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The schedule for the upcoming NBA season has been released, most of the top free agents are off the market, and the Celtics haven’t done much at all since the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn. The lack of activity further suggests that Danny Ainge is looking to the future, and won’t mind a historically bad 2013-14 season if it means having the opportunity to draft a superstar next year. Boston currently has 15 players on its roster, excluding unrestricted free agent Chris Wilcox, who hasn’t signed with any team yet.
Let’s take a position-by-position look at the Celtics’ roster, analyzing where they need help and what they’re likely to do going forward in the back court.
Rajon Rondo: After the Nets trade, the Celtics are, once and for all, Rondo’s team – for now. The rumors of a Rondo trade never seem to go away, with the Detroit Pistons reportedly being interested as recently as last week. New head coach Brad Stevens apparently tried to put the speculation to rest at his introductory press conference, saying that he’d spoken to Rondo and was excited about the opportunity to work with him. Whether the Pistons rumors are even true is debatable, since Detroit just acquired Brandon Jennings, and the Celtics, with nine first-round picks in the next five drafts, may decide they don’t really need any more future assets. In any case, Rondo is coming off a torn ACL and while it wouldn’t be shocking if he were ready for the season opener, he probably won’t be at full strength right away.
Phil Pressey: Pressey was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri, and had a very strong showing at the Orlando Summer League. He’s an outstanding passer and defender, but his decision-making is a concern. Still, if Rondo is healthy Pressey won’t have to carry much of a load, and he definitely has the potential to be a contributor a bit later in his career.
The bottom line: There were plenty of veteran free agent point guards available this year and the Celtics didn’t try to sign any of them, which is good news for Pressey. The bad news is that Rondo, given the nature of his injury, probably isn’t going to average 37 minutes per game like he has the past four seasons. This could mean more minutes for Pressey than he’s ready for, or playing Avery Bradley or Courtney Lee at the point. That didn’t really work last season, so there’s little reason to believe that it could work this year.
Avery Bradley: Bradley was very solid after returning from shoulder surgery, and he figures to be a cornerstone of the future Celtics. Rondo’s injury forced him to play point guard, and it also meant that we hardly got to see the two of them together in what could be a tremendous backcourt. Bradley has improved in each of his three NBA seasons, going from defensive specialist to offensive contributor (a career-high 9.2 points last season), and he will look to continue that trend in 2013-14.
MarShon Brooks: Brooks returns to the Celtics, who drafted him in 2011 before trading him to the then-New Jersey Nets. Brooks regressed badly in 2012-13 after a promising rookie season, with most of his numbers declining by more than half: 12.5 minutes per game down from 29.4, 5.4 points down from 12.6. He did, however, improve significantly in the latter part of the season, after P. J. Carlesimo replaced Avery Johnson as coach. He’ll be hoping the confidence he garnered in that time carries over to this year.
Jordan Crawford: Crawford played in 27 games after coming to Boston at the trade deadline. His numbers with the Celtics were significantly worse than they had been in Washington, but that was only natural as he was on a much better team with more competition for playing time. The small sample size makes it difficult to draw conclusions about what his role could be. Crawford undoubtedly has great talent, but his ability to bring his A-game every time out is less certain.
Courtney Lee: Lee was not as good as advertised in his first season as a Celtic, but he did show flashes on the offensive end, and knocked down a career-high 46.4% of his field goal attempts. He only scored more than 10 points in 24 of 78 games, and the Celtics are going to need more than that from Lee if they’re going to be competitive.
The bottom line: The Celtics are stacked at the two-guard position. This likely means that we’ll see one of these guys (most likely Lee) get playing time at the point. Bradley and Crawford will both be free agents after this season, so don’t be surprised if Ainge makes a point of re-signing Bradley while Crawford, barring a breakout season, is allowed to walk.
Tags: Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Celtics, Courtney Lee, Danny Ainge, Fab Melo, Gerald Wallace, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford, Keith Bogans, Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, marshon brooks, Paul Pierce, Phil Pressey, Rajon Rondo, Vitor Faverani