What to Expect from Every Boston Celtics Player in 2014-15
If you're going to watch more than a few minutes of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics, it won't be to see the team lose game after game but to see the young players develop.
As with any rebuilding organization, the Celtics are using the upcoming year to get valuable minutes for pieces with upside while figuring out who deserves to stick around for the long term.
That won't always make for pretty basketball—far from it in fact—but it will make for interesting viewing at least.
There are plenty of intriguing stories with this Boston club, including the potential resolution of the Rajon Rondo trade rumor saga, a potential Evan Turner resurrection and the battle to see which young big man takes the largest leap.
With that in mind, let's look at the 18 (that's right...18) players currently under contract with the C's and what to expect from them in this coming season.
Bear in mind that three of these players will be gone before the season officially begins.
Keith Bogans will not be on the Celtics. That is what you can expect from him in 2014-15.
Chris Babb is a gritty player who might have a future in the league, but it won’t be with Boston.
As ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg notes, “Babb, playing on a nonguaranteed deal, could be an odd man out with Boston…”
The Celtics are overloaded at the wings, and the 24-year-old doesn’t possess as much upside as most of the other pieces.
If he excels in training camp and proves he can knock down the three, he has an outside chance at making the roster, but it is far more likely Babb is gone.
Chris Johnson is a more complicated case than Babb, because he actually made an impact in 2013-14.
Johnson averaged 6.3 points and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 33.9 percent from three-point range.
He was particularly deadly from the corners and could be a valuable floor-spacer for a Boston team in desperate need of shooters.
Johnson also made his bones defensively, using his length and quickness to pester opposing wings.
If Boston waives Bogans and lets Babb walk, expect Johnson to stick around, but don’t be shocked if Johnson is gone come tipoff.
Another non-entity player, Joel Anthony opted into a staggering $3.8 million contract for 2014-15.
Still, just because he’s getting paid doesn’t mean he will play.
He has zero offensive game and at 32 years old has lost what little impact he had defensively.
Anthony may still be good for a few rebounds and the occasional block, but he won’t be playing at the expense of developmental minutes for Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller.
Look for the box score to read "did not play" for Anthony and for the C’s to try and offload his expiring deal.
No. 14: Phil Pressey
Phil Pressey again parlayed a strong Orlando Summer League performance into a guaranteed contract for the coming season.
Now the question is just how much we will see of Pressey with Marcus Smart around and Rajon Rondo 100 percent healthy.
He had some solid moments toward the end of 2013-14, averaging six points, 3.2 boards and 8.2 assists in his final five games.
However, the 5’11” Pressey doesn’t possess nearly the upside of Smart and still has yet to develop any consistency with his outside jumper.
Pressey is a capable facilitator and a hardworking defender despite his limitations, but his ceiling is probably a backup on a quality team.
If the Celtics deal Rondo or one of the other guards suffers an injury, Pressey could receive regular minutes, but don’t expect to see him in anything but garbage time.
No. 13: James Young
A complete unknown after missing summer league, it’s tough to project just what James Young will do in 2014-15.
Should the season go south quickly, Young could receive consistent minutes, but his frail frame and erratic shot could keep him from seeing the floor.
For as well regarded as Young was as a shooter, he only hit 34.9 percent of his three-pointers at Kentucky.
Additionally, at just 215 pounds, he is too thin to play small forward, and Boston has a pretty serious logjam at 2-guard.
That said, the C’s need athletes, and Young certainly can play in the open court and attack the basket.
Still, he’s incredibly raw and would probably benefit more from playing in the D-League than toiling on the bench.
As Kevin O’Connor of Celtics Blog told ESPN, “Unless James Young miraculously developed defense, ball-handling, consistency and/or passing over the summer, then he’s better off spending virtually the entire season in Maine.“
No. 12: Vitor Faverani
A skilled offensive player who needs to hone his defensive instincts, Vitor Faverani showed enough flashes as a rookie to potentially warrant a longer look.
Faverani has legitimate three-point range and a trusty set of post moves, but he’s also foul-prone and struggled with the nuances of NBA defenses.
According to 82games, he allowed opposing centers a player efficiency rating of 20.5 while notching just 11.5 himself.
