ESPN Insider Tom Haberstroh doesn't have a lot of faith in the Celtics next year. In fact, he ranks them 13th in the East, just ahead of the Sixers and Bobcats. Here's his scathing evaluation.
Where do C's rank in the East? - Boston Celtics Blog - ESPN Boston
As is, the Celtics figure to be in the running for not just the league's worst defense, but I struggle to see how they score enough to fight their way into the playoff picture. Remember, this was the 20th-ranked team in offensive efficiency last season, and that was with Pierce, Garnett, a healthy Rajon Rondo and Terry. Who's their No. 1 scoring option next season? Jeff Green? Yikes.
Welp. There's a lot jammed into that short paragraph. First is the dismissive assumption that the team will be horrible on defense (a head scratcher considering Ron Adams' reputation as a defensive mastermind and the presence of Avery Bradley and and a few other better than average defensive players). But we can put that aside as nobody really knows just how far this team will fall without KG roaming the lane.
It is valid to wonder "how offensive will the offense be?" though I'm not sure how fair it is to compare the team to last year's squad since the personnel will be so vastly different. They will hopefully rely less on the mid-range shots that the former Celtics specialized in (hey, they were good at those shots, but they happen to be statistically the worst shots in the game). Basically we knew what we were getting with KG and Pierce. The team without them is one big mystery.
It is a bit of an odd dynamic because Rajon Rondo is the team's star and he can score when he wants to, but he'd much rather set up his teammates.
As Tom points out, Jeff Green is the most likely first scoring option. He's always been a 3rd or 4th scoring option and his versatile game has lent itself to him fitting in more than standing out. There have, however, been games and stretches of games where he's given himself the green light to go for it and he's put up some impressive numbers. It remains to be seen if he can do it for a full season but I don't think that counts him out of it either. So we'll see with him.
Beyond that, you have to project a lot of young guys upward. Sullinger has to continue his progress. Olynyk has to prove that his Summer League success can translate to the season. Courtney Lee has to keep shooting and making buckets. Avery Bradley simply has to find a role in the offense so he can stay on the court to dominate on defense. Brooks has to prove the exact opposite.
Then you have to hope that Brandon Bass and Gerald Wallace can play more like they did in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. And you have to hope that someone, somewhere will step up and score some buckets for us.
In short, a lot has to go right and it starts with Stevens and Rondo coming up with a gameplan that will maximize everyone's strengths while minimizing their shortcomings. My best initial guess: In Tommy's words "Run, baby RUN!" Play aggressive ball-hawking defense, box out and fight for defensive rebounds, and fly up the court.
With Rondo steering the ship, Green or Wallace filling the lanes, Lee or Olynyk trailing the play for kick outs, they could put up bunches of points in a hurry. Smart teams, however, will find ways to slow us down and force us into finding baskets the hard way. So it will still ultimately take several guys stepping up their offensive games next year.
What are your thoughts? How will the Celtics generate baskets? Which players will increase their scoring averages? Who will be the first, second, and third options?