ESPN’s 2014 Summer Forecast series has kicked off with Eastern Conference predictions, and unsurprisingly, the mothership doesn’t think the Celtics are going to be playoff contenders.
With all due respect to Mr. @Supermaninsane, I don’t think 12th in the East is ludicrous at all. Nobody is quite certain how much Rajon Rondo will be able to contribute (or if he will even be in Boston for the entire season), nobody is quite certain how much progression we’ll see out of Kelly Olynyk (especially after a relatively disappointing Summer League), and relying on Jeff Green to ball like a star…well, that’s actually ludicrous.
There are scenarios in which the Celtics surprise some teams, but it would require significant, difficult-to-project jumps in production from several sources. Boston would need Kelly Olynyk to make strides on the offensive end and massive, bounding leaps on the defensive end. Jared Sullinger would need to come into camp with quite a bit of his 2013-14 weight shed. Rondo would need to perform at an extremely high level, perhaps motivated by a contract year. Avery Bradley would need to stay healthy for most of a season. Marcus Smart and James Young would need to be positive contributors as rookies — a very tall task for anyone.
You get the idea. None of these things are impossible, and one might even argue that it’s likely a few of them will happen, but Boston would need several, if not all, of them to happen in order to be in play for a playoff spot, and that just doesn’t seem likely. Meanwhile, 12th in the East would be a relatively good finish — not dead last, not tanking, but also far enough back in a bad conference to ensure relatively good lottery odds, especially if the NBA does switch up its lottery system next season.
Please don’t misunderstand me: It’s a long time before we need to start talking about losing games as a positive again. But looking to the future, if Boston can develop some of its young talent while staying relatively close to the same position in which it ended last season, that will be a solid place to be, even if it makes 2014-15 tough to watch at times.
Celtics fans might prefer this…
…but given the cause, this is a close second:
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A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE has a great sit-down interview with Marcus Smart that you should go watch. The most interesting moment came from a question about Rajon Rondo.
“He’s a veteran I can learn a lot from,” Smart said. “Rajon Rondo’s one of the premier guards in the league. He’s won a championship, he knows what it takes to get there. He’s been there, he’s been through those battles. And he has that competitive nature just like I do. For a young guy coming in at the point guard spot, being able to look up to a guy and connect to a guy like that, it’s unbelievable to help you out.”
This, combined with the bone-dry market, is probably the strongest reason why the Celtics should probably hang on to Rondo. Nobody is willing to part with pieces that will truly help Boston’s rebuild, which is concern number one. You can’t trade a superstar for nothing, especially when the chance exists that he might re-sign next season.
But perhaps equally important is the impact Rondo could have on Smart. There are aspects of Rondo’s game that I don’t believe can be taught or passed down — most notably, his sense of basketball’s geometry. Rondo sees angles and spaces in a way that’s unparalleled, and it makes him a potential All-Star whenever he’s healthy. But he’s also an incredible competitor, from the school of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who seems truly seems to dislike his opponent on the court. That seems to have stemmed from his years playing with Garnett and Pierce, and if that competitive edge can be passed down to Smart, Young and the rest of Boston’s young players, it makes Rondo extremely valuable. At the very least, it makes him more valuable than Terrence Jones, Clint Capela and a very late first-round pick. Sorry, Rockets.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.