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Boston Celtics: Five Things to Watch in First Preseason Game Tonight

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Boston Celtics: Five Things to Watch in First Preseason Game Tonight
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COMMENTARY | After an incredible 2013 offseason that witnessed the departure of soon-to-be Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the release of popular Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, and the remarkable summer league debut of first-round selection Kelly Olynyk, the preseason has finally arrived as the Celtics take on the Toronto Raptors on Oct. 7 at the TD Garden.

The following five things to watch help make tonight's game worthy of your attention (as if you needed more reasons to watch NBA basketball!):

1. Just how good is Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk?

When the Boston Celtics traded for the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, Kelly Olynyk, no one knew exactly what to expect. Drawing comparisons from NBA scouts that range from Dirk Nowitzki to a complete bust, Boston fans are still understandably unsure of what to make of this 7-footer out of Gonzaga who set the college basketball world on fire.

What we do know, however, is that the kid came to play in the NBA Summer League in Orlando, Fla., where, in five games, he managed to average 18 points with a field-goal percentage of .578, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a surprising 1.8 steals.

Everyone knows Olynyk can shoot, but the real question for him centers around his athletic ability and how that may hurt him against NBA defenses. Watch to see how Olynyk performs tonight when matched up against athletic big men.

2. Who is going to be the Celtics' point guard when the season starts?

All of the speculation has pointed to Avery Bradley as the replacement for the injured All-Star Rajon Rondo, but with Jordan Crawford receiving high praises for his work this summer at the point guard position, anything is possible. Watch to see how young point guard Phil Pressey and guard Jordan Crawford perform running the offense.

3. Shifting lineups

One of the most exciting, as well as uneasy, things about young NBA teams like the Boston Celtics is that starting lineups can change with the wind, and it's hard to say given the team's current composition that anyone except Jeff Green and Avery Bradley is a sure thing to begin the season as a starter.

Young coach Brad Stevens has already insisted that Boston's rotation will likely be changing quite a bit in the preseason in order to find the combination of players that works the best when up against an actual NBA opponent. Watch to see which combinations of players, especially on the low-post, play well together to get a feel for who is going to be getting the most minutes when the regular season begins.

4. Defense, defense, defense

The Celtics have been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA since Kevin Garnett was added to the roster in 2007, but now that the former defensive floor general plays for the Brooklyn Nets, there are a lot of questions surrounding who is going to lead Boston on defense.

It's likely that since the Celtics have two of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, the problem will largely be confined to the low-post. Watch to see how rookie Kelly Olynyk performs in the post, how much time Gerald Wallace spends playing at power forward and the amount of minutes Kris Humphries gets.

5. Will Kris Humphries return to his previous form?

Few players had a more disappointing 2012-2013 season than Kris Humphries did. In 2011-2012, Humphries had the best season of his career, averaging 13.8 points, 1.2 blocks, 11 rebounds and a field-goal percentage of .481. In addition to having his playing time greatly reduced in 2012-2013, Humphries managed to score only 5.8 points per game, 0.5 blocks and 5.6 rebounds, and his shooting percentage fell to .448.

If Humphries is able to turn things around, his tremendous rebounding skills and his ability to get second-chance points could be a major factor in determining whether the Celtics are a playoff team or an Eastern Conference cellar-dweller.

Expect Humphries to play hard tonight and every night this season to help prove to GMs around the league that he is worth another big contract like the two-year, $24 million one he has now that is set to expire at the end of the season.

Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @THATCelticsGuy.

Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.

Statistics provided by Basketball-reference.com and NBA.com.

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