Now they are a team led by a rookie head coach in Brad Stevens, whose best players are Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger, and that leads the Atlantic Division at 10-13 purely because of everyone else’s incompetence.
And the funny thing is, they’re actually better off now.
The 2013 offseason was incredibly eventful and trying for Celtic fans as they lost two of the greatest players to ever don green jerseys and a coach who brought them a championship, but that does not mean it was a bad one. Far from it in fact.
To actually understand the successes of the Boston front office during the summer of 2013 though, the moves must be broken down piece by piece, so let’s take a moment to look at the Celtics’ most recent offseason with the help of perfect hindsight.
Boston was committed to not tying up cap space in free agency, but the team did manage to address their need for a backup big man by signing Brazilian bruiser Vitor Faverani.
The 25-year-old center has been in and out of Stevens’ rotation depending on the play of Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk, but he has looked decent when he has gotten minutes, something that is rare for unheralded rookie bigs.
His season averages of 5.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and one block per game on 42.5 percent shooting overall and 34.5 percent from deep are solid, and he has shown some flashes of impressive offensive skill.
Faverani is a nice pick-and-roll weapon who sets effective screens and is as adept at popping out for jumpers as he is rolling hard to the hole. He’s shooting 46.7 percent on all pick-and-roll plays and 43.8 percent on pick-and-pop threes, per Synergy Sports.
His mid-range jumper is shaky at times, but Faverani does a nice job spacing out the floor for Boston’s guards to slash and has also shown a willingness to take the ball into the post as well.
He has a reliable hook shot he can go to with either hand and shows some decent footwork on the block.
Faverani is also capable of gobbling up rebounds. He averages 10.1 boards per 36 minutes, including 3.5 on the offensive end, and his rebounding rate of 16.3 is second on the team behind Kris Humphries, according to Basketball-Reference.
He is incredibly foul-prone and struggles at times to play help defense without fouling, but overall Faverani has been a solid find and looks like someone with a bright NBA future if he continues to work hard and improve the non-scoring aspects of his game.
Phil Pressey’s decision to leave college a year early came as a surprise to many, but the diminutive point guard appears to have found a home in Boston, especially with Rondo still out.
The Celtics passed on Pressey in the draft, but signed him to a summer league deal, where the Missouri playmaker showed enough potential to earn a partially guaranteed contract for the regular season.
His numbers have not been mind-boggling at just two points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on 24.5 percent shooting, but he has carved out a spot in the rotation behind Crawford and is earning consistent minutes.
Pressey is averaging a solid 10.3 minutes per contest over his last six games.
His shooting is still ghastly, and he needs to develop a reliable outside jumper if he wants to make it in the NBA long-term, but Pressey has done a nice job of limiting his turnovers while pushing the ball in transition and finding open teammates.
At 5’11” Pressey couldn’t overpower most high school players, but he’s quick enough to get into the lane and does a nice job of collapsing the defense in order to find open teammates.
Defensively Pressey has had some trouble gambling for steals and losing position on the pick-and-roll, but he’s allowing only a 43.9 field-goal percentage to opposing guards in the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports.
When he is able to force a turnover, though, he does a great job of pushing the pace, despite the fact that he is prone to making questionable decisions once he actually gets around the basket.
Still, considering that no one from the second round of this year’s draft has been able to make much of an impact, it’s impressive to see Pressey being a legitimate contributor on a team currently flirting with a .500 record, albeit in the dreadful Eastern Conference.
Olynyk has not exactly lived up to his stellar Orlando Summer League play and has certainly had his ups and down in the NBA, but it’s hard to fault Boston taking him 13th overall. The team was desperate for a scoring big man, and Olynyk was one of the few options available in the draft.
He’s had some efficiency issues, shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from three but is boasting decent averages of 7.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in 22.6 minutes.
The rebounding has been impressive, as Olynyk is averaging 8.6 boards per 36 minutes after catching plenty of flack in the offseason for being a softer, jump-shooting big man.
He has still not found his range out to the three-point arc, but the 7-footer was looking more comfortable in Boston’s offense prior to going down with an ankle injury.
Olynyk needs to develop into more of a catch-and-shoot threat, since he’s shooting just 26.7 percent on spot-ups, per Synergy Sports, but he has looked decent moving without the basketball and making passes out of the post.
His defense still needs work, as Olynyk is allowing opposing bigs to shoot an unacceptable 53.3 percent on post-ups according to Synergy, and he is surprisingly averaging 5.5 fouls per 36 minutes.
Still, it’s difficult to argue against the Olynyk pick given that Boston did not forfeit much to move up in the draft for him and none of the players taken below him have exactly been turning heads.
Tony Snell has been forced into action for the banged-up Chicago Bulls and Tim Hardaway Jr. has looked like a rotation piece for the depressing New York Knicks, but unless Boston was going to move up further for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Olynyk was the right pick.
He’ll never be a star, but with a late lottery pick in a weak draft, Boston was at least able to secure a decent role player and that’s an accomplishment.
Yes the Celtics are 10-13 and likely to finish in the lottery, but it’s nearly impossible to fault the performance of Stevens in his first year as an NBA head coach.
