Everyone from ESPN to NBA.com has the Boston Celtics falling short not just of the playoffs, but being one of the worst teams in the NBA. Many experts have the Celtics trading Rondo at some point in the year and completely demolishing the fabric of the team for the future. It seems that for this season, it's believed that Boston won't be near the playoffs, and fans should prepare for a very rough few years before they can return to a contending team. Let me make one thing clear Celtics fans...
The Sky is not falling in Boston.
I absolutely don't get why everyone is so low on the Celtics this year. And before you say I'm a Celtics fan, I'm not. I'm a Pelicans fan. Yet having to watch the playoffs for the past couple of years without my team in it, I can tell you one thing. Teams with storied franchises find a way to make the playoffs. Now while I think their rivals in the Lakers won't be in the playoffs, the Celtics are a different story. Sure, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are gone, and Boston is not nearly the team they were when they made the Finals years ago, they have some solid players, a new coach who is known for making the best with what he has, and Rajon Rondo won't be out as long as many would think. While Rondo will most likely the season opener, Rondo could be back around Mid-November.
There are plenty of reasons to believe why the Celtics should be back in the playoffs this year. For one, they're in the Eastern Conference, which is still pretty iffy. Other than Miami, Chicago, Indiana, New York and Brooklyn, the other three spots are left to debate. Many suggest Cleveland who has many young players such as Kyrie, Thompson, Bennett and Waiters who might need another year or two to jell together. Others say Washington, who took a big hit losing Okafor to injury, working with rookie Otto Porter at SF with big expectations, and the return of John Wall. Then there's Atlanta, who should be favored to be the sixth seed with newly acquired Paul Millsap, yet still huge holes at SF and SG which a team like Boston could exploit.
Then there's the sleeper picks...Detroit? A team with 3 great big men, Brandon Jennings, and a lot of unproven players will be a challenge to make into a playoff team, especially being put together just this offseason. Toronto gave a push to try and make the playoffs last year by trading for Rudy Gay, and could be dangerous with DeRozan, Lowry and Valancuinas, yet is another young team that has missing pieces of their own including struggles in clutch moments by all players. And then the four other teams being Orlando, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and completely demolished Philly.
So the storied Boston Celtics will have to beat out the Pistons, Raptors, Wizards, and Cavs to make the postseason....so why is everyone counting them out again? These teams haven't proved anything of late, and none of them stand out with a coach that bodes confidence. Sure their rosters might have "more talent", yet this league isn't just about stockpiling talent and turning it into a title team, contrary to what the Heat have done the past two years. Right now, I would put Atlanta at the 6th Seed, Boston as the 7, and Cleveland at the 8. Call me crazy, but I just don't know about the Cavs beating out Boston in a regular season format.
Let's just gander at that Celtics roster shall we?
Point Guard is the issue I have until Rondo returns. Avery Bradley is a great defensive player, yet offensively really struggled running the PG. Yet this team will be looking at a defensive gameplan if you know anything about Brad Stevens. Jordan Crawford could very well see time at Point Guards with Rondo injured, and Phil Pressey might be on sleeper watch after he put up an exciting performance against the Knicks in the Preseason recently.
At Shooting Guard this team has plenty of viable options. Marshon Brooks has high expectations after being acquired from Brooklyn and will be expected to pick up the scoring load. Courtney Lee will have to be a strong option off the bench scoring wise. Last year was a decent year, but with Pierce and KG gone, he'll have to step up.
Jeff Green will be the star of this team. Coming back from heart surgery, he provided a huge spark for this team, and for the league only overshadowed by Paul George's sudden emergence. Green should have another real solid year. Gerald Wallace will also provide a veteran leader for Boston, and a guy whose effort will give a boost to Boston on both ends.
Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger should be a good battle as to who should start at PF. Bass has been a big contributor for the Celtics for a while now, yet Sully has a lot of potential, proving that with his outstanding work on the glass last year before his injury that ended his year.
Rookie Kelly Olynyk will be the most interesting story on this team. The only play who could be seen as a Center on this team, the young guy will be expected to log plenty of minutes in his first year, and carry some of the offensive load on the team. Kris Humphries can also play well and could be a strong backup at the Center spot.
This roster isn't an offensive explosion, but you're telling me Toronto or Washington is going to be able to put their pieces together enough to beat out Boston for a playoff spot? I find that a bit hard to believe.
Let me also say why this team won't trade Rondo. One, Rondo WANTS TO BE IN BOSTON. This is his team. He wants to prove he can be a leader. And two, the market for him is low. Maybe before his injury last year they could have stolen some value from a desperate team, but an ACL injury really hurts trade value and Boston should at least give Rajon a chance to prove he can come back and be a big part of a pretty decent team.
Now sure, some things are going to have to fall in for them to make the playoffs just like any other team. For one, Brooks is going to have to step up his game BIG TIME. He needs to be a scorer every night, and hit his shots. Green will need to continue to be a force to be reckoned with in a Conference where quality Small Forwards are everywhere. Sullinger and Rondo will have to return from harsh injuries and be able to play the way they did before those injuries. The point is, it's definitely not panic mode just yet. THE SEASON HASN'T STARTED.
Yes, this team isn't a title contender. Yes, at best this team is going to be looking at a playoff seed. And Yes, they could tank for a great draft pick and give up on this year. If you believe Brad Stevens would take a job just to tank for the first year however, you haven't watched much of Butler Basketball have you? This team is going to play extremely tough, and they are going to be in the conversation for at least an 8-seed come March. So can we stop with all this "Boston is Tanking" talk? Can we stop saying that for this season it's already over for Boston before a regular season game has been played? Boston will be fine this year. Count on it.