4 Players Who Must Step Up for Boston Celtics to Exceed Expectations
For the Boston Celtics to exceed expectations this season, it is going to take some unlikely changes and far-fetched ideas coming true.
Specifically, certain players are going to have to outperform their assumed skill level to lift this team to new heights. Obviously the conference should help a bit, but a few of those bottom teams will get healthy and figure stuff out. The Celtics are still expected to be a bottom-three team in the East.
No, no matter how you twist "exceed expectations," I don't believe you can define it as lose more than expected and get a better lottery position than expected. Exceed means to be better than, or surpass, so we'll be focusing on what it takes to make this team good.
The Celtics are already getting solid seasons from guys like Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford and Vitor Faverani. They have already stepped up their games and are exceeding individual expectations. Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass are what they are at this point and do plenty to help the Celtics win.
There are a few other guys, though, that need to look at themselves and figure out a way to get this team playing at a higher level.
First and foremost, the Boston Celtics won't exceed expectations with Jeff Green picking and choosing when to play hard and up to his full potential.
Green has been better recently, or at least more aggressive, putting up 16 and 19 shots in the last two games. However, getting only 10 attempts with DeMarre Carroll guarding you is unacceptable. In Boston's first two blowout losses of the season, the invisible man was Green, getting two and four points against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets, respectively.
Green is leading the Celtics with 15.8 points per game and shooting respectable 43.8/36.2/79.3 clips. Still, the Celtics need more to exceed expectations. Green's expectations were to have a career year. He isn't doing that, and thus Boston is stuck slightly below mediocrity.
In the six games this season Green has shot 14 or more times, he is averaging 19.5 points per game. So, 14 field-goal attempts should be the target to watch for in terms of Green and the Celtics exceeding expectations.
Rajon Rondo can't physically step up just yet, but the day of his return is getting closer and closer.
When he does eventually see the court, there will be no player more important than him in order for Boston to exceed expectations.
Normally, when returning from an injury as severe as a torn ACL, a player will need a few weeks to get all his strength, timing and general moxie back. Just look at how long Derrick Rose waited to return. Through his first 10 games back, he was shooting just 35.4 percent, averaging 15.9 points and 4.3 assists, both well below his career numbers.
For Boston to exceed expectations this year, Rondo has to minimize that readjustment period. He has to be regular Rondo faster than most. He also has to almost immediately mesh with a handful of new teammates in new roles.
He'll have a pretty good feel for Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, but even Jared Sullinger doesn't have a ton of experience with Rondo's game, and he might be the most important one to grow with. Guys like Kelly Olynyk, Vitor Faverani, Gerald Wallace and even Jordan Crawford will need to readjust to different roles in a Rondo offense.
The faster he returns to full strength and gets his teammates' tendencies in his head, the more likely Boston will exceed expectations.
The Boston Celtics actually aren't that bad of a defensive team right now.
Offensively, however, the Celtics are struggling to score enough to keep up with teams. They haven't topped 100 points in their last nine games and are averaging a 24th-best 92.9 points per game.
The point here is that Kelly Olynyk is an offensive weapon that this team can use to up its scoring as the season moves along. Defenses are still getting a feel for the nuances of his game, and he has shown an ability and willingness to score so far.
He's injured now but had recently earned some trust from Brad Stevens and started six games. Once his minutes settle into a steady rhythm, Olynyk could really help Boston score. Maybe Rajon Rondo's return will help as well.
Either way, the Celtics need a healthy and active Olynyk to step up, especially with his 38.9 field-goal percentage, as he is one of the team's few legitimate offensive threats.
I'm still not sure Gerald Wallace has adjusted to playing off the bench. Just because he has quieted down with complaints doesn't mean he is totally comfortable with being a reserve.
As evidence, he is still playing some significant minutes, averaging 23 over last five games, but he isn't scoring at all.
I know he does a ton of the little things that help teams win games and Tommy Heinsohn will holler about in praise again and again, but those things only help teams that can score win. Wallace needs to score if he is going to warrant 25.5 minutes per game. He needs to recognize what the Celtics need and do that. That is the mark of a veteran player.
In 17 games this season, Wallace has attempted more than five shots just four times. When he was with the Brooklyn Nets last year, 6.6 shots per game was okay for a player like him. The little things he did helped that team win.
However, the Celtics aren't a team like the Nets were. Since he is a supposed veteran leader on a team that is struggling to score, Wallace needs to shoot more.