Rivers was not willing to lead another rebuilding project, but the Celtics brass went out and found a 37-year-old rising star that fits perfectly into the new era of Boston basketball.
The announcement of Stevens’ contract shocked the sports world during the offseason, and the six-year deal he agreed to indicated that the Butler wunderkind is clearly planning to be in Boston for the long haul.
Given the talent disparity the C’s are dealing with most nights without Rondo on the court, Stevens has done a fantastic job keeping his team competitive.
The Celtics are never rattled, run beautiful out-of-bounds plays, rarely get blown out and know how to dig themselves out of holes, as they showed against the Brooklyn Nets.
And Stevens is managing to do all that while drawing up most of his plays for Green and Crawford.
Speaking of Crawford, what Stevens has managed to do with the much-maligned scorer has been nothing short of miraculous.
Crawford came to Boston as a gunner, but has completely revamped his game with the help of Stevens.
He is now averaging 14 points, 3.2 boards and 5.3 assists as a starter and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
The Celts’ defense, despite lacking a single dominant shot-blocker or perimeter stopper outside of Bradley, has been terrific. They are seventh in the league in points allowed at 96.1 which, although partially due to their slower pace, is still quite an accomplishment.
Stevens’ squad does a great job of rotating and closing out on shooters, allowing opponents to shoot just 32.9 percent from deep, and they are holding opponents to just 45.1 percent shooting overall.
The Celtics collapse on penetration, throw well-timed double-teams and generally force opponents to beat them with mid-range jumpers or difficult off-the-dribble moves.
They have trouble containing big men like Brook Lopez or Amar’e Stoudemire, but that is more a product of the personnel than Stevens’ defensive system.
After some early-season rotation issues, Stevens has found units that are successful, and is capable of getting the most out of both his unproven young players and the team’s veterans.
Given the players on the C’s current roster, settling on a stable rotation is a lot easier said than done.
For a coach without much to work with, Stevens has done a tremendous job, and it’s worth wondering if even Rivers could have had this much success with the pieces on Boston’s current roster.
When it happened, the Celtics-Nets trade was hard to digest. Beyond just the sentimental value of having Pierce and Garnett retire in Boston, it was difficult to see what the value would be in having three first-round picks from a perennial title contender and a bunch of flotsam to patch the roster together.
Looking at the deal now though, it was clearly a coup for the Celtics.
Pierce is averaging 11.9 points, 5.1 boards and 2.8 assists while shooting a paltry 36.1 percent from the floor and battling injuries.
KG has fared even worse, averaging just 6.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 37.1 percent shooting.
Remember, these two would’ve been slogging through 30-plus minutes every night and carrying most of the offensive load with Rondo out. Think that would’ve ended well?
Jason Terry, the third piece in the deal, has notched just 5.3 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 38.9 percent shooting, although it’s understandable if most Celtics fans have blocked Terry’s existence from their minds.
Though the Nets should improve with Deron Williams healthy and likely scrape their way into the dreary Eastern Conference playoff picture, this team is far from a true title contender.
Now is a good time to remember that Boston owns their unprotected first-rounders in 2016 and 2018 as well as the right to swap picks with them in 2017 and the worse pick between theirs and the Atlanta Hawks’ in 2014.
That’s quite the haul for two players who look like borderline starters on one of the league’s most disappointing and unwatchable teams.
For the Celtics, Humphries has looked good in limited minutes, providing some grit on the glass and occasional inside scoring, but besides that, none of the players acquired have amounted to much.
Keith Bogans is not a part of the rotation, while MarShon Brooks has barely seen the court despite his potential upside and shot-creating abilities.
Gerald Wallace has been playing 20-plus minutes regularly, but he seems to have forgotten about the scoring component of basketball and is averaging just 4.3 points on 3.5 field goal attempts per game.
He’s still a decent defender though and a reliable tertiary ball-handler in Stevens’ offense.
It would have been nice if Boston had acquired at least one long-term piece for Pierce, Garnett and Terry, and Mikhail Prokhorov will clearly spend his way to at least mediocrity in the future, but relative to how Pierce and Garnett have looked in Brooklyn, the blockbuster trade was nothing short of a home run.
Even with Pierce, Garnett and a healthy Rondo, the 2013-14 Celtics were nothing more than fringe playoff contenders, and maybe not even that with how the two Hall of Famers have looked with the Nets.
The C’s have been a middle-of-the-road team in the beginning of 2013-14, but they are well positioned for the future with some intriguing prospects and attractive assets if they choose to pursue a trade.
Boston’s complete rebuild may take another season or two, especially if they wind up dealing Rondo, but the franchise as a whole is in better shape than it would have been without the much-ballyhooed draft-day deal and offseason moves, including the signing of assistant coach Ron Adams, who has been instrumental in the young Celtics’ development.
It’s difficult to assign a winner for an NBA offseason given that teams often have incredibly different goals, but the Celtics, who kept their eye on the future, are clearly one of the 2013 offseason’s big success stories.
Overall Grade: A-