Immediate Hurdles the Boston Celtics Will Face This Season
After president of basketball operations Danny Ainge pursued a team rebuild during the offseason, the Celtics put together a roster of complementary, talented young players and veterans looking for their last big contracts.
Moving forward, Boston faces plenty of hurdles in their first full season post-Paul Pierce.
The timeline for Rondo's recovery has been speculated about, with the most common return date being in December, according to Baxter Holmes from The Boston Globe. Until he's back, the Celtics will likely interchange Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford and Phil Pressey at point guard.
After Rondo went down last season the Celtics struggled handling the ball, a flaw in their system that was spotlighted in the playoffs, where Raymond Felton simply outworked Boston on both ends of the floor.
The Celtics will try to make that transition easier this season, with Stevens attempting to implement a system built around Bradley in the short term, and then something they can still use with Rondo back at full strength.
As I’ve watched it, I didn’t think the struggles were as bad as they were made out to be. The other thing is he did that midstream. He had to make that adjustment within a system already created. Maybe we do things that fit him a bit better early that you can tweak when Rajon comes back. You know, Bradley is still going to play. He’s still going to play a lot. He’s going to play off the ball and with the ball.
Lee and Crawford have both looked relatively average in the small sample size of 2013-14, leaving room for Pressey to make a case as the primary backup to Bradley. After a stellar preseason debut, where he notched 13 points and seven assists in garbage time against the New York Knicks on October 9, Pressey has at least entered the discussion. It is, however, preseason, so we shouldn't read into his performance too much just yet.
Shooting from deep
For the Celtics, three of their top five three-point shooters are gone (Pierce, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa), leaving the long-range shooting up to Jeff Green and Lee. The duo, along with Bradley and Crawford, should see their share of open looks from deep as defenders will surely crowd the paint in lieu of Rondo's playmaking abilities.
Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk showed during summer league he can knock down those long shots as well, and if guard Chris Babb somehow continues his ridiculous three-point percentage from Boston's second preseason game (80 percent on 4-of-5 shooting), the Celtics might overcome their offseason losses.
As a smaller team, the Celtics' lack of size gives other teams ample opportunities to haul in their miss for an offensive board or snag a loose rebound on defense.
While under Doc Rivers, Boston focused its effort on getting back to play defense rather than attacking the offensive glass. Under Stevens, it seems as if he wants the bigs sticking their bodies in the paint and hauling in as many rebounds as they can get.
Against Toronto and New York, their first two preseason opponents, the Celtics notched eight offensive rebounds in each. In their debut, they snagged just 26 boards, while against the Knicks they grabbed a healthy 36 rebounds.
Even with Kevin Garnett last season, Boston really struggled on the glass. Having a healthy Jared Sullinger should help calm those issues, and Vitor Faverani has already shown a nose for the ball in his short stint with the Celtics.
Garnett was also the backbone of Boston's defensive schemes, standing as a vocal leader and an intense personality. Now, the Celtics will rely on a combination of Bass, Sullinger, Olynyk and Kris Humphries in the frontcourt.
That's not a stout defensive unit, whose size will be likely overmatched. While Bass struggled at times last season with missed assignments and poor rotations, he was solid in the playoffs against Carmelo Anthony and is a tough one-on-one defender. Sullinger's back could flare up at any minute, and Olynyk isn't the strongest defender Boston has on its roster. Humphries is a decent defender, but in the final year of his contract, he could be a trade chip to a contender once he shows he can produce at a high level.
In the first two preseason games, Boston allowed its opponent to shoot 52 percent in each of the two games. The Celtics were owned on the boards and allowed the Raptors a whopping 24 of their 37 makes at the rim, via NBA.com/stats (log in required). Two nights later, New York connected on 12 of its 39 makes in the restricted area, per NBA.com/stats (log in required).
The Celtics will surely rely on Bradley as a defensive hound at the guard spot, while Lee and Green should provide strong opposition in the backcourt, but the bigs must pick up the slack in order for Boston to be successful.
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