Though still a few months away, the 2014-2015 NBA season is quickly approaching. After their first losing season since 2006, the question remains: What can we expect from the 2014-2015 Boston Celtics? Due to the team’s current state, hypothesizing about the 2015 season as a whole may leave some fans disappointed, especially after the “fireworks” comments previously made by GM Danny Ainge. Instead, let’s take a look at a few ways this year’s team can still win, even if they fail to make the playoffs.
1) Develop Marcus Smart Into An Effective Combo Guard
When Boston drafted Marcus Smart, many speculated that this signaled the end of Rondo’s tenure in green. Since then, Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens have made it clear that they believe Smart can thrive in Rondo’s presence. However, after Smart’s shaky shooting performances in the Orlando Summer League, it remains to be seen whether this is possible. Smart has shown that he has the tools and drive necessary to be a competitive and successful NBA point guard. If he is going to make it on the Celtics (and Rondo resigns in Boston on a long-term deal), Smart needs to adapt to playing with someone else who orchestrates the offense.
2) Rajon Rondo Could Have the Best Season of His Career
After missing most of the 2013-2014 season, Rondo returned to the court and finished the season averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game while surrounded by a depleted and overall much less talented roster. This is good news for Celtics fans who were worried about whether Rondo’s assist numbers would plummet after the dissolution of the future HOF squad that he helped to win a championship in 2008. Despite having new faces and being in a similar position with roster talent, Rondo has shown that he can continue to control the pace of games and make his teammates better regardless of whether the Celtics win or lose. It’s very likely that Rondo will continue to adapt and could have, in some ways, the best season of his professional career.
3) Cultivate Lasting Line-Ups and Rotations
Last year was interesting for head coach Brad Stevens in a multitude of ways. Stevens, a first-time NBA head coach (that was familiar with nothing if not winning), was given the reins to a newly-rebuilding team where essentially no player was guaranteed a roster spot for the foreseeable future. This season won’t be much different in terms of personnel uncertainty. However, with a year of game, league, and franchise experience under Stevens’ belt, it would stand to reason that Celtics fans should start seeing more consistent lineups, which could help this year’s Celtics team develop more cohesion and win more games.
4) Big Steps At Forward
Ask any Celtics fan whether he or she thinks Kelly Olynyk or Jared Sullinger has a brighter future, and you will receive a variety of answers. But if one thing is certain, it is that these two forwards have shown in stretches that they are capable of playing excellent basketball, even while on the court at the same time. It would benefit the Celtics greatly, in terms of future planning and present function, if either Sully or Olynyk were able to elevate their game to the next level. With all of the uncertainty that surrounds the team and league, there is no better time than now for Sully and Olynyk to make names for themselves as young and skilled bigs.
5) Finding Takers For Bass
To preface this point, it should be noted that Brandon Bass is a solid player who can be a great complimentary player for a team that’s in championship contention. Unfortunately, Boston is not that team, and the time has come to part ways. Given Bass’ salary and the young Celtics bigs that need development, Bass is wasted on a team in Boston’s position. Given his post-season experience and proven value, Bass should be able to find a spot on a team where his talents and effort will be put to better use.
6) Finding Olynyk’s Range
In his limited time in the NBA, Olynyk has shown that he has the makings of a special player and a lot of the raw materials necessary to become an elite match-up problem around the league. One of the biggest favors that Olynyk can do for his game is to develop and maintain a deadly shot that will alter the dynamic of those who are assigned to guard him. If the Olynyk that finished the 2014 season hangs around for the remainder of his time as a pro, he will be well on his way to living up to the comparisons made between his game and that of Dirk Nowitzki. More importantly, if Olynyk can make the transition, he could be a valuable member of the Celtics for years to come.
7) Continuing To Tweak the Roster
As it stands, the Celtics roster is quite imbalanced. Though the 2015 roster isn’t final by any means, one thing is: The Celtics will have an abundance of guards (and bloated contracts) on opening night. For a team in the Celtics’ current position, this isn’t as detrimental as it could be. However, if the Celtics are looking to compete again within the next few seasons, it would be nice if some trades were made this season to help pave the way to make this happen. Otherwise, it would seem as if the Celtics are in for a lengthy rebuild.
8) A Run at the 8th Seed
Say what you will about tanking and the lottery, but all of the emphasis this season should be on winning as many games as possible. Avery Bradley seems to agree. There are players on the 2014 roster that could be a great supporting cast for a future championship contender. Behind Rondo’s talent and leadership, this year’s squad needs to muster up some gutsy wins throughout the regular season to prove to themselves that they can win on a bigger stage. Capping the campaign with a trip to the playoffs is exactly what a team in this position needs in order to avoid a lengthy and arduous rebuild.
Do you have any suggestions or items to add? Feel free to do so in the comments below, or as always, check out our forums for more Celtics-related discussion.