Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: What are your expectations for Celtics rookie Marcus Smart?
Our panel was given four potential options for Smart: (1) All-Rookie team; (2) Rotation player with immediate impact; (3) Role player with limited impact; and (4) D-League.
The No. 6 pick will shoulder plenty of first-year expectations as nearly 65 percent of our panel pegged him for the All-Rookie team. Now, let's keep in mind that 10 players make the two All-Rookie squads and it's not that daunting of a task some years. Last season, despite playing only 20 minutes per game, Kelly Olynyk topped the NBA's All-Rookie second team in voting.
This year's rookie class appears deeper and more talented, and it'll include the likes of Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel, who sat out last season while rehabbing from ACL surgery. Regardless, this writer agrees that Smart has All-Rookie potential. His NBA-ready defense should help separate him from some of his rookie peers and aid his case to earn a spot by season's end.
What's working against Smart, at least initially, is Boston's seemingly deep backcourt. The team returns Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in starting roles, while there will be motivation to showcase the likes of Marcus Thornton -- and Evan Turner, too, if he plays some minutes at the 2 -- in reserve roles at the start of the year.
But Smart showed NBA-ready skills at summer league and got experience against top-level competition with the USA Basketball select team, all of which should help him immediately carve out rotation minutes with the potential for his role to grow, especially should Boston make additional in-season moves to shed guard depth.
If Smart develops his jump shot and can impact the game at both ends of the floor, he'll muscle his way into the All-Rookie conversation. A look at our forecasters voting:
Read on as our panelists explain their ballots:
And after the jump, rookie James Young and player development coach Ronald Nored do their part:
A snippet from Ford: "Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller are nice, but Towns has much more potential. He's huge, highly skilled and can stretch the floor. The biggest question mark around Towns will be how much playing time he gets on a loaded Kentucky team. If he gets minutes, he'll likely go very high in the draft."
[Read full 2015 Way-too-early Mock ]
Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: Which Celtics player will fall shortest of expectations this season?
This questions is tricker than it appears on the surface. In order to underachieve, you have to start with a high level of expectations, which most on Boston's rebuilding roster seem to lack. There's a case to be made that only Rajon Rondo, further removed from his ACL surgery and looking to reestablish his All-Star form, faces truly lofty expectations.
But there are others that will feel pressure. Avery Bradley inked a four-year, $32 million extension this offseason, which will change the expectation level of the young shooting guard. Both Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger will be looked upon to take the next steps in their developments. Some will continue to believe there is more than we've seen from Jeff Green.
It's telling that our panel produced nine different names for potential underachiever. Four different players received multiple votes in Green, Brandon Bass, Marcus Thornton, and Evan Turner (ironically, Turner was the top vote-getter for most likely to overachieve in Monday's forecast).
This writer's vote? I picked Bass, in large part because he's in a tough spot. The Celtics have younger talent at the power forward position in Sullinger and Olynyk and both need more minutes this season. Bass, if he's still on the roster for the start of the regular season, will be looked upon as taking minutes from their development, particularly if he remains in a prominent rotation role (he started 73 games last season).
In the final year of his contract, 29-year-old Bass doesn't quite fit this transitioning roster. He's a true pro and his lunchpail mentality should have endeared him more here. But he doesn't put up the glitziest stat line, he's undersized for the power forward spot, and much of what he does is lost amidst Boston's team struggles. Put another way: He simply seems better suited as a role player on a contender than a focal point of a rebuilding squad.
Ultimately, there's little Bass can do to exceed expectations. Some Celtics fans will hope he plays well simply to increase his trade value as the season progresses.
A look at our how our forecasters voted:
Read on as our panelists explain their ballots:
The college's men's basketball Twitter account sent the following Tweet on Monday:
The 6-foot-1 Frazier averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game during his senior season at Penn State. The Celtics' roster is already overstocked with bodies, so those attending camp often attend knowing they are more likely auditioning for spots with the team's D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. Frazier will add another point guard to the camp roster, which could help spell the likes of Rajon Rondo and Phil Pressey, while also allowing Marcus Smart to spend more time off the ball in practice situations.
The Celtics currently have 18 players signed for the 2014-15 season and must trim to 15 before the start of the regular season.
The bad news? Olynyk is sporting a noticeable wrap around the right wrist he banged up playing overseas (even though he downplayed the injury last week).
Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: Which Celtics player will most exceed expectations this season?
In our notes to our panel regarding the question, we playfully dubbed this category the Jordan Crawford Award. After all, it was last summer that our panel of experts pegged Crawford as the most likely to be gone before the start of the 2013-14 season, only for him to emerge as maybe the best story of the first two months (before finally being dealt in January).
