Each weekday for a three-week span, our summer panel of prognosticators -- a motley crew featuring our friends in the Celtics blogging community -- will join forces to tell you how the 2014-15 season will play out for Boston. We'll gaze into our crystal balls and attempt to answer all your questions before this season's team even hits the floor together for the first time.
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 ...
Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: Which Celtics player will most exceed expectations this season?
In our notes to our panel regarding the question, we playfully dubbed this category the Jordan Crawford Award. After all, it was last summer that our panel of experts pegged Crawford as the most likely to be gone before the start of the 2013-14 season, only for him to emerge as maybe the best story of the first two months (before finally being dealt in January).
The Celtics, still in transition mode and again facing an unbalanced roster that's logjammed at multiple spots, likely wouldn't mind if a few players overachieved this season and drove up their own trade values. But which player is most likely to do so? It's telling that our panel came back with seven different names, though Evan Turner was the only one to receive more than two votes.
This writer's ballot? I'm with the crowd on Turner. Expectations have never been lower, particularly since he fizzled after being acquired by the Indiana Pacers at last year's trade deadline. Turner, a former No. 2 overall pick, will be motivated to reestablish his value on a rebuilding team that will give him every opportunity to thrive.
And much like Crawford, you can envision a scenario in which coach Brad Stevens attempts to put Turner in the best position to thrive. Yes, there's a crowd at the swingman spots and Turner is going to have to assert himself early to ensure meaningful playing time, but the Celtics will have an interest in maximizing Turner's potential (depending on the length of his contract, either as a low-cost reclamation project, or as a desirable in-season trade asset).
Heck, if Turner does nothing more than push the likes of Jeff Green to be better, than he's got an excellent chance to exceed most expectations.
A look at our forecasters voting:
Read on as our panelists explains their ballots:
Kevin O'Connor, CelticsBlog (Evan Turner)
Turner is a 39.2 percent 3-point shooter on spot-ups since 2012 and is a highly intelligent off-ball player, yet he was blatantly misused for three seasons in Doug Collins’ system. However, he started to develop under Brett Brown and I expect him to continue to with Stevens by improving on his efficiency. You’ll see less isolation, and more pick-and-roll and spot ups from Turner, maybe even some post-ups if the matchup mismatch is there.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (Jeff Green)
The bar will be set low for Jeff Green after a disappointing tryout last season as The Man, but he should be poised for a bounce-back year. The focus will shift to Rajon Rondo (on and off the court), hype will surround Marcus Smart, and expectations will be shouldered by Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. With Green out of the spotlight, he'll blossom into a more suitable role as the complete complementary player.
Mark Vandeusen, CelticsLife (Chris Johnson)
Johnson may wrap up the biggest overachiever award just by making the team, considering he is one of the nonguaranteed contracts expected to be shed in order to get the roster down to 15. I loved what we saw from Johnson last season, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him earn minutes again in 2014-15, despite the additions of Smart, James Young, Marcus Thornton and Turner. Johnson is the kind of guy the Spurs always seem to get at a bargain out of nowhere and turn into a quality rotation player.
Jay O., RedsArmy (Kelly Olynyk)
Olynyk played very well at the end of last season, albeit in a bunch of meaningless games. But in a Canadian-Army-Knife sixth-man role, I can see him exceeding expectations and putting up numbers consistently.
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog (Evan Turner)
Turner is a classic Danny Ainge reclamation project. He looked horrible in Indy last year, but he's much more talented than what he showed there. Expectations are set really low for Turner now and he'll have his chance to exceed them in Boston (possibly to the point where he's traded for another draft pick!).
Cory Prescott, CLNS Radio (Marcus Thornton)
The Celtics finished last season as one of the league’s worst 3-point shooting teams. In fact, only three teams finished lower than the Celtics at 33 percent. Thornton struggled with his shot for the first half of last season, but regained his stroke to the tune of 38 percent from deep with Brooklyn for the final 26 games. Thornton, by all means, is not the answer at shooting guard. Coming off the bench to spell Smart or Avery Bradley could help him regain some of the magic of his career years in 2010 and 2011. He’ll also have the benefit of playing with Rondo, a point guard noted for getting shooters the ball in the right spot. Similar to Crawford last year, Ainge may have an incentive to get Thornton more playing time, as his contract is set to expire by the end of the season.
Julian Edlow, WEEI.com (Phil Pressey)
Expectations have never been too high for the undrafted rookie, but every time Pressey was given an opportunity last season he shined. It was no coincidence that the team had a record of 6-5 in Pressey's 11 starts (posting double-doubles in many of them). Granted he will be playing behind Rondo and potentially Smart this season, however, I think Pressey finds a way to be a factor. Gerald Wallace is another possibility here. When there are literally no expectations of you, you can only go up.
Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (Tyler Zeller)
Nothing lights a fire in an athlete more than being dumped for nothing. Sure, Zeller could take some silver lining in the fact that his ouster was for the sole purpose of bringing the King home, but every play he makes this season will be directly thrown in Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin’s face.
Padraic O'Connor, CelticsLife.com (Evan Turner)
So much of overachieving has to do with expectations. Like Kris Humphries and Crawford before him, Turner has the biggest chance to overachieve. Turner went from a losing culture in Philadelphia (where he averaged 17 points and 6 rebounds per game) to the bench in Indiana before finding his way to Boston as a free agent. At only 25 and with something to prove, Turner could be in line for a Crawford-esque turn around.
KWAPT, Red's Army.com (Avery Bradley)
Celtics fans, of course, have the highest expectations of any fan base. And when AB signed that big contract over the summer, fans cried "He's just not worth that much money", yada, yada, yada. Granted, I do agree we overpaid, but I think Bradley is going to have a very big 2014-15. After a very tumultuous year last season, both physically and mentally, he is going to come back stronger than ever and ready to show C's fans why Boston invested so much cake in him.
Tom Westerholm, CelticsHub (Phil Pressey)
Full disclosure: I'm a shill for Phil Pressey, but he does have a chance to improve his stock around the league. Pressey desperately needs to bump up his shooting percentages, and he has been working tirelessly to tidy up his shot this summer. Getting his 3-point percentages into the low 30s would represent a big jump and would likely open up other aspects of his game. Meanwhile, his ball-handling and passing will likely remain quite good, which -- combined with better shooting -- would make him a nice backup point guard.
Also voting: Chris Jones, Red's Army (Tyler Zeller); Jay King, Masslive.com (Evan Turner).
Your turn: We invite you join the conversation. Sound off in the comments with who you believe will be the Celtics' biggest overachiever this season.