The Boston Celtics don’t beat out the Philadelphia 76ers for grandest roster blowup of the 2013 offseason, but by shipping out Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers the C’s signaled the end of an era about as loudly as they possibly could.
Boston acquired a hoard of role players in exchange for their two superstars, as well as three first-round picks, indicating that the C’s clearly have an eye on the future and not contending right away.
To that end, Boston was almost completely inactive in free agency, opting not to use some of their newfound cap room to make a run at a marquee player or even a recognizable name. The C’s appear to be content to stand pat and assess whether the pieces they have on their roster should be around for the long haul.
Still, the Celtics managed to go into the 2013 preseason with a completely unclear rotation, a rookie head coach in Brad Stevens, a pair of key undrafted free agents and more questions than answers for the first time since KG came to Boston in 2007.
The 2013-14 Celtics are a completely different team than the 2012-13 iteration, but with the regular season looming and Rajon Rondo’s return drawing nearer, let’s look back and assess Boston’s 2013 offseason from the draft to their new acquisitions to the actual preseason play.
With second-rounder Colton Iverson playing for Besiktas in Turkey, Kelly Olynyk is the only player Boston drafted who will be on the opening day roster.
There was trepidation when the Celts selected the long-haired, defense-averse big man out of Gonzaga, but Olynyk quickly silenced doubters with his stellar performance in the Orlando Summer League.
Olynyk averaged 18 points, 7.8 boards and 2.4 assists on 57.8 percent shooting while logging just 24.2 minutes per game.
As the quality of competition increased in the preseason Olynyk’s numbers inevitably dropped, but he remained effective. He posted nine points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 52.5 percent in 23.3 minutes of action.
He’s still working on developing an NBA three-pointer, but Olynyk has solid range on his jumper and looks like he can do an adequate job replacing Garnett as a pick-and-pop threat.
Additionally, he has looked strong in the post already and has the kind of handle and passing ability few big men possess.
He did a decent job on the boards but still needs to improve at locking down the defensive glass and protecting the paint. He’ll never be a shot-blocker, but Olynyk needs to get better at contesting without fouling.
While it’s just the preseason and is not always indicative of regular season play, Olynyk did accrue four or more fouls in five of the Celtics’ eight games and fouled out twice.
The stellar play of Vitor Faverani against Brooklyn might end up meaning fewer minutes for Olynyk, but he should be Boston’s first big off the bench when 2013-14 tips off.
He’ll have some rough stretches as he adjusts to the pace of the game and guarding players much stronger and experienced than himself, but for the 13th selection in a weak draft, the Celtics could certainly have done worse than Olynyk.
Offseason Acquisitions: C+
It’s impossible to assess the performances of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans without thinking about Pierce and Garnett, but at least three of them looked as if they could find roles in Stevens’ rotation going forward.
Wallace’s strong play was one of the biggest surprises of the preseason for Boston after a disastrous stint in Brooklyn. He averaged a team-high 11.5 points to go with 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 45.3 percent shooting overall and 28.6 percent from deep in 26.5 minutes.
“Crash” led Boston in scoring multiple times. While had some issues knocking down outside shots, he appears to be healthy and a better fit for Stevens’ system than many anticipated.
At 31 years old his best days are behind him, but Wallace is still a versatile combo forward who can attack the glass, facilitate and knife his way into the lane for scores at the rim.
Bogans barely played in the preseason and was ultimately shelved with a sprained thumb. He logged a total of 22 minutes and scored just two points, so it’s difficult to assess whether he can have any meaningful impact at all in Boston or if he is just salary cap filler.
It seems to be the latter so far.
Brooks’ minutes fluctuated wildly, but he was able to put up good numbers when he developed a rhythm on the court. He wound up averaging 7.8 points, two boards and 1.3 assists on 47.2 percent shooting overall and 27.3 percent from distance, but that includes two contests where he logged three minutes or less of playing time.
The Celtics desperately need guards who create their own offense off the dribble, and Brooks has the ability to break down opposing defenses and score in the lane. His outside shot is a work in progress, but if it improves throughout the year he could end up being the starter at the 2.
He has ideal size at 6’5” and would make a nice scoring compliment to Rondo if he can prove more disciplined on the defensive end of the floor, where he is still prone to gambling.
Humphries averaged 6.9 points and 2.7 boards on 51.4 percent shooting but played just 16.1 minutes per game. The C’s need a glass-eater like Humphries, but it’s tough to project whether he will start or serve as an energy and effort guy off the bench.
Perhaps most importantly, the two undrafted rookies Boston signed both showed flashes of being contributors down the road. Phil Pressey was dealing with injuries but averaged 4.8 points and four assists while showing that he can handle the ball and potentially run an NBA offense for stretches.
Faverani broke out at home against Brooklyn, tallying 15 points, seven rebounds and six thunderous blocks while stifling the Nets’ scorers’ forays to the rim.
He averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 boards and 1.3 blocks on 51.1 percent shooting in 15.5 minutes and looks like he could be in line for some spot minutes early on. He even made a few threes, which was an unexpected surprise.
Obviously none of these players are going to replace what Pierce and KG brought to Boston both on and off the court, but they looked competent by and large and if Wallace’s play means the C’s can deal him this season that will be an added bonus.
Factor in the glut of first-rounders Boston has coming its way from the Nets and Los Angeles Clippers and the future looks bright for the C’s down the road.
Preseason Play: C-
Without their veteran leaders and adapting to Stevens’ systems there was not much reason to be optimistic about Boston’s preseason performance, but the team’s 2-6 record is particularly tough to swallow.
The C’s lost three games by two points or less and were handily defeated by Minnesota and the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
Jeff Green, expected to be Boston’s first option on offense, struggled mightily to score and was too reliant on jumpers, while guards like Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford were extremely erratic in their play.
Avery Bradley, presumed to be the de facto point guard until Rondo returns, shot well from three but struggled to set up his teammates and score efficiently overall.
He wound up averaging 10.6 points, 3.4 boards and 2.5 assists on 37.8 percent shooting and 43.8 percent from deep.
One of the few bright spots was Jared Sullinger, who returned from back surgery to average 10.1 points, 4.6 boards and 1.3 assists, albeit on 40.6 percent shooting.
Sully looked good though, and the C’s will need to lean on him more on the offensive end with KG gone. He takes a few too many threes, but has great touch around the basket and an improving post game.
Stevens is a good defensive coach, and Boston should still be one of the Eastern Conference’s stingier units. However, unless Green can right the ship, this will be a dismal offense until Rondo returns.
Boston averaged 94.3 points in the preseason, but it is difficult to see them reaching even that mark when playing against opponents’ best defensive lineups.
The C’s as a team posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of just 1.2, and will need to improve on that dramatically given their lack of reliable isolation scorers. The team as a whole shot just 42.2 percent while allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field.
It is also troubling that Boston’s two wins came against a Knicks team that played without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton and a Nets squad that rested its entire starting five.
Unfortunately, Boston won’t have many chances in the regular season to beat up on the likes of Ike Diogu, Toure’ Murry and Mason Plumlee.
Boston might be slightly better than their record indicates, but with their struggles to execute in the fourth quarter and the questions surrounding the overall rotation, this team could be in for some heartbreaking losses in the regular season.
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