Ranking Boston Celtics' 5 Biggest Developments in Season's Early Going

Jason MarcumCorrespondent IIIDecember 13, 2013

Ranking Boston Celtics' 5 Biggest Developments in Season's Early Going

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    No one thought the Boston Celtics would be a competitive team this year while All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo was out rehabbing from a torn ACL. Even with him healthy and in the lineup, the Celtics were viewed as a fringe playoff team in a diluted Eastern Conference.

    But under the tutelage of new head coach Brad Stevens, they've managed to climb atop the Atlantic Division through the first quarter of the season and look like a playoff contender.

    Here are the five biggest developments so far and how they'll affect the Celtics chances of making the postseason.

5. No Stars, No Problem

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    The NBA is a star-driven league where even the borderline playoff teams need at least one player who would qualify as such. The Celtics have that in Rondo, but he has yet to play a game this year.

    So how have the Celtics survived to this point? They've had different players step up and make an impact, and there's a number of guys who are capable of having a big night and getting the Celtics a win. 

    Whether it be Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford or Avery Bradley, a number of guys can step up on any given night and play like stars.


4. Growth of Jared Sullinger

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    Speaking of Sullinger, the second-year power forward is becoming a force on the interior. He's leading the team in rebounding at 7.0 boards per contest, and he is even improving his scoring ability. 

    He's scored 20 or more points three times in the past eight games, and even had a 19-point, 17-rebound performance against the San Antonio Spurs this year.

    He's viewed as a key piece in the Celtics future, and the future continues to look brighter as Sullinger improves his play. 

3. Point Guard Play

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    With no Rajon Rondo, there were a lot of questions regarding how Brad Stevens would handle the point guard duties. Surprisingly, he's made shooting guard Jordan Crawford more of a distributor than he's been previously, but he's answered the call.

    Over the past five games, he's averaging 6.6 assists versus just 1.6 turnovers. No one would have ever guessed the shoot-first guard would become a legitimate ball-handler and distributor, but he's done just that in the early going.

2. Competitive Fire

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    After an offseason that saw Boston trade Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and head coach Doc Rivers. it appeared as though the team was ready to tank the season in order to get a good pick in the next NBA draft, which is expected to be one of the deepest classes in recent memory.

    But that hasn't been the case as Boston has gone 10-14 and leads the Atlantic Division by one game. You have to go further to see how even when Boston loses, they rarely get blown out and lack competitiveness.

    Sixteen NBA teams currently have a losing record, and the Celtics' -1.2 point differential is the third-lowest of those teams. They've managed to stay competitive for this long, and if they do so for the duration of the season, they should make it to the playoffs.

1. Brad Stevens

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    College coaches rarely succeed at the NBA level, but Stevens is trying to debunk that myth with the C's. Motivating players who are making more money than you is much harder to do than in college, but Stevens is pushing all of the right buttons thus far in keeping his team motivated and focused on the task at hand.

    For this Celtics team to even be 10-14 given their personnel, is the sign of a good head coach, and Stevens has done an honorable job in keeping Boston competitive when they should be among the worst teams in the NBA.

    Celtics general manager Danny Ainge felt this was the kind of coach he would be getting when he signed Stevens to a six-year deal, and he's getting his money's worth so far.

    The future of the C's is trending upwards thanks to what Stevens has done to this point.