The Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce era has come to an end in Boston.
The Boston Celtics' title window slammed shut the moment Rajon Rondo tore his right ACL in January.
Following a first-round playoff exit, head coach Doc Rivers bolted for the Los Angeles Clippers and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge hit the restart button, trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets for three future draft picks.
The result is a younger, and significantly less potent, roster than the one that started the 2012-13 season for the Celtics. Boston will struggle to replace KG and Pierce's leadership, scoring and defense, especially while Rondo is recovering from surgery.
With a vastly different roster comes different goals and expectations. Rivers entered last season with the intention of developing cohesive rotations and keeping his veterans fresh for a postseason run.
New Celtics coach Brad Stevens has two basic goals: develop the team’s young talent and attempt to boost the trade value of some of the veterans.
Rajon Rondo will begin the 2013-14 season in street clothes.
2012-13: Rajon Rondo/Leandro Barbosa
2013-14: Avery Bradley/Phil Pressey
Rajon Rondo and the Celtics have been vague when discussing his potential return date, as the All-Star point guard will likely be out until at least late December. Boston's offense could be abysmal without him.
The Celtics struggled to score last season, ranking 20th in offensive efficiency, via ESPN.com. And that was with Rondo in the lineup for about half of their games and KG and Pierce still on the team. Rondo is the only Celtic who consistently creates shots for his teammates. His replacement at point guard, Avery Bradley, plays his best off the ball.
The Celtics opened last season with Leandro Barbosa as Rondo's backup, while waiting for Avery Bradley to return from shoulder surgery. The longtime guard for the Phoenix Suns was lost for the season when he tore the ACL in his left knee a couple of weeks after Rondo's injury. Shooting guard Jason Terry also chipped in with the ball-handling duties.
Boston enters this season without an experienced backup for Rondo with Phil Pressey, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Missouri, second on the depth chart. Pressey is lightning-quick and an excellent passer, but he may not be able to score enough to command the respect of opposing defenses. He shot just 37.5 percent in his junior year at Missouri.
Jordan Crawford is the favorite to start at shooting guard for Boston.
2012-13: Courtney Lee/Jason Terry/Avery Bradley
2013-14: Jordan Crawford/Courtney Lee/Keith Bogans/MarShon Brooks
Courtney Lee began the 2012-13 season as the starting shooting guard, but lost the trust of Doc Rivers, and his starting spot, to Jordan Crawford by the playoffs. Jason Terry was sent to Brooklyn as part of the KG/Pierce deal after one disappointing season with in Boston.
This season, Lee and Crawford head a logjam at the 2 guard, which includes veteran Keith Bogans and MarShon Brooks, who came over in the trade with the Nets. As of Oct. 23, new head coach Brad Stevens still had not settled on a starter, though Crawford, who started the majority of the team's preseason games, is the frontrunner.
Lee is the better shooter of the two, although Crawford's ability to create off the dribble is exceedingly valuable to Steven's club while Rajon Rondo is sidelined.
Brooks is the most intriguing of the Celtics shooting guards. The Providence College star has good size (6’5’’) and athleticism for his position and had a promising rookie season for the Nets in 2011-12, averaging 12.6 points and earning All-Rookie Second Team honors.
Last season, Brooks' minutes plummeted from 29.4 per game to 12.5 as the Nets' coaching staff grew tired of his poor shot selection and lack of attention to defense. Brooks is still young and could blossom into a solid rotation player if given the opportunity.
Jeff Green will replace Paul Pierce at small forward.
2012-13: Paul Pierce/Jeff Green
2013-14: Jeff Green/Gerald Wallace
This will be the first time since 1997 that Boston begins a season without Paul Pierce in the starting lineup. After 15 years in green and white "The Truth" ranks among the top 10 in franchise history in nearly every major statistical category—ranking second in scoring, first in steals, fourth in assists and seventh in rebounds.
The unenviable burden of replacing him falls on the shoulders of his backup for much of last season, Jeff Green.
Green was tentative early last season and struggled to find his rhythm after missing the entire 2011-12 campaign with a heart condition. The second half of the season was another story. The 6'9'' forward started 17 games for the Celtics and averaged 17.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 33.5 minutes of play after the All-Star break, compared to 10.3 points and 3.3 rebounds before it.
Green can knock down the outside shot (38.5 percent from behind the arc in 2012-13), break down defenses off the dribble and knows how to finish on the break. He will be the Celtics’ go-to scorer this season.
Behind him is 12-year veteran Gerald Wallace, whose reckless style of play appeared to have caught up with him as a member of the Nets last season. Crash turned in his lowest scoring (7.7) and rebounding (4.6) numbers since 2003-04.
Wallace can be effective in a reduced role in Boston and has already picked up the leadership mantle by calling out his teammates for their lack of effort in a preseason game.
Brandon Bass is holding down the power forward spot until one of the youngsters are ready to step in.
2012-13: Brandon Bass/Jared Sullinger/Chris Wilcox
2013-14: Brandon Bass/Kelly Olynyk
Brandon Bass is merely a place-holder at power forward. He has a decent mid-range game and can bang with physical power forwards, but does not provide the level of production (11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds per 36 minutes last season) that teams are looking for in a starting forward.
Bass lost the starting job to Jared Sullinger last season before Sullinger went down with a back injury. Sully has moved to center to fill the hole left by Garnett, although rookie Kelly Olynyk will be challenging Bass for minutes.
Olynyk was named a first team All-American after his senior season at Gonzaga University and was drafted 13th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in June before immediately being traded to the Celtics. Olynyk has a rare skill set for a player his size. At 7'0'' he can face up and take his man off the dribble or use his polished post game to punish smaller players down low.
The rookie turned plenty of heads with his offensive performances at the Las Vegas Summer League, prompting general managers to vote him as the steal of the draft in a recent NBA.com poll. He also ranked fifth in voting for "which rookie will be the best player in five years?"
Jared Sullinger will start at center in place of the departed Kevin Garnett.
2012-13: Kevin Garnett/Darko Milicic/Jason Collins
2013-14: Jared Sullinger/Kris Humphries
Kevin Garnett slowed down in recent years and was often visibly fatigued on the court last season after playing too many minutes due to a lack of depth. Still, Boston will miss the 15-time All-Star immeasurably, especially on defense, where he is still among the league's best at defending the pick-and-roll.
Jared Sullinger is the team's new starting center. The second-year big man averaged 10.9 points and 10.7 per 36 minutes during his rookie season and wrestled away the starting job from Brandon Bass before undergoing back surgery in February.
Sullinger's bad back was a red flag, which caused him to slide in the 2012 draft and remains a reason for concern going forward. If healthy, he should be able to replace Garnett's rebounding, if not his defense.
Kris Humphries is a strong backup and provides insurance in case Sullinger's back acts up. Humphries ranked fifth in the league in rebounds per game in consecutive seasons before having a down year in Brooklyn last season. The 28-year-old may bounce back now that his public divorce to Kim Kardashian is behind him, and his expiring contract could be a valuable trade asset later in the season.