well. As long as Jeff Green is your best offensive weapon, you know the season is going to get long, especially in a much improved Eastern Conference. So this improved record still means bottom of the East.
The Celtics will have a solid season, but with no superstar player, I do not see them finishing above .500. The team will be thrive on being young and athletic with big improvements from Olynyk this year.
Over in Foxboro, Bill Belichick often discusses how the sophomore leap is the biggest and most crucial time for a young player. While Brad Stevens is not a player, expect him to fully benefit from this leap. With last year’s team mostly intact, along with the addition of a few new players who definitely fit his system (Zeller as a big man who can run with Rondo; Smart as a tough, gritty defender), expect the Celtics to hover close to .500.