STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
This summer Danny Ainge officially kicked into overdrive the rebuilding process. The dismantling really started the summer of 2012 when Ray Allen left for the Heat. It continued 38 games into last season, when Rajon Rondo was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Celtics fans can't really complain. The organization was able to squeeze six high-quality seasons out of the Big 3 era, with one championship, two finals appearances, three Eastern Conference finals showdowns and six straight playoff appearances.
Throughout those six years, Ainge was often reminded of comments he made about Red Auerbach not breaking up the legendary 80's Celtics team while its aging stars still had trade value. Ainge said about Auerbach, "He had a chance to trade Larry (to Indiana) for Chuck Person and Herb Williams and Stipanovich and he had a chance to trade Kevin (to Dallas) for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins. I was like, 'Are you kidding?' I mean, I feel that way now. If I were presented with those kind of deals for our aging veterans, it's a done deal to continue the success." Ainge backed up those comments in July, shipping vintage vets Kevin Garnett (37), Paul Pierce (35) and Jason Terry (35) to Brooklyn for future first-round picks and role players. The youth movement also included bringing in a younger coaching staff, as Doc Rivers was allowed to join the Clippers for another future first-round pick. Rivers was replaced with 36-year-old Brad Stevens.
The roster is now led by relative youngsters Rajon Rondo (27) and Jeff Green (26). Gerald Wallace and Keith Bogans are the only players on the roster who are older than 28, and they are not expected to finish the year with the team. The Celtics will likely start a young core of Rondo, Avery Bradley (22), Green, Jared Sullinger (21) and either Kris Humphries (28) or 2013 first-round pick Kelly Olynyk (22). But this is a team in transition, with many spots up for grabs. Stevens will certainly experiment all year with different lineups.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Rajon Rondo is the unquestioned leader at point guard, but the franchise will be very careful in bringing him back from his knee injury. Frankly, there is nothing to gain from rushing him back. His mid-February ACL surgery usually requires nine months of recovery. Undrafted rookie Phil Pressey (son of Celtics vet Paul Pressey) will benefit, receiving unexpected playing time for roughly two months. Also expect Avery Bradley to play both point and shooting guard. Former Net MarShon Brooks should add instant offense as the backup shooting guard, and there's a chance he could win the starting job.
The Celtics will ask four power forwards and a Brazilian mystery man to eat up minutes at center and power forward. Second-year man Sullinger, healthy after back surgery, will probably receive the most on-court time, playing both positions. Humphries has a history of playing power forward and being used as an undersized center on older, talent-challenged Nets squads. The rookie Olynyk might be the biggest question mark, with many in Boston expecting him to make the All-Rookie team. He'll see most of his minutes at power forward. Brandon Bass, a starter the past two years, will see his minutes decline. Ainge took a flier on 25-year-old Brazilian talent Vitor Faverani. The 6-11 international man of mystery had a modest two years with Valencia BC of Spain's Liga ACB.
Jeff Green owns the small forward spot. He's the best bet to lead the team in scoring. Veteran Gerald Wallace will back up Green and occasionally play the four when Stevens tests smaller lineups. Wallace's minutes will escalate early on as the Celtics will want to showcase him for a deal to bring in more young talent. Newly acquired Donte Greene (swapped for Fab Melo) will be lucky if he even starts the season on the roster.
Kris Humphries: The roster doesn't really have a true center. Humphries, who was forced to play some center on some bad Nets teams when Brook Lopez was hurt, might start by default. The good news is Humphries is still somewhat young, is in a contract year, and has twice averaged double-double numbers when starting. His numbers declined drastically last year in Brooklyn when he was beat out by the not-so-awesome Reggie Evans and had back problems.
Vitor Faverani: At 6-11 and 260 pounds, Faverani has the body to be a true center. But his modest numbers of 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last year in Spain do NOT scream "NBA Talent!" He's considered more of an offensive talent, with good pick-and-roll skills and offensive rebounding. Defensively, he'll make Celtic fans pine for Kendrick Perkins.
Jeff Green: This could very well be Jeff Green's breakout season. In 17 games as a starter last year, he averaged 20.1 points, 5.9 boards, 1.1 blocks and 1.6 treys while shooting 52 percent from the field in 36 minutes per game. If he stays healthy, Green will likely start 75-plus games in 2013-14. Boston hopes he can reproduce his starter numbers from last season, even with opposing defenses focusing on him. For those in 7-plus category leagues, getting both blocks and three's from a player is always valuable.