The Brazilian big man’s shooting could be a real asset though, since Boston has so many shaky outside shooters in the backcourt.
Even just the threat of his floor spacing could help open up driving lanes for Rondo, Smart and Avery Bradley.
Unfortunately for Faverani, Olynyk and Sullinger have both proved to be better all-around players who can also hit jumpers.
Faverani could get a longer look in the event of injuries, but with Zeller now wearing green, don’t expect Faverani to crack the regular rotation.
No. 11: Gerald Wallace
With two years and more than $20.2 million remaining on his contract, Gerald Wallace might have the worst deal in the NBA.
Now that his athletic abilities are diminished, he struggles to make a consistent impact on the floor.
Given his age (32), injury history and underwhelming performance so far in Boston, 2014-15 shouldn’t be any better for Wallace.
He averaged just 5.1 points, 3.7 boards and 2.5 assists last year, and there’s no telling how he recovers from season-ending knee surgery.
Wallace still has value as a secondary playmaker and a defender in certain matchups, but giving him minutes is not worth shortchanging the young assets.
Look for Boston to try to attach Wallace to any deal it makes, while he actually sees the court as little as possible.
There is simply no room for a wing who can’t shoot and isn’t going to get any better.
No. 10: Marcus Thornton
Despite all of his shortcomings, the mere fact that Marcus Thornton can hit a three makes him valuable for the Celtics.
Thornton had a down 2013-14 season, averaging just 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists while shooting 34.5 percent from deep.
Still, he’s a career 36.1 percent outside shooter and is a reliable off-the-catch option.
The problem, of course, is that he cannot do very much else.
Thornton is a volume scorer who doesn’t do much to make his teammates better, doesn’t consistently get to the basket and doesn’t consistently draw fouls.
Defensively, he is undersized at 6’4” and puts forth inconsistent effort both on and off the ball.
Unfortunately, Thornton is 27 years old and has reached his NBA ceiling.
Boston will try to move his $8 million contract for a draft pick or young asset if possible, but barring that, he’ll back up Bradley at the 2.
Thornton will play around 18 minutes per game, and it could be even less if Smart develops quickly.
No. 9: Tyler Zeller
Kudos to the Celts for snagging a true 7-footer for basically nothing.
Zeller is far from flashy, but he’s a dependable, two-way big man who plays hard and runs the floor well. For his career, he has averaged 6.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 21 minutes.
He regressed slightly in 2013-14 on the Cleveland Cavaliers with Anderson Varejao healthy, but he should slide into the primary reserve center role with ease.
He isn’t much of a rim protector, but as MassLive’s Jay King notes, he “at least he has the size to provide resistance against low-post threats.”
While Olynyk and Sullinger can be centers, Zeller is more naturally suited to the position.
He isn’t a huge threat on the block, but he has a reliable jump hook and good touch around the rim.
He also ended last season strong, averaging 13.6 points and 7.6 boards in 22.4 minutes over his final five contests.
Zeller will likely begin the year on the bench behind Olynyk, but if he struggles, Zeller will vault into the starting lineup.
Don’t be shocked to see Zeller as Boston’s starting center by the end of 2014-15.
No. 8: Evan Turner
A true reclamation project, Turner cost himself millions of dollars with his horrendous play on the Indiana Pacers.
Though Turner’s regular-season averages of 14 points, five boards and 3.2 assists look solid, he was a complete non-entity in the playoffs.
His postseason averages of 3.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists are the main reason why he is receiving “a portion of the Celts’ mid-level exception,” per the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett.
Ultimately, Turner is a high-upside, low-risk acquisition for Boston, even though the exact terms of his deal haven’t been disclosed.
Yes, his numbers with the Philadelphia 76ers were a product of a talent-bereft team, but Turner does have legitimate NBA skills. He’s a solid passer and a great athlete in transition.
Unfortunately for Turner, the Celtics have a logjam of wing players who can’t shoot much beyond 15 feet, and the team has made a heavy investment in Bradley.
Turner won’t start over Bradley or Green, but he should serve as something of a sixth man.
If he doesn’t fix his bad habits, he may very well end up in Brad Stevens’ doghouse, but Turner should be a viable option for 20-24 minutes per game.
