Earlier this week, ESPN Boston unveiled our 14 predictions for calendar year 2014, which included a couple gazes into the crystal ball for the Boston Celtics. Throwing caution to the wind, here's our full list of five fearless predictions for 2014:
1. Rondo returns in late January, C's stay in hunt for Atlantic Division title: Rajon Rondo returned to full-contact activities earlier this month and is ramping up toward game action. While he's been coy on a possible return date and even hinted recently it might not be until February, here's guessing he jumps back into the fray next month (maybe, say, that Jan. 26 visit from the Brooklyn Nets?) and his infusion ought to help an inconsistent Boston squad stay in the mix in the Atlantic Division (especially with all the injuries and struggles of their division rivals).
2. Sully gets a trip to New Orleans: Alright, this one isn't so bold because Jared Sullinger is almost certainly ticketed for the league's rookie/sophomore game. But if the Celtics are able to snag an All-Star berth via coach selection or injury replacement, maybe Sullinger sneaks onto the East roster. He's been Boston's best two-way player through the first two months of the season.
3. The Celtics make the second round of the playoffs: It's hard to forecast how this season will play out in December and there's always the chance that Boston stumbles a bit (like it's done lately) and sets its sights on the lottery instead. But let's assume Boston finds a way to win the Atlantic Division (and maybe beefs up the roster at the trade deadline; resuming that Omer Asik pursuit?). Does anyone other than the top 2 seeds in the East scare you? They shouldn't and Boston could find a way to win a first-round series against another middle seed.
4. Stevens finishes in top 3 for Coach of the Year: If the Celtics make the playoffs, Stevens is a lock for one of the top spots in an award that often goes to the coach of the team that overachieves most during the season. Portland's Terry Stotts or Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek will be in the mix as well based on early returns, but Stevens has morphed what computer simulations suggested could be the worst defense in the league into a top-10 unit, and accomplishments like that will help Stevens land on plenty of ballots.
5. Boston beefs up the roster this offseason: The Celtics have enough assets to add some impact talent this summer. Start with two first-round draft picks (their own and likely Atlanta's via Brooklyn), then add the $10.3 million trade exception from the Nets trade, and the typical midlevel/biannual options. Also consider that Keith Bogans' $5.3 million salary is nonguaranteed next year, so the team could either waive him for financial flexibility or trade his deal and get a proven player of similar value in return.