COMMENTARY | Now that the Boston Celtics have traded two soon-to-be Hall of Famers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and lost top-notch championship coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers, the team finds itself in the difficult position of needing a new identity.
The roster has been half-rebuilt and is now in the process of being infused with a totally new coach's vision for the future. So just what kind of a team can Celtics fans expect in 2013-2014? All the signs point toward a fast-paced, high-tempo squad that is going to try to run opponents out of the gym every game of the season.
Get ready, Boston, because you are about to experience "run and gun" NBA basketball.
The right pace for the right team
When the Celtics hired Brad Stevens, now the youngest coach in the NBA, to take the helm of a team in transition, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made it clear that the Celtics' rebuilding plans are meant to put the team back in contention sooner rather than later. At his introductory press conference, Stevens reiterated this focus on winning, insisting that the team's strategy would be designed to win now by utilizing the strengths of the roster he has available to him rather than putting a system in place that doesn't fit the skill set of the team he is inheriting.
Beyond that, we have heard very little about what we can expect from the Celtics next year. And because Stevens is new to the NBA coaching scene, it's difficult to predict how his vision of winning basketball will transform from the college game to the pros.
What we do know, however, is that if Stevens and Ainge are serious about putting a competitive product on the parquet floor in November when the season starts, then the best course of action is to play to the current roster's strengths while minimizing the effects of the team's weaknesses.
Weaknesses of the current team
No one expects the roster as it currently stands to be the final group of 12 when the regular season commences, but if the principle components of the team in place today are also in place on opening night, it's pretty safe to say that the Celtics will not be a great shooting team.
Replacing Paul Pierce in the starting lineup is the 6-foot-9-inch Jeff Green, a player who had a breakout season last year but still only managed to hit 37.7 percent of his jump-shots from 15 feet and beyond. The remaining Boston backcourt is composed of struggling shooting guard Avery Bradley and one of the worst shooters in the NBA at the point guard position, Rajon Rondo. The combination of Green, Bradley and Rondo will give Boston one of the worst mid-range shooting starting lineups in the league next year.
Unfortunately, the bench is not significantly better. Forward Gerald Wallace, the best player Boston received in exchange for trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, is not a good outside shooter. The same can be said for ex-reality television star Kris Humphries, who makes his living cleaning up garbage in the paint and rebounding.
Former Providence standout MarShon Brooks, also a part of the trade with the Nets, has the ability to be a prolific perimeter scorer, but he still has not figured out how to put the ball in the basket without taking more shots than he should. Guard Courtney Lee is probably the only consistent perimeter offensive threat the Celtics have, but because of his poor defense and the large number of guards on the roster, it's unclear how many minutes will actually be made available to him.
Another major weakness of the club is defense in the paint. Coach Stevens, who is known for emphasizing hard-nosed basketball, is going to have to make the best of a frontcourt defense that includes undersized forwards Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries, rookie Kelly Olynyk, the vertically challenged Jared Sullinger and the Brazilian import Vitor Faverani, a player scouts unanimously agree is very talented on offense but is a major liability on defense. Of the five forwards on the roster who are expected to get the majority of the playing time, all of them are sub-par defenders and will likely be over-matched against teams with strong post players.
The strengths of the team
The Celtics may be a poor outside shooting team that will struggle defensively in the low-post, but the strong perimeter defense of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace will help create a lot of turnovers and transition buckets. Additionally, the Celtics now have a roster filled with big bodies and aggressive rebounders on both offense and defense, something the team has lacked for several years now. Sullinger, Rondo, Humphries and Wallace are all expected to put up above-average rebounding numbers, which should open up opportunities for Rondo to produce some magic in the open floor on fastbreaks, probably the time when he shines the brightest.
The "run and gun" conclusion
When you piece the Celtics' skill set together for the 2013-2014 season, it becomes apparent that Boston is going to struggle when the pace of the game slows down, which is usually the case for teams that can't shoot from mid-range or from the 3-point line and lack strong interior defenders. However, fans should expect that the Celtics, who have good rebounders, athletic guards and small forwards and an exceptional open-court point guard, will thrive running an up-tempo offense that is always looking to push the ball in transition.
If Brad Stevens really does intend to put a winning product on the floor this year, playing fast-paced basketball is the best shot he has. No one expects Boston to win a championship this year playing with this kind of strategy, but it may be effective enough to capture the eighth seed in the playoffs, which I think most Celtics fans would be very happy receiving after a difficult offseason.
Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @TheNewRevere or by e-mail at THATcelticsguy@gmail.com.
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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Boston Celtics
- Brad Stevens
- Rajon Rondo
- Gerald Wallace
- Kris Humphries