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Mediocrity Creates Intrigue for the Boston Celtics' Rotation

Yahoo Contributor Network
Mediocrity Creates Intrigue for the Boston Celtics' Rotation
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Courtney Lee is just one of many similarly skilled players on the Celtics.

COMMENTARY | The dust has finally settled in Boston after a summer that saw the most familiar and identifiable members of the Celtics eroded as the faces of the franchise.

In are a new coach in Brad Stevens and seven new players that need to be integrated with those who survived the overhaul.

Stevens is going to need to invoke the luck of a leprechaun as he traverses the unfamiliar terrain as a NBA coach. He also has the dubious honor of having to mesh together a roster similar in talent across the board, which is something even experienced coaches struggle with.

No one player on the Celtics' roster stands out with the exception of Rajon Rondo--and he won't be back on the floor till December, according to multiple reports. Not having clear options as starters is one thing but the roster is embedded with average to just slightly above-average talent throughout. Rotations are likely to be unstable, which could eventually cause dissension if the losses start resembling the 2006-2007 team.

In the Boston backcourt until Rondo returns is Avery Bradley, Phil Pressey, Jordan Crawford, MarShon Brooks, Courtney Lee and Keith Bogans. Bradley is the best defender of the group, but he is also one of the worst penetrators off the bounce. He is going to be asked (at least in theory) to initiate the Boston offense while Rondo is out, and it's not a role in which he has thrived previously.

Pressey, at just 5 feet 11 inches, is the best ball-handler but is a rookie without experience in the NBA game. Courtney Lee is probably the best overall on both sides of the ball but lacks confidence offensively. Crawford and Brooks are ultra-confident shooters but not consistent shot-makers. They are matador-like on defense, which should prohibit them from ever being on the floor together.

Creating offense is going to be the biggest problem for this group.

Crawford and Brooks can get their own shots but do enough to make others better. Bradley is good off the ball, diving to the rim or spotting up in the corners for 3s, but he is far from a magician when it comes to making offense appear. How Stevens will get Boston to run effective offensive sets remains to be seen with this group of guards. Bradley and Lee probably get the nod as starters while Rondo is out but Crawford, Pressey and Brooks should receive regular minutes.

The Celtics' frontcourt seems to be the shining star of the roster. Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani come together like Voltron to give the team its strength. The names don't invoke fear, but it's a decent group in totality.

Green is the guy who will be "grandfathered" into the starting lineup as he is the player with the most upside. Consistency has been his biggest problem throughout his career. Wallace, who many think doesn't want to be there, has Green-like skills in many areas, except shooting. Green connected on 46% of his shots last season compared to Wallace's 39%. Wallace is a better defender and rebounder at this point in their careers. Both guys are true small forwards but have the ability to slide to the power forward spot if necessary.

Shaking out the minutes between Bass, Humphries, Sullinger, Olynyk and Faverani will be the true test for Stevens. Sullinger has decent range, rebounds and can play the post which arguably gives him the best overall skill set. Bass gets up and down the floor really well but isn't committed to the glass, despite having solid defensive principles and athleticism. How he only averages 4.6 rebounds for his career is beyond the grasp of understanding. Humphries is the anti-Bass rebounding specialist who excels in that category as long as he gets a consistent allotment of minutes.

The greatest of the unknowns is how good rookies Olynyk and Faverani will be. Olynyk was one of the biggest summer league surprises, but can that translate to the regular NBA game? He is being described as a stretch-four but will probably have to play out of position at center to make a difference this season. Faverani has shown some early signs during training camp that he can rebound and score both inside and out. He has been a mild surprise which somewhat muddies the waters of the rotation, but it would be shocking to see him starting at center barring injuries.

In terms of development and building for the lottery-bound future starting Green, Sullinger and Olynyk in the frontcourt makes the most sense for Stevens. He will have the option of having a short leash with the overall group and the infamous "playing the matchups" strategy is likely to be invoked.

No other team in the league teeters on the brink of oblivion and utter mediocrity like this Boston Celtics team. It's actually quite fascinating.

Maybe the dust hasn't exactly settled after all.

Warren Shaw is a NBA contributor to Dime Magazine and co-host of the weekly basketball podcast "The Baseline". He has covered various NBA events live while also conducting one on one player interviews. His work can also be found at Celticslife.com and Prosportsblogging.com.

Follow him on Twitter @ShawSportsNBA.

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