The Boston Celtics entered a full-scale rebuilding project in the offseason, trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets for a plethora of players, albeit at different stages in their careers.
The three first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 included in the deal are what will ultimately be the most valuable, as few teams can truly rebuild without new, young talent. One youthful player the Celtics already have in tow is Vitor Faverani.
Despite being eligible in the 2009 NBA draft, Faverani was not selected and played in Spain for two teams until this season. The big man was signed to a three-year deal worth $6 million, according to ESPN.com, to beef up Boston's frontcourt and provide an imposing presence in the paint. Of all the players in the Celtics' frontcourt, Faverani is the only true center.
He started his basketball career at age 17, so suffice it to say he's well experienced despite being just 25 years old. The European style of play is very different to the fast-paced tempo of the NBA, yet many big men that have signed from overseas have encountered success. The same can be said of the opposite result with players who have played well but aren't viewed as success stories, like Andrea Bargnani.
What will make Faverani different is his style of play. His 6'11", 260-pound frame is built for banging in the post, and he's been successful so far this season. The two games the Celtics have played are an extremely small sample size given the 82-game NBA schedule, but they do provide insight as to what sort of player Faverani might become for Boston this season.
Head coach Brad Stevens looks like he's given the center the green light thus far as Faverani has started both games. He committed five fouls in just 27 minutes in the first game against the Toronto Raptors but did manage three blocks and four trips to the free-throw line.
On November 1, in Boston's home opener versus the Milwaukee Bucks, Faverani had an impressive performance of 12 points, 18 rebounds (six offensive) and six blocked shots in 37 minutes.
The Bucks lured 34 free-throw attempts out of Boston's defense, with backup forwards Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both picking up four fouls. Faverani himself had four as well, but his positioning on defense was excellent. He might have helped a little too much on defense, leading to a few open drives by Milwaukee players, but many would agree having a player who is overly helpful is better than a player who isn't.
Faverani's adjustment to the NBA style of play is also a factor, but he will further adapt as the season goes on. Coach Stevens has a number of viable candidates to start in the frontcourt, specifically Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries, so the lineup could change multiple times. What gives Faverani the edge, apart from his more physical build, is his ability to truly play center for the Celtics.
He does most of his damage inside, shooting 60 percent from the paint thus far, according to NBA.com. Faverani has shown an outside shot seen in most European players, but Boston mostly needs him down low, to keep the offense spaced and to maintain a low-post threat.
He ranks third in free-throw attempts amongst centers at seven per game, knocking down a respectable 64.3 percent, proving that his desire to go against defenders in the paint is there.
Bass and Olynyk have offensive games that operate from outside, and both are undersized to a certain extent, making a smaller frontcourt work in a small-ball lineup. When the Celtics do decide to go big, Faverani and Humphries are the only two big men who offer tough interior games to let the perimeter players breathe and move more freely.
Humphries doesn't defend overly well (allowed 46.4 percent shooting in post-ups by opponents last season according to SynergySports [subscription required]), despite being a solid shot-blocker at 6'9". While he would be fine playing at forward, Humphries is slightly undersized at center and would be a mismatch on both ends of the floor. His rebounding makes up for it on one hand, though his one-dimensional offensive game holds him back.
Faverani ticks all the boxes for Boston at center and will ultimately be a major addition this season. His averages of 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds thus far might dwindle over the course of the year, but anything close to that will be a major bargain for the team considering his $2 million salary for this season.
Most of all, Faverani needs to remain a consistent player for a Celtics team that is in the midst of a shake-up. Boston is tip-toeing the $70.3 million luxury tax line this season, with their $71.2 million payroll just surpassing the limit according to HoopsWorld. In short, what you see is what you get from the Celtics roster this season barring a trade.
With Rajon Rondo's return uncertain, which has been set as "...returning in the 2013-14 season" by the point guard himself, Boston will need a core of players that will be able enough to play alongside the All-Star when he does get back on the court.
The rebuilding process might be long for Celtics fans, as the team had a very successful run leading back to 2008. A lottery pick may be in the cards for Boston, depending on how the season plays out for the Nets and the Atlanta Hawks, as the Celtics will receive the 2014 pick from whichever team performs worse.
In any case, Boston fans can look to Faverani as a solid cornerstone for the future. He's certainly an intriguing prospect at this point, and is making an early case for Rookie of the Year. Let's see if he can keep it up and bring at least one trophy home to Boston. It may not be the Larry O'Brien trophy, but it is something Celtics fans can be proud of nonetheless.
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