NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #27 Boston Celtics
This NBA offseason has been very eventful and we’re only a few short weeks away from the start of team training camps. To help bridge that gap for hoops junkies, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 27th-ranked Boston Celtics!
Now six years removed from their 2008 title, the Boston Celtics are entering the second year of their rebuilding project in 2014-15. With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen already seeming like distant memories, Rajon Rondo is the only remaining member from that championship team. Rondo's set to become a free agent at the conclusion of this upcoming season, so the big question surrounding the team this year will be all about his place (or lack thereof) in the franchise's future plans. The development of the team's young talent will be the top priority for second-year coach Brad Stevens this season, but everything is bound to be a little muddy until the Rondo situation gets sorted out.
Projected Record: 29-53
Eastern Conference Rank: 13th
NBA Rank: 27th
Playoff Chances: 9.15%
Championship Chances: 0.00%
Assuming Rondo is a Celtic for the whole 2014-15 campaign, our metrics like Boston to finish with four more wins than last year's 25-57 mark. If Rondo is moved for a collection of assets between now and this year's trade deadline, however, you can imagine that Boston will give the 76ers and Bucks an even more competitive race (if you can call it that) for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Regardless, this team is not ready to compete for a playoff spot and that 9.15% chance to make it looks mighty generous, even if Rondo ends up staying and having a transcendent campaign.
The Celtics came away with one of the best hauls from this year's draft by picking up Marcus Smart and James Young in the first round. Smart, in particular, was a great get from the six spot. He's a tough, versatile combo guard that can serve perfectly as a complement to Rondo or as his replacement, depending on the direction the team decides to take. Picking up Zeller and Thornton as part of the Cavs' salary dump deal to land LeBron was a smooth move and the signing of Turner as a reclamation project after his brutal stretch with the Pacers last season presents a nice risk/reward investment for a team that doesn't need to win this year. Overall, the Celtics had a quietly solid offseason.
Three Burning Questions
How much longer will Rajon Rondo be a Celtic?
This could essentially be questions one, two, and three in terms of what story will get the most attention in Boston this season. There have been conflicting reports of Rondo's desire to stay a Celtic and numerous teams have been linked to him in trade rumors. A deal could very well happen in the next few weeks or it could get drawn out as late as the trade deadline in February. The Celtics have nothing but time to figure it all out and gain maximum leverage in any potential deals, so a resolution is probably not imminent. He is a four-time All-Star, but ultimately one that is coming off an ACL repair and that found all his success as a fourth option to the Pierce-KG-Allen big three. At this point, asking whether or not Rondo going on age 29 represents the best possible cornerstone for a rebuilding franchise is not a question with an obvious answer.
Who should be the team's first option on offence?
According to our efficiency metrics, the Celts were the fourth worst offensive team in the NBA last season with a rating of 102.9 points scored per 100 possessions. They had the second worst field goal percentage at 43.5% and the fourth worst three-point mark at 33.3%. That's pretty much what happens when your top three shot takers are Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, and Avery Bradley, who shot 41.2%, 42.7%, and 43.8% respectively from the field last season. Throw in Rondo struggling to re-find his shot at 40.3% in his return from an ACL injury and being the natural king of deferral anyway, and it becomes difficult to find out who is supposed to be the scorer on this team. It seemed to be Green's job last year, but that's simply not a good longterm plan. It will be interesting to see who takes the reigns this season and moving forward.
Is Avery Bradley worth the money he got this offseason?
Bradley got four years and $32 million from the Celtics this offseason, a figure seemingly high for a player whose career best in win shares is only 2.4 (in 2011-12). The big selling point for Bradley is, of course, that he's an excellent defender (a defensive real plus-minus mark of 1.22 last season, seventh among point guards). His offensive game, on the other hand, is still a work in progress (he's never had an offensive rating higher than 100 and has a career mark of 96). He did score a career high 14.9 points per game last season, while shooting 39.5% from long range, so the Celtics are betting on him putting the whole package together soon. Having never played more than 64 games in either of his four seasons, however, his health could make this contract look like a bad investment if he can't find a way to stay on the floor.
Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch
PG Rajon Rondo (Yahoo O-Rank: 32)
Rondo finished last season ranked 141st in 9-category leagues according to basketballmonster.com, his lowest finish since his 2006-07 rookie season. The down year is understandable in that he's coming off a major injury and subsequent surgery, but prospective owners have to recognize Rondo for what he is: a two-trick pony. Outside of the elite assists and steals, Rondo is actually a drain on most other major categories. The rebounding is certainly solid from the point guard position (5.5 per game last season) and he used to be a 50% shooter from the floor and could be again, but he consistently has a negative impact on turnovers and free throw percentage, and doesn't offer much in terms of scoring (from that high a draft pick), threes, and blocks. The negatives tend to outweigh the positives with Rondo as a fantasy player and, for what it's worth, he's never once finished at or above the 32 mark in 9-category leagues. If he gets traded, his usage could go down and his value could drop even lower. You can do better in the early rounds at point guard if that's what you're looking for.
PF/C Jared Sullinger (Yahoo O-Rank: 131)
Sully's 2013-14 campaign was an up-and-down affair, but he showed flashes of fantasy promise in spurts. He finished the year ranked 130th in 9-category leagues, but he flirted with mid-round value at various points throughout the year when he was healthy and starting consistently, even managing to earn Player of the Week honors once in February. He has shown that he's capable of being a guy that puts up around 15 points and 9 to 10 rebounds per contest with consistent minutes, and his field goal percentage could certainly see an improvement as his chemistry with Rajon Rondo grows. He doesn't offer much in terms of steals and blocks, but he doesn't commit a lot of turnovers (1.6 per contest), nails the occasional three-pointer (0.8) and has a great free throw percentage for a power forward or center (77.8%). If the preseason brings clarity to his starter status, Sullinger could be an excellent sleeper pick in this range.