The Celtics, still in transition mode and again facing an unbalanced roster that's logjammed at multiple spots, likely wouldn't mind if a few players overachieved this season and drove up their own trade values. But which player is most likely to do so? It's telling that our panel came back with seven different names, though Evan Turner was the only one to receive more than two votes.
This writer's ballot? I'm with the crowd on Turner. Expectations have never been lower, particularly since he fizzled after being acquired by the Indiana Pacers at last year's trade deadline. Turner, a former No. 2 overall pick, will be motivated to reestablish his value on a rebuilding team that will give him every opportunity to thrive.
And much like Crawford, you can envision a scenario in which coach Brad Stevens attempts to put Turner in the best position to thrive. Yes, there's a crowd at the swingman spots and Turner is going to have to assert himself early to ensure meaningful playing time, but the Celtics will have an interest in maximizing Turner's potential (depending on the length of his contract, either as a low-cost reclamation project, or as a desirable in-season trade asset).
Heck, if Turner does nothing more than push the likes of Jeff Green to be better, than he's got an excellent chance to exceed most expectations.
A look at our forecasters voting:
Read on as our panelists explains their ballots:
Here's a sample of the best responses:
Rondo is a walking triple double and a fearless player. He is one of my top 5 favorite Celtics of all time. He has always been underrated at what he does -- create for others, rebound well, and defend (at times) at high level. For him to have his best season is to do what he has done every other season: make his team better. In my opinion, the only way to have a career year is for him to increase his long-range shot, and his free throw percentage. Although he showed improvement, I’m not convinced he can punish the defense this way.
His shooting is getting better and better, and it's a contract year on a team lacking in firepower, so he'll be putting up shots. Imagine a whole year of national TV Rondo. He may not go that big, but it should be his year for sure.
Don't get me wrong Rondo will have a very good year but this team isn't structured for him to have the best season of his career. Rondo is an amazing point guard, but is a pass-first point guard who needs scorers around him to succeed. The 2014-2015 roster, at the moment, does not offer much for Rondo to run an offense like he truly can. I do believe he will score a bit more this season and show the league he can do a little more than pass the ball, but he won't have his best season.
With a full offseason of recovery from any lingering effects of the ACL tear, combined with this being a contract year for Rajon, expect him to put up close to career numbers. Averages of 13.7 points/5.6 rebounds/11.7 assists is his best stats taken from different seasons. With less scoring options than his last full season of play (2011-12), expect Rondo to eclipse the 13.7 ppg mark. With an increased offensive role, fans should expect him to shoot around 45-48 percent this year (career high is 50.8). The assist numbers probably won't quite reach the career high of 11.7, but can definitely get close to that. Will Rondo treat every game in his contract year as a nationally televised game and blow away everyone's expectations? We'll find out.
Is it important to you now that you've been through it to talk to other guys if they go down with that same injury?
Noel: Oh yeah, yeah. Definitely, definitely. With all the support and love, certain guys, especially Rajon Rondo -- he was definitely the biggest helper through this whole process, he actually gave me his phone number and told me I could hit him up whenever about it. Being from Boston, watching him growing up, and he went through it and he came back as strong as possible, actually before me, so it gave me a lot of confidence, having his good faith.
Is that kind of crazy, being a Celtics fan growing up, to get to know him on a personal level?
Noel: Yeah, definitely. That's definitely what made it even more of a thrill. Being able to interact with Rondo and get good advice from him, 'cause he's more of a veteran point guard now in this league, gone through so much with the Big 3, he's a world champion, he's a player who's very mature in this league now. So definitely, it was crazy. I took a lot from him.
[Read full Q&A on CBSSports.com]
Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: Will Rajon Rondo have the best season of his career?
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has remained steadfast in his belief that Rondo, further removed from the ACL surgery that he worked his way back from last season, will have the best season of his pro career while serving as the leader of a team in transition.
The Celtics clearly need Rondo to take his game to another level in order to have any shot of exceeding the low expectations that most have for the upcoming season. Not only must Rondo elevate his individual game, but he must find a way to elevate those around him.
Which sets the bar pretty high for his "best" season ever. In the time between his first All-Star season in 2009-10 and up until his ACL injury in January of 2013, Rondo averaged 12.4 points, 10.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game, earning four All-Star nods overall.
There are those that insist Rondo's numbers have been aided by having as many as three Hall of Fame players around him during the Big Three era. We don't necessarily subscribe to the notion that Rondo needs star players around him to thrive, but it certainly doesn't hurt the stat line. Regardless, Rondo's assist numbers might get a jolt with better players, but Rondo should still be able to elevate players of all abilities with his talents.
