The No. 1 takeaway from the Boston Celtics’ 2013-14 season: Watching a once-perennial contender begin a slow rebuilding process is absolutely brutal.
No one expected much from the C’s this season, but as the losses piled up, the team made salary-based deals and key players underperformed, it became abundantly clear that this would be a season to forget.
Still, even in a bleak year there are important takeaways, and the first post-Big Three campaign was no exception. This is the beginning of a major transitional period for Boston, and the front office needs to heed the lessons it learned this year.
There were some positive takeaways, but mostly 2013-14 was about learning who belongs with the team long term and who needs to be tossed aside.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at four of the biggest takeaways from Boston’s regular season.
Jeff Green is Not a No. 1 Option
It may have taken us 82 games, but we finally know for certain that Jeff Green is simply not cut out to be the featured player in a team’s offense—unless that team wants a top-five draft pick.
Green is a gifted athlete and decent shooter, but he’s much more of a complementary piece than a featured scorer.
He averaged a solid 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists on the year but shot just 41.2 percent overall and 34.1 percent from three-point range.
Still, his lack of aggressiveness was obvious, and Green’s average shot distance was 14.6 feet, by far the furthest of his career according to Basketball-Reference.
Green relied far too heavily on mid-range jumpers and threes instead of attacking the paint and forcing contact. He attempted just 4.3 free throws per game, a pretty pedestrian number when compared to his 14.3 attempts from the field.
The other issue with Green was that he did not grow much as a passer. He had plenty of opportunities to bring the ball up the floor and play the point forward role, but his assist numbers were just 0.1 above his career average of 1.6.
Green is due $18.9 million over the next two seasons, so the Celts may hold onto him for the foreseeable future, but don’t expect him to carry nearly the burden he did in 2013-14.
It’s Time to Move on from Brandon Bass
Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger both had their shares of ups and downs in major roles, but it’s clear that the answer for Boston is to move on from frontcourt mainstay Brandon Bass.
2013-14 was Bass’ third season as a Celtic, and while he has certainly been dependable, he has rarely been elite.
This year he averaged 11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists on 48.6 percent shooting from the floor. He was also the only player besides Green to appear in all 82 games, so the sample size here has been pretty large.
On an offensively challenged Celtics team, Bass was asked to do far too much dribbling and shot creating, when he really should be a catch-and-shoot 4 on a playoff squad.
It’s no wonder Bass played his best with the Celtics in 2011-12 when he was surrounded by elite talent for the entire season.
Unfortunately, at 28 years old, Bass has pretty much reached his ceiling as a player. He’s nice as a fourth option but not a cornerstone on a rebuilding team.
Bass played well in limited minutes as an undersized center, posting a PER of 24.6 at the 5 per 82games, but it’s a small sample size and the Celts seem much more invested in Olynyk or Sully playing center.
His defense has always been underrated. Despite his lack of shot blocking, Bass is a good position defender, but his mediocre work on the boards is hard to ignore.
Bass is owed $6.9 million in 2014-15, and the Celtics could certainly use that money to address their need for shooting and rim protection.
With expected leaps from Olynyk and Sully, as well as the chance Boston retains Kris Humphries or drafts a young big man, don’t be surprised to see Bass gone in the offseason.
Brad Stevens Will Be the Right Coach…Eventually
The Celtics were wise to give Brad Stevens a six-year, $22 million contract, because judging him seriously based on 2013-14 would be downright foolish.
Stevens is just 37 years old, with no NBA coaching experience, so more developmental issues were expected of him than many other coaching candidates.
He has incredible potential as a coach and was a wunderkind in college, but adapting to the NBA, particularly with a roster of subpar talent, was always going to be rough for Stevens.
On the whole he did a good job, his aggressive defensive scheme helped keep Boston competitive in most games and he helped Olynyk blossom by the end of the season.
He also always drew up excellent out-of-bounds plays and did a decent job adjusting to the constantly shifting roster.
Still, he did have some clear weaknesses. His offensive system didn’t translate particularly well to the league, and Stevens often had some trouble setting and sticking with a clear rotation.
These are issues that he’ll certainly improve on, but it definitely helps that he has plenty of time to get his staff put in place and shape a roster that could blossom into a true title contender.
Rondo Will Return to Form
2013-14 was a predictably turbulent season for Rondo as he played in just 30 of 42 possible games after returning from ACL surgery on Jan. 17.
Rondo never quite regained his old form, despite averaging 11.7 points, 5.5 boards and 9.8 assists, vintage Rondo numbers.
He shot just 40.3 percent overall and 28.9 percent from deep while attempting three three-pointers per game.
Rondo also posted a barely-above-average 15.3 PER, indicating that he still has a ways to go before he regains his peak efficiency.
The Boston offense was better with Rondo back, but the team still finished just 26th in points per game at 96.2. Clearly Rondo cannot be an offense by himself.
Perhaps worst of all, Rondo was often an absolute sieve defensively.
Opposing point guards averaged an 18.3 PER against him, per Basketball-Reference, and the once-elite defender struggled with his lateral quickness.
Still, Rondo showed enough flashes that fans should not worry about him turning into Derrick Rose.
He averaged 33.3 minutes when he did suit up, and his herky-jerky moves off the dribble remain intact. Rondo has always relied on craftiness as much as athleticism, and that will pay dividends as he continues to get healthy.
It’s troubling that Rondo didn’t improve his outside jumper in tangible ways, but part of the problem there is that the looks he gets simply aren’t very clean without Pierce and KG around to create space for him to operate.
Obviously Rondo’s impending free agency will loom large over Boston’s offseason, but we learned in 2013-14 that the Celtics shouldn’t sell low on him due to injury concerns.
With a little time, and some better talent around him, Rondo will be back to his All-Star self soon.