The Boston Celtics unloaded franchise players over the offseason, leaving point guard Rajon Rondo on a team heading into a rebuilding phase.
But Rondo is sidelined for a couple of months as he recovers from a torn ACL, so Avery Bradley and undrafted rookie Phil Pressey must step up in the absence of Rondo.
Rookie head coach Brad Stevens guided under-the-radar Butler teams to the brink of an NCAA championship, but he faces a tough task during his first season in Boston.
How can he ride a defensive-minded point guard and a rookie backup for what could be a majority of the 2013-14 season?
But one ACL tear and blockbuster trade later, the point guard heading into his eighth professional season is out of commission on a team with low expectations.
Plus, according to ESPN's Chris Forsberg, Rondo has no timetable for his return to the hardwood.
Brad Stevens says neither the team nor Rajon Rondo has put a timeline on his return. Stevens told Rondo to return when he feels ready.— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) September 13, 2013
Boston fans everywhere hope Rondo is more Adrian Peterson than Derrick Rose, but he should not be in any monumental rush to come back.
Now, when Rondo finally does step onto the court, the Celtics, unfortunately, will more than likely be quickly drifting from playoff contention. Rondo is one of the league's best passers—arguably the best—but he will not single-handedly lift Boston from the depths of the Eastern Conference when he returns.
Rondo will make a noticeable impression when on the floor—as is expected from a player of his caliber—but Stevens would be smart to limit his superstar's minutes so as to not overwork Rondo after a scary injury.
The Celtics must prepare for an extended period of time without Rondo, and the 2013-14 season will be an adventure without their best facilitator.
With Rondo in street clothes for an unknown amount of time, Avery Bradley will be called upon to be the Celtics' primary ball-handler.
But Bradley is not necessarily a suitable backup point guard.
He is limited as a passer and will have a tendency to play outside himself—meaning Bradley will try to force some outside shots and attempt to drive into a congested lane at times.
Boston may be expecting Bradley to contribute offensively and defensively, but additional focus on one side of the court will hurt his performance on the other. Bradley is a fantastic defender, but his excellent defense comes at a physically taxing price.
There aren't many NBA guards eager for Bradley to pressure them all night long, so Bradley plays a pivotal role as the Celtics' best defensive stopper.
Ultimately though, Bradley is not an offensive weapon, and expectations for him to become that are unfair. Without Rondo last season, Bradley averaged 9.6 points on 39.8 percent shooting, 2.4 assists and 1.6 turnovers in approximately 30.0 minutes per game.
Bradley will be a restricted free agent following the 2013-14 season, and Bleacher Report's Michael Walsh has the argument for and against extending the young guard's deal.
He is a solid defender and maybe a serviceable point guard, but Bradley is not the offensive weapon Boston needs in Rondo's absence.
What logical expectations can be placed on the rookie from Missouri?
Well, welcome to the NBA, kid. It's going to be trial by fire.
Pressey, as of now, is listed as the second-stringer on Rotoworld's depth chart of Boston.
Kelly Olynyk is undoubtedly the Celtics rookie with the highest expectations, but Pressey appears to be a very important part of Boston surviving the early season schedule sans Rondo.
Not only will the fantastic collegiate passer be tasked with learning the speed of the NBA, Pressey must also do so as the backup to a purely average ball-handler in Bradley.
Pressey does provides quick hands on defense, though, hovering around two steals per game in college. He may not be up to the standard of Bradley's pressure, but Pressey will perform adequately as a defender.
Nobody likes a downer, but a liar who gives false hope is no better.
Boston's point guard position raises more questions than it answers, as the Celtics' best player sits on the sideline.
Will Avery Bradley improve his offensive output?
Bradley is an excellent defender, who has a limited offensive skill set, and he may be asked to do too much with the ball or try to create outside his abilities.
Pressey is an unproven kid with potential to immediately give Boston quality minutes, but how quickly can he provide solid depth?
Ultimately, beyond Bradley and Pressey, the Celtics may occasionally turn to either Courtney Lee or Jordan Crawford as the primary ball-handler and also utilize Jeff Green in isolation—none of which are optimal scenarios.
Per Game Stat Projections
Rajon Rondo: (40 games) 28.1 minutes, 8.7 points, 9.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals
Avery Bradley: 31.6 minutes, 10.8 points, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals
Phil Pressey: 16.4 minutes, 5.1 points, 3.6 assists, 0.8 steals