No. 7: Brandon Bass
It would be a true shock if Brandon Bass makes it through 2014-15 without getting dealt.
That’s no knock on Bass as a player, as he has produced every season he’s been in green, but the C’s have three young frontcourt players they want to develop.
At this point in his career Bass isn’t going to get any better, but a contender could use him off the bench.
Bass averaged 11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists on 48.6 percent shooting last year, actually showing some growth as an offensive player.
He has a decent one-dribble game and has become a more willing passer, in addition to his mid-range prowess.
However, Sullinger, Olynyk and Zeller all have untapped potential, and giving Bass 26 minutes per game isn’t going to help that cause.
The 29-year-old big man is a valuable shooter and an underrated defender despite his size limitations, but he’s mostly just an expiring contract to Boston’s front office.
If the Celtics can flip Bass for a low first-rounder or a young player, they would do so in a heartbeat, and it’s a safe bet he won’t be around past the trade deadline.
No. 6: Marcus Smart
The sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Smart could find himself with huge expectations if Rondo is dealt this season.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Smart has sky-high upside and the physical tools to make a big impact right away. Though he struggled with his shot in the Orlando Summer League, Smart managed to post 14.8 points, 4.2 boards and 4.2 dimes per game.
Assistant coach Jay Larranaga praised Smart’s summer play, telling The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes, "I think Marcus reinforced a lot of the things that we were hoping for when we drafted him…He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s a tremendous teammate. He’s really skilled in all areas."
The 6’4” Smart is a physical specimen who is capable of playing either guard spot and attacking the basket with abandon. He has the strength to finish through contact and the creativity to make heads-up plays in traffic.
Smart also excels at pushing the pace, something the C’s will need if they hope to be competitive given their lack of overall talent.
He should see plenty of time alongside Rondo despite his shaky jumper and projects to be a defensive menace in Stevens’ system.
He’ll undoubtedly take his licks as he figures out his true NBA position and adjusts to tougher opponents, but Smart has All-Rookie Team potential.
Expect Smart to average close to double figures in scoring and shine while attacking second-team defenses.
He won’t be a Rookie of the Year contender, but Smart will turn heads off the bench and potentially do even more if Rondo leaves.
No. 5: Kelly Olynyk
Kelly Olynyk looked dreadful for a lot of his rookie season but came on strong as it wound up.
He averaged 8.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists on 46.6 percent shooting overall and 35.1 percent from three while earning a spot on the All-Rookie second team.
Olynyk was particularly good after the All-Star break, notching 11.7 points and 6.2 boards while shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from deep.
If he can post numbers closer to those as a starter in 2014-15, then the Celtics will be ecstatic.
As a true 7-footer, Olynyk’s ability to hit threes and handle the ball makes him a deadly offensive matchup.
The C’s desperately need floor spacing, and given Sullinger’s shaky jumper, it makes sense to slot Olynyk into the starting five.
He isn’t much of a shot-blocker, but Olynyk moves well defensively and is willing to sacrifice his body.
Stevens could have a short leash with Olynyk and pull him out of the starting lineup early if he really struggles, but it makes the most sense for Boston to roll with the second-year big man at the 5.
Olynyk averaged a 17.3 PER at center compared to a 15.3 PER at power forward, per 82games.com.
He won’t be logging 30-plus minutes every night, but Olynyk should start and get the brunt of the work at center.
No. 4: Jeff Green
After a disappointing year as a first option offensively, Jeff Green will be looking to prove himself.
He averaged a solid 16.9 points but shot just 41.2 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from three-point range. He took far too many long two-point jumpers and wasn’t nearly aggressive enough in attacking the rim.
Per Basketball-Reference, his average field-goal distance of 14.6 feet was the furthest of his career.
Unfortunately, his contributions in other areas of the floor were lacking as well. Green averaged just 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists despite playing 34.2 minutes per game.
He failed to develop as a playmaker, struggling to adjust to the extra attention that defenses paid to him.
The extra workload also took a toll on Green defensively. He held opposing 3s to a respectable PER of 14.3 but gave up a staggering 22.4 PER to 4s, according to 82games.com.
Despite his turbulent 2013-14 campaign, Green could be an attractive trade piece to some playoff teams. He is due nearly $19 million through 2016 and has a player option for the 2015-16 season.
