It’s going to be another year in paradise for the Celtics as the rebuilding process continues, but I’m hoping for the playoffs this year instead of another trip to the lottery. With the term “rebuild” in mind, the Celtics have a lot of new faces on the roster this year that will have to earn a lot of respect from the Boston fans. Whether they’re rookies, players with expiring contracts, players on their first year on their deals or low-cost veterans, the Celtics will be looking to bring out the best in everyone on the roster. I’ve put together a selected list of new players on where they will fit onto the roster and what important role they will play heading into the 2014-15 season.
Marcus Smart became the Celtics’ highest lottery pick in quite some time and he will contribute very quickly in the backcourt. He will play the 3rd guard role, or in other terms, can back up and play next to Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. Smart will defend the opposing guard effectively while Avery Bradley is on the bench. Smart will also run Boston’s offense effectively while Rajon Rondo is on the bench. Growing pains is a normal process for any rookie, but Smart’s stellar play in the Summer League is already showing that he can compete with the best guards in the NBA. He is capable of putting up Rookie of the Year numbers and I will not be surprised if he wins the award this season.
Marcus Thornton came over from Brooklyn in a 3-way trade this summer. Thornton came into the NBA being compared to great veterans like Jason Terry and Jamal Crawford, but saw very little playing time when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets from the Sacramento Kings last season. Thornton’s main value in almost everyone’s eyes is the fact that he is playing on an expiring contract this season for the Celtics and could be valuable in the trade market in the coming months. Realistically, he may not see too much playing time here in Boston either because of the logjam at both guard positions. The only time we may see him play is if Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Phil Pressey or Marcus Smart get injured (hopefully that doesn’t happen), or if Brad Stevens takes a desperate turn for immediate scoring from the backcourt. If Thornton steps up and shines this season, the Celtics got another gem in that trade besides Tyler Zeller and another 1st round draft pick.
Despite being a fish out of water in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Evan Turner still possesses skills that can help the Celtics win games. Turner is a former #2 overall pick out of Ohio State and averaged 17.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last season for the Philadelphia 76ers before being traded to the Indiana Pacers. Turner shot a respectable 41.6 percent for Philadelphia from mid-range and was their leading ball handler. Turner’s agent David Falk summed it up perfectly about his client’s time with the Pacers:
“If you would have told me you could sign a free agent that could average 17, 6, and 5 who was a wing player, I’d probably tell you you’re talking about a max player. I’m not giving you my opinion because I’m a little bit biased because about how I feel about Evan but Larry Bird is a pretty astute observer of NBA basketball, pretty tough critic, and he has said publicly that’s who he thinks Evan Turner is. He’s always been a big Evan Turner fan and it’s unfortunate the situation didn’t work out in Indiana.”
Evan Turner will most likely back up Jeff Green at the small forward position, but could play some shooting guard against a roster that has abnormally large shooting guards. Turner can handle the ball, run the pick-and-roll effectively and get to the rim. He has a lot of value and his ceiling with the Celtics is a serious scoring threat off the bench and that’s exactly what the Celtics needed last season.
James Young will be one of the youngest players in the NBA once the season begins at 19 years old. Young didn’t play at all in the Summer League this year because of a car accident and that could hinder his chances at making the 15-man roster when the regular season opens on October 29th, resulting him up with the Maine Red Claws. He is a terrific outside shooter and that could be his X-factor in making it through preseason next month, but will have to battle with Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and Evan Turner for playing time at the small forward position. It will be in Boston’s best interest to develop Young as soon as possible because I think this kid is capable of being a massive producer in the near future.
Possibly the best acquisition this offseason, Tyler Zeller is a true 7-foot center that the Celtics have been in dire need of all of last year. Zeller still has two years left on his rookie contract and that makes him an even more commodity for the Celtics. Zeller will most likely become the starting center from the first game of the preseason game until the final game of the season because he has the most experience at center on this current Celtics team. Either way if Zeller starts or if a curveball is thrown and he doesn’t start, he will still be in good company as Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk will be playing right next to him on most of his minutes.
I’m very excited to see these players in training camp in a few weeks and am looking forward to working with them all throughout this upcoming season, so it will be interesting to see how they mesh well onto this roster and what this season has in store for them.