Summer Forecast: Biggest underachiever?
August, 19, 2014
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsEach weekday for a three-week span, our summer panel of prognosticators -- a motley crew featuring our friends in the Celtics blogging community -- will join forces to tell you how the 2014-15 season will play out for Boston. We'll gaze into our crystal balls and attempt to answer all your questions before this season's team even hits the floor together for the first time.
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:
Jay King, Masslive.com (Jeff Green)
Green put a lot of pressure on himself last year to become a go-to guy. Instead, he posted the worst true shooting percentage since his rookie season, with defensive effort that could be euphemized as inconsistent. Looking back on the small forward's career, one could argue he has only posted one above-average season: in 2011-12, when he was in a relatively perfect situation, alongside stars that allowed him to flourish as a third option. His situation on this team isn't close to perfect. Rajon Rondo's return to full health should help, but Green needs to show a lot more than he did last year. Otherwise, he will underachieve relative to his potential. Again.
Tom Westerholm, CelticsHub (Marcus Thornton)
Green is the easy choice here, but expectations are pretty low for him at this point. In fact, that's true of most of the roster -- only Rondo is realistically expected to have a very good season. For everyone else, simply showing signs of future usefulness will be good enough. Thornton is a shooting guard who takes a ton of shots at a relatively inefficient clip and has virtually no long-term usefulness to this team. Don't expect Celtics fans to fall in love.
Kevin O'Connor (Chris Johnson)
I’m in the minority since I really don’t think Chris Johnson is that talented outside of his maniacal hustling (and I love him for that). But shooting inconsistencies have plagued Johnson since college, and if he’s not hitting shots he’s not going to play. His man-to-man and off-ball defense have a long way to go, so it’s hard to see him winning much playing time over the other wings; he might not even make the team.
Jay O., Red's Army (Avery Bradley)
This comes with a caveat. I'm only picking AB here because so many people were over-the-top outraged by the contract extension he got this summer. Naturally, that always translates to heavier scrutiny, and unless AB puts up monster numbers and plays 82 games, unfortunately he will disappoint the majority.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (Brandon Bass)
It kills me to mention Bass here. He was one of my team MVP's last year and he's been a pillar of consistency and steady improvement for all three of his tears in Boston. It won't necessarily be his fault that his numbers will be down, but with the team rebuilding and his contract expiring, his playing time will decline, his production will take a hit, and he'll probably be gone by the deadline.
Mark Vandeusen, CelticsLife (Evan Turner)
I'm eagerly awaiting to hear the still undisclosed terms of Turner's contract, and I really hope it's for just one year, or includes a team option for a second. Turner posted 17.4 points per game while playing for the pathetic Sixers last season, but then his scoring average plummeted to 7.1 points per night after he was dealt to the Pacers. I think Turner is the classic case of a guy who puts up numbers on a bad team just because somebody has to.
Julian Edlow, WEEI.com (Jeff Green)
Uncle Jeff will have a few nights where he is one of the biggest overachievers in the league. Reference his 43-point performance head-to-head with LeBron. The problem? For each time that happens Green will give us a handful of four point games where we forget he was even on the court. The talent is there. But unfortunately Green is one of the biggest teases in the NBA.
Padraic O'Connor, CelticsLife.com (Kelly Olynyk)
Avery Bradley's sophomore season was great. Expectations for him were relatively low considering he was playing behind Ray Allen. When Allen got hurt, Bradley emerged as a defensive powerhouse and secured a future with Boston. This past season, sophomore Jared Sullinger became a potential double-double machine every night. I do not see Kelly Olynyk making the same kind of sophomore jump during the 2014-15 season.
Cory Prescott, CLNS Radio (Evan Turner)
For being such a great college player, Turner’s career has followed suit in a recent line of failed number two draft picks. Last season, Turner put up good stats on the surface. But, considering Philadelphia led the league in pace of play, those numbers were relatively inflated. Not mentioning his failed stint in Indiana at the end of last season, Turner shot just 29% from three with the 76ers in 54 games. The Celtics weren’t exactly lighting it up from long range, and Rajon Rondo has never been a particularly effective three point shooter either. Rondo is best with the ball in his hands, but guess what? So is Turner. Couple this with a well noted poor attitude, and Turner may wind up a disappointment.
Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (Marcus Thornton)
It’s been a generally downward trajectory for Thornton since his early peak. He is in a good position to find a key role on this squad, but he had the same situation in Brooklyn. While Brad Stevens seems to be getting the reputation of healer of guards, Thornton hasn’t shown much to make him project better than a glorified MarShon Brooks.
Chris Jones, Red's Army (James Young)
I'd love for Young to prove me wrong on this. I think he'll produce in gaps and have decent scoring nights -- but I also believe it'll be a bumpy first season for Young, who's only 19 and may see less minutes as Boston tries to pump up Marcus Thornton's trade value for a contender.
KWAPT- Red's Army.com (Kevin Love)
Love will simply never -- oops ... my bad. Nevermind.
Your turn: We invite you join the conversation. Sound off in the comments with who you believe will be the Celtics' biggest underachiever this season.
(Chris Forsberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESPNForsberg. Hop HERE to submit a question for his Celtics Mailbag.)