Still, a team in need of athleticism and scoring could take the chance that Green improves with better teammates around him.
Don’t expect Green to necessarily be traded during the 2014-15 season, but Boston will likely be open to offers.
Overall, Green will have a similar season—enough flashes of elite talent to tantalize fans but not the kind of all-around play needed from a franchise cornerstone.
No. 3: Jared Sullinger
Sullinger took some big steps forward as a sophomore, but he still has a long way to go before he’s reached his potential. He became a decent stretch-4 thanks to an improved outside shot but needs to hit more than 26.9 percent of his threes.
For that matter, there is no way he can go a full year shooting 42.7 percent from the floor if he ever hopes to join the league’s elite power forwards.
To his credit, Sullinger averaged a solid 13.3 points, 8.1 boards and 1.6 assists and emerged as unquestionably Boston’s best rebounder. He has a gift for carving out real estate in the paint, using his size and strength to make up for a lack of leaping ability.
He has the ability to play some center but is at his best at the 4.
Sullinger’s PER as a power forward was a staggering 24.3, and he held opponents to a respectable 16 PER, according to 82games.com.
He has a great shot to average a double-double for the 2014-15 season starting next to Olynyk and has dark-horse All-Star potential if Boston is stronger than expected to begin the year.
Realistically, though, expect another jump in production from Sullinger as he flirts with a league-average percentage from deep.
No. 2: Avery Bradley
After being handed a four-year, $32 million contract, expectations for Bradley have never been higher.
He came into his own during his fourth campaign, averaging 14.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists, but he needs to emerge in his fifth year as a legitimate second option offensively.
Bradley, long touted for his defensive effort, made real strides with his shot in 2013-14. He connected on just 43.8 percent of his overall shots but a nice 39.5 percent from distance.
Bradley needs to shoot well to thrive with both Rondo and Smart, so continuing to work on that outside shot is an absolute must. If his jumper is going down, it will help him to run some of the offense as a secondary facilitator and take some pressure off Rondo.
Bradley could stand to sacrifice some of the long twos he jacks out of pick-and-roll sets and sub them for forays to the rim.
Defensively, he continues to be a beast on the ball.
Bradley’s 6’2” stature puts him at a disadvantage against some 2-guards, but he’s a nightmare while pressuring point guards for 94 feet.
Bradley, Smart and Rondo have the potential be one of the best defensive backcourts in the entire league.
According to ESPN, KWAPT of RedsArmy.com pegged Bradley as a potential breakout player. He said, “After a very tumultuous year last season, both physically and mentally, he is going to come back stronger than ever and ready to show C's fans why Boston invested so much cake in him.”
Ultimately, don’t expect a huge leap in production from Bradley. He’s not going to morph into a 20-point-per-game scorer or a high volume three-point gunner.
His game may improve in some smaller ways, though, like playmaking and improving defensively off the ball.
No. 1: Rajon Rondo
Although “moving Rondo is not a high priority,” according to The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, it will end up being the storyline that swallows the Celtics' season.
Rondo, in a contract year, will be extra motivated and hoping to improve upon his performance in 2013-14.
Returning from ACL surgery, Rondo had some great moments but overall struggled with his shot in 30 appearances. He wound up averaging 11.7 points, 5.5 boards and 9.8 dimes but hit just 40.3 percent of his field-goal attempts and 28.9 percent of his threes.
Often, players who tear their ACLs return with better jumpers, so hopefully Rondo will be able to knock down treys and mid-range jump shots with more regularity.
If the Celtics want to be anything other than a laughingstock in 2014-15, they’re going to need Rondo to play the best ball of his career.
He proved that his assist numbers can stay high with inferior talent around him, but now he needs to prove that he can be a more featured scorer like he was in the 2012 playoffs.
Rondo has good chemistry with Bradley and Green, but he’ll need to find a way to mesh with Smart and Turner in the backcourt.
Expect more consistency from Rondo in 2014-15 and career-best scoring numbers. That may not necessarily translate to wins, but it’ll be enough for an All-Star berth and enough trade talk to drive fans mad by February.
In the end, Rondo may very well be gone by the trade deadline, should an enticing option arise.