Jared Sullinger: The former Buckeye's back problems should be behind him. He was medically cleared for full basketball activities on August 6. He'll get the first crack at the starting power forward job and might also see time at center. Sully's numbers during his 45-game rookie stint showed his potential: 5.9 rebounds and 6.0 points per game with 49 percent shooting. His minutes and shot attempts will increase in his sophomore season.
Kelly Olynyk: A case can be made that Olynyk deserved MVP honors from the Orlando Summer League. While the sample size was small, he impressed fans with 18.0 points, 7,8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. He even hit three 3-pointers. Olynyk is a legit 7-footer but prefers a face-up offensive approach and lacks the bulk to guard true centers. He'll get most of his minutes at the power forward spot.
Gerald Wallace: Crash's super-hustle approach may finally be taking its toll on his body. Last year, he played only 30 minutes per game, his lowest average since 2003-04, and shot only 40 percent from the field. Wallace earned the Crash nickname by playing with reckless abandon. Some have argued it was the best part of his game. But at an "old 31", he may not be able to sustain the same high-energy approach any longer. The Celtics would love to deal Wallace, but at $10 million per year for three more years, the C's will need to prove that Wallace is healthy and ready to return to producing something close to his 2011-12 numbers. Expect Boston to showcase him early with hopes of dealing him for more young talent.
Brandon Bass: The eight-year pro started 69 games last year but should expect a smaller role in 2013-14. At age 28, he is now one of the older players on a team that's rebuilding. Bass played a nice complementary role next to Kevin Garnett but now seems stuck behind younger, more upside-oriented talent. The window for Bass to "take the next leap" seems to have closed.
Donte Greene: Greene was acquired by Boston to dump Fab Melo's guaranteed salary and avoid the luxury tax. He likely will be cut before the season starts. He started 50 games in Sacramento in 2009-10, but things have gone downhill since. Due to ankle problems, he didn't see any action last year.
Rajon Rondo: Despite his sometimes questionable demeanor, Rondo is now the face of the Boston Celtics franchise. During the Big 3 era, Rondo only attempted 10-12 shots per game. Over those six years he was able to improve his jump shot. He hit over 48 percent of his field goal attempts last year. Boston hopes his shot percentage stays close to those levels as he could very well increase his attempts to 15-18 shots per game this year. It will be interesting to see whether or not Rondo and coach Brad Stevens gel. By all accounts, Rondo is temperamental. We'll see if he can control his emotions while under the microscope as the team leader and if Stevens can earn his trust and confidence.
Avery Bradley: Bradley led the league last year in defensive highlights per game. He plays fierce perimeter defense, which makes up for his inability to create his own shot. Hopefully Bradley can stay healthy this year, after battling shoulder and collarbone issues over the past two years. Bradley is frankly more valuable in real basketball than fantasy hoops. Enjoy this "Oh my!" moment of Bradley swatting Dwyane Wade in April, 2012. (Ignore Battier vulturing a three.)
MarShon Brooks: Things looked rosy for Brooks after his 2011-12 rookie season in New Jersey. As a rare bright spot on a really bad squad, Brooks got 47 starts and averaged 12.6 points in 29 minutes per game. Ownership then went on a spending spree, bringing in Joe Johnson via trade, and Brooks played only 13 minutes per game in his sophomore. At 24 years old, he's just the type of player the Celtics are hunting for: young with upside. He'll be given plenty of opportunity to provide an offensive spark off the bench (insert obligatory Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson reference here). With Bradley's defensive focus, Brooks could be an ideal complement.
Phil Pressey: Pressey left Missouri after his junior year to test the NBA waters and then went undrafted. He joined the Celtics for summer league play in July, averaging 9.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.0 steals. He demonstrated intriguing skills. Rondo's delayed return could give Pressey a very rare opportunity to go from being an undrafted rookie to an NBA starter in a matter of months.
Courtney Lee: It's fair to say that despite Lee's 25 minutes per game last year, he was a disappointment. He is a safe, reliable bench player capable of playing shooting guard and small forward and is classic waiver wire fodder in most fantasy hoops leagues.
Kris Humphries: Expectations are pretty low for every Celtic other than Rondo and Green, so there are a lot of possible sleepers. Humphries gets the nod because he has twice proven he can produce double-double numbers when starting for a bad team. He is also in a contract year, so he should be motivated. We also haven't seen him on the E channel lately, which can only be a good sign.
Gerald Wallace: Crash is an old 31. The constant diving for balls and hustling on the fast break have caught up with him. He still has big name recognition, so someone will add him to their fantasy roster. Don't let it be you.