While much of the defensive attention next season is likely to be focused on Rondo, this writer does believe that Rondo will have his best season. That's not an easy statement considering what Rondo has accomplished, including helping the Celtics to Banner 17 during the 2008 season. But it won't hurt that Rondo is in a contract year and has maintained a desire to test the open market; a stellar season could help him command a monster contract. Stated simpler: Rondo has plenty of reasons to make this the best year of his career.
But more than maybe the money, he has the motivation to distinguish himself as an elite player in this league and to do it without a star-filled supporting cast.
Our 15-member voting panel was split on the issue, as you can see from the voting:
Read on as our panel explains their votes:
A look at how the fan voting broke down (note: Other category represents a small handful of votes for none of the listed options and one single vote for Joel Anthony):
And here's a sample of responses:
Jason (Tyler Zeller)
Sullinger and KO should, and will be, the 1-2 punch at the 4. They are not centers, and no more time should be wasted in their development. Zeller is still a young, developing true center, and will be best served playing alongside the starters you hope he will be playing with for years. Faverani should be getting all the minutes off the bench. There's no point in playing Joel Anthony or an out-of-position player when they are not part of your future at the position.
I expect to see Olynyk start at center (and guard the opposing center) next to Sully at power forward (though he plays more like a traditional bang-down-low center on offense). Another possibility would be Sully at center and Bass at power forward, a lineup Stevens utilized quite a bit last season. The Celtics have shown in the past that they don't trust young players who are new to the team with starting roles and I don't think Zeller is an exception. I think that the young center has a shot of becoming the starting center down the road and playing alongside Sully but I expect him to be competing with Bass to be the first big man off the bench.
Dan (Vitor Faverani)
His defense and rebounding will complement the starting unit better even though he doesn't have much experience. Having Sully or Olynyk as the first big off the bench will provide them with more offensive playmakers.
Ray (Joel Anthony)
We have a lot of versatile players, so he is healthy, long, and can occasionally block shots or disrupt shooters by putting a hand in their face.
Em (None of the Above)Roy Hibbert for Green!
Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: Who starts at center?
The Celtics navigated much of the 2013-14 season without a pure center -- or at least one it could consistently lean on -- forcing first-year coach Brad Stevens to mix and match at the big-man spots, often playing the likes of second-year big man Jared Sullinger out of position.
Boston started the season with rookie Vitor Faverani at the center spot as he offered the best option for pure size (6-foot-11, 260 pounds), but despite some initial success, the move wasn't sustainable and Faverani soon faded from the rotation (and soon spent time bouncing to the D-League before suffering a season-ending injury).
The Celtics didn't hide the fact that not having a pure backline defender was a big reason for their struggles. Both Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens often noted that the lack of a rim protector was maybe Boston's most glaring weakness.
Boston didn't add much pure size this offseason, but it did land a young 7-footer in Tyler Zeller as part of a three-way trade with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers. While our 15-member voting panel was split on two particular options, it leaned slightly towards the idea that Zeller will be the team's starter on opening night.
Our panel was given five options for potential starters, including a combo of Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger (who often shared the floor last season, even though both are power forwards). The other options included Zeller, Faverani, Joel Anthony and Colton Iverson (who has since signed to play in Spain next season).
To our experts, there were only two options. A look at the voting:
This writer's vote? I believe Zeller will get every opportunity to win the starting center job. The Celtics can benefit from allowing Sullinger to play his natural power forward position and, even as the team looks to ramp up Olynyk's playing time, there's potential for him to thrive coming off the bench (while still pairing him with Sullinger at times as a potential early sub).
Zeller's ability to run the floor makes him an intriguing option with the starting group. It comes down to his ability to be a defensive presence and he's already stressed that part of his offseason has been spent on getting stronger and being able to joust with NBA 5s.
Faverani's rehab, and his offseason woes, make his future a little bit more cloudy. He has potential to compete for backup minutes, but the knee injury stunted any development last season and forces the team to start over a bit this year.
Read on to see how our panel responded in our forecast poll:
For the sake of this exercise, both our expert panel and responding readers were asked to ignore Chris Johnson and Chris Babb -- two younger, nonguaranteed players who face uphill battles to stick on the roster. Voting options included (1) Keith Bogans; (2) Brandon Bass; (3) Jeff Green; (4) Joel Anthony; (5) Marcus Thornton; or our voters could use a write-in candidate.
