Ball Don’t Lie’s 2013-14 Season Previews: Boston Celtics
Boston's new Big Three. (Getty Images)
After a long, tortuous summer filled with sunny days and absolutely no NBA news of any importance, the 2013-14 season is set to kick off. This means the leaves will change, the cheeks will redden, and 400-some NBA players will ready those aching knees to play for the right to work all the way to June.
The minds at Ball Don’t Lie – Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine, and Eric Freeman – have your teams covered. All 30 of ‘em, as we countdown to tipoff.
Kelly Dwyer’s Palatable Exercise
The nagging impediment that is getting in the way of Boston Celtics fans fully embracing their upcoming rebuilding turn is the unfortunate knowledge that the haul they received in response to trading away all those legends isn’t a particularly compelling one. After an injury-plagued and mediocre 2012-13 turn, Boston personnel chief Danny Ainge smartly decided to stave off decrepitude and the possible indignity of paying luxury tax money for a team that missed out on the playoffs, and deal his 2008 championship core away.
Unlike most rebuilding general managers, though, Ainge was forced to deal with a string of caveats and mitigating factors.
First, there was Kevin Garnett – a player that famously refused to demand for a trade from Minnesota even after his awful Timberwolves team missed the playoffs three straight years while in his prime. His contract owns a no-trade clause, and he wasn’t afraid to use it.
Then there was coach Doc Rivers, and you can’t really trade coaches. Even if they’re still under contract, after having professed to want to ride out yet another rebuilding turn.
Then there was the case of Paul Pierce, a Celtic legend. He and Ainge were Boston brothers, and they kind of like each other. So it wasn’t as if Ainge could deal his former franchise stud to some lowly team for a series of lottery picks.
Because Ainge was dealt to work with limited trading partners for various reasons, the team only received a series of spare parts from the Brooklyn Nets for KG, Pierce, and Jason Terry. Yes, copious amounts of Brooklyn draft picks (along with the right to switch picks) will be in Boston’s possession for the next few years, but Brooklyn figures to be at worst a mediocre team even with KG and Pierce getting on in age, and at best a championship contender. Those picks aren’t hitting the lottery any time soon.
As a result, Boston enters 2013-14 with no obvious young prospect to show off in return for that championship core. Guard Rajon Rondo will be out until winter hits, the team drafted last June on the heels of a 41-win season (and not a trip to the lottery), and rookie head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t have a scintilla of NBA experience on his side.
What this crew does have is intrigue on its side. Despite his button down, BYU legacy, Danny Ainge has always marched to the beat of his own drum both as a player, coach, broadcaster or executive. He takes chances and owns a superb drafting history, especially in the latter stages of the first round (where the Brooklyn picks should end up). Stevens made waves in Butler with his work ethic and ability to mix unique scouting techniques with old school draw-‘em-ups. Rajon Rondo is one of the stranger, more thrilling, and (most importantly) productive point guards you’ll find in this league.
The rebuilding task is still enormous, though, because this roster is still dotted with the middling talents that were signed to support superstars, and not replace them. Other teams may balk at trading for players like Brandon Bass (two-years, over $13 million left on his contract), Courtney Lee (three-years, over $16 million) and especially Gerald Wallace (three years, over $30 million). Even Ainge favorite Jeff Green would be a hard sell to most GMs at three years and over $27 million.
Until then, Kelly Olynyk will get his touches, and a chance to prove that he won’t disappoint as a starting-caliber, 33-minute per game center. Rondo will have to bite his tongue, Jared Sullinger has a lot of making up to do, while Green and Avery Bradley will be afforded the opportunity to work offensively away from the glare of Mssrs. Garnett and Pierce. All while Brad Stevens attempts to both adapt to this brand new league, and change it from within.
That’s an intriguing team, as you’d expect from Mr. Ainge. Unfortunately, it won’t be a winning team. Not for a while, anyway.
Projected record: 16-66