Players Who Must Step Up for the Boston Celtics Next Season

Kyle NeubeckContributor IIAugust 1, 2013

Players Who Must Step Up for the Boston Celtics Next Season

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    As Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett head down the highway to join the Brooklyn Nets, it's safe to say the final chapter of the Big Three era has ended.

    There's no easy way to replace two surefire Hall of Famers, but the players who are left will be tasked with upholding the pride that comes with being a member of one of the league's flagship franchises.

    This new look comes with a new coach, Butler sensation Brad Stevens, who will have to squeeze potential out of a roster that looks closer to the Island of Misfit Toys than it does the Celtics teams of late. 

    So who's left to carry the torch for the C's?

     

     

Rajon Rondo

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    Once seen as the little brother of the 2008 title-winning Celtics, Rajon Rondo has grown into one of the NBA's top point guards.

    Does he have the mentality to become the alpha dog of a rebuilding team?

    Rondo has always been more comfortable as a distributor than a scorer. The 2011-12 campaign, where he averaged 11.7 assists and just slightly under his 11.9 points, is a perfect summation of Rondo's style of play: unselfish to a fault.

    One of the most perplexing elements of Rondo's game is his inability to get to the free-throw line. His game is heavily predicated on slashing and maneuvering through the paint, both because of his lackluster shooting ability and his trademark quickness.

    Yet Rondo has only gotten to the charity stripe 2.8 times a game for his career. To put that into context, that would have put him on par with jump-shooters like Vince Carter and Bradley Beal last season. That simply won't cut it anymore.

    There have been flashes of his ability to take over gameslike his 44-point, eight-rebound, 10-assist performance against Miami in the 2012 playoffsbut he has to increase his scoring output on a consistent basis now that his more accomplished teammates are gone.

    He's the best player on the roster, and that comes with a certain responsibility. 

Jeff Green

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    I'm really excited to join in one of the favorite pastimes of NBA writers everywhere: I'm declaring that this is the year Jeff Green really needs to step up. A quick Google search reveals that this isn't exactly original thinking.

    That doesn't remove merit from the sentiment. Green is a gifted player who has the potential to be an impact player on both ends of the court.

    Sag off him too far and he'll make you pay with his improving (38 percent in '13) outside stroke. Crowd him and he'll use his length (7'1.25" wingspan) and athleticism to blow by you and finish at the rim. Pair those skills with the strength to battle with the LeBron's of the world, and you've got yourself the mold of an impact forward.

    Green's primary issue is that he doesn't put all the elements of his game together on a consistent basis. It's often apparent from the tipoff whether he's engaged or not. 

    That's fine for Celtics fans when he comes out guns blazing like in this gem from March, but too often Green is seen drifting around the perimeter aimlessly.

    Having played behind or next to exceptional wing players in his young career, from Kevin Durant to Paul Pierce, perhaps a chance to play extended minutes in a leading role will prompt Green to attack more regularly. 

     

     

     

Kelly Olynyk

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    Kelly Olynyk is yet another in a seemingly endless line of long-haired white guys to come out of Gonzaga. Is it too early for expecting Olynyk to step into a leading role after he set the summer league on fire?

    To put it simply, yes. Building expectations based off a minuscule sample size against shoddy competition is unwise. 

    That being said, he does bring a well-rounded skill set that can help an offensively challenged Celtics team.

    Olynyk's true shooting percentage of 68 during his final season at Gonzaga is an astounding number for a 7-footer, a mark that would put him about four percent above the NBA's all-time leader in the category.

    The traditional shooting numbers are also friendly to Olynyk. He shot well whether he was in the post (58.3 percent) or finishing at the rim (70 percent). 

    It's his shooting ability that allows him to compensate for some of his physical deficiencies. He doesn't possess the brute strength to overpower defenders, and he doesn't have remarkable speed, but he compensates with converting his scoring opportunities at a high rate.

    At age 22, with years of experience training with the Canadian national team under his belt, Olynyk should be prepared to contribute right away for Boston. 

Avery Bradley

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    A year removed from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the first few months of the season, the excuses are gone for Avery Bradley. The time to produce is now.

    As ESPN's Chris Forsberg recently pointed out, this is the first offseason in Bradley's young career where his focus can all be directed toward just getting better at basketball. Injuries and the 2012 lockout diverted his attention elsewhere, limiting what he could add to his game.

    His focus should be at the defensive end. Bradley received a second-team All-Defense honor for his work on opposing guards last season, and his mastery of that craft is going to be crucial to this Celtics team especially.

    After losing a defensive savant in Garnett, the Celtics are going to have to rebuild their defensive identity around their guards. Without their man in the middle to swallow up drives and shots, the Celtics will have to lean heavily on Rondo's quick hands and Bradley's lockdown skills.

    Unlike past seasons, it won't be good enough for Bradley to stay tight on his man and herd him toward No. 5. He'll have to keep his guy out of the paint entirely if the Celtics expect to get stops in the post-KG period.