The voting for our reader poll was almost identical to our expert poll, with more than half the fan responders believing the team will take the path of least resistance and simply waive (or trade) Keith Bogans and his own bloated nonguaranteed deal before the season tips.
A look at the voting:
And here's a handful of notable responses:
J. Michael (Bass)
Bass has everything a contender who needs a scoring forward option needs. Bass also performs well on defense when the team he is playing on plays defense. I bet his talents are maximized by a reduced role. He is not a starter.
Bobby P (Green)
The Pacers have two options for this season: blow it up by trading David West and anyone else who can be flipped for assets, then tank and try again when Paul George comes back. Or trade for some help on the wing, and try to scratch the sixth or seventh seed in a suddenly competitive Eastern Conference playoff picture. I think Green is probably the best (extremely) available scoring forward. Here's hoping the Pacers stay competitive and send Luis Scola's partially guaranteed deal, an expiring, and a pick for Green. This clears the logjam on the wing for the Celtics.
Not sure Ainge can move any of these guys before October, but Joel Anthony is most expendable player on roster.
This is obvious. Keith Bogans will be off the roster to get total salaries below the luxury-tax line. Bass, Green, Thornton, and Anthony will be around all year because no team will give up value for them and it is better to just let their salaries come off the books in 2015.
The Celtics are scheduled to play a measly one national TV game when ESPN broadcasts a visit from the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 14. Boston does not have a single appearance among the 68 games scheduled to be spotlighted on TNT and ABC during the 2014-15 season. Last season, Boston had three scheduled ESPN games.
Here are the other games, dates and numbers that stand out from the release of the team's 2014-15 schedule:
The opener: For the first time since the 2010-11 season, the Celtics will open their season at home with a visit from the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, Oct. 29. We had to wait until late January last season for the return of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Assuming Garnett is back in Brooklyn this season, we won't have to wait nearly as long for his return visit. (Garnett missed the other game in Boston last season due to injury.) For recently acquired guard Marcus Thornton, his first regular-season game in green is likely to come against his last employer. The Celtics catch a two-day break before visiting Houston for the first road tilt of the year in Game 2 of the season (reminder: Boston was 0-15 against Western Conference foes last season).
Cleveland rocks (again): After a busy offseason that included the return of LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers are once again a marquee opponent and may represent the most in-demand ticket for the 2014-15 season. The Cavaliers visit Boston on Nov. 14 (two days after Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder pass through) and again on April 12. (Meanwhile, the Celtics visit Cleveland on March 3 and April 10.) If all goes according to plan, that November meeting should be the first time Kevin Love visits Boston since his much-publicized romp through the Hub in early June.
The rivalry: Sure, both the Celtics and Lakers are in rebuilding mode, but those two dates are always among the first circled on the team's schedule. Boston visits Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 22 as part of a three-game, post-All-Star/post-trade deadline road trip out west.
Deadline day: Speaking of deadline day (Thursday, Feb. 19), it comes at the tail end of the NBA's new extended All-Star break. Boston closes its first half on Wednesday, Feb. 11 with a visit from the Hawks and doesn't play again until Feb. 20 in Sacramento. Go ahead and start the "Will Rajon Rondo make the trip to Sacramento this year?" quips.
Off on Christmas (again): Further reflecting the team's rebuilding nature, Boston will be idle on Christmas for the second straight season. The Celtics are not among the 10 teams spotlighted on maybe the league's biggest regular-season stage.
Post-holiday treats: The Celtics do have a couple of notable post-holiday tilts as the team hosts Chicago the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) and the Nets the day after Christmas (Dec. 26). Both games are a 1 p.m. tip, as is a New Year's Eve visit from the Kings.
Pierce's return: Old friend Paul Pierce (and Kris Humphries too) will visit only once as a member of the Washington Wizards on Dec. 7. The Celtics visit Washington on Dec. 8 and Dec. 27.
Champs in town: The defending champion San Antonio Spurs visit TD Garden on Nov. 30 in a Sunday matinee (1 p.m. tipoff).
Back-to-backs: A quick count pegs the Celtics with 18 back-to-backs this season (not that it's a huge issue with a younger roster). Regardless, that's down a bit from 20 last season. Heck, Boston had six back-to-backs last November alone but will play barely that number over the first three months of the season. Things ramp up in the second half of the season, including five back-to-backs in March. Boston must capitalize on a forgiving schedule early in the season to build momentum (and confidence).
The finale: The Celtics wrap up the 2014-15 season on April 15 in Milwaukee before an intriguing summer where all the fireworks chatter ought to be rekindled.
See Boston's entire 2014-15 schedule.
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