The Celtics started their 2014-2015 season on Wednesday at the TD Garden with an impressive win over the Brooklyn Nets. Here are a whole bunch of thoughts TheBostonInsider has for the Celtics and the entire NBA.
Brad Stevens enters his second season as Celtics coach with one established star, Rajon Rondo. Rondo is questionable to play on opening night after breaking his hand a few weeks ago. He also might be traded at some point this season as he is entering the last year of his contract and may not want to play out the rest of his prime for a franchise that is in transition.
If Rondo is healthy and if he stays in Boston, I honestly think that his play and Stevens' coaching could make the Celtics a playoff team in the tepid Eastern Conference.
You got that right, this could be a playoff team.
The Celtics back court will be one of the better defensive groups in the league. Rondo is a very good defensive guard and Avery Bradley have proven to be one of the better perimeter defenders in his four professional seasons. Add in rookie Marcus Smart and you have the makings of an excellent defensive group. While the first game should not be over emphasized, Stevens used Rondo, Bradley, and Smart together quite a bit and it caused havoc to the Nets offense.
Off the bench, Marcus Thornton will provide back court scoring and Evan Turner's multidimensional skill set should be an asset as well. Keep an eye out for the team's other first round pick, James Young, as the season progresses because he has potential to develop into a legit NBA wing player.
Up front, the Celtics have some big men who can score. Jared Sullinger should be a fringe All-Star. The third-year power forward out of Ohio State can score in the paint, knock down three-pointers, and is a very good rebounder. Second-year forward Kelly Olynyk is a skilled 7-footer with deep shooting range. Brandon Bass is an double-digit scorer off the bench. Tyler Zeller gives them another 7-footer with offensive skill. While this unit will be taken advantage off defensively and will struggle to protect the basket if the perimeter defense breaks down, the offensive talent it possesses should complement the team and benefit from Stevens ability to create offensive mismatches.
I'm saying 44-38 and at worst an exciting first round playoff series.
Of course, if Rondo is traded this is not a playoff team. While he's not on the level of a LeBron James or Kevin Durant, Rondo is an elite player capable of making a mediocre team into a competitive playoff team.
They should re-sign him and build their next championship contender around him.
If they don't plan on keeping him and trade him, the hope here is that it's for draft picks and/or young talent.
My pick to win the East is the Bulls. I'm counting on a healthy return of Derrick Rose, the signing of Pau Gasol, and rookies Nikola Mirotic to bolster what was already a contending team and lead them to the first Chicago championship that did not revolve around Michael Jordan.
The Cavaliers will be in the mix but are a year away. The Knicks, Wizards, Hornets, Raptors, and Hawks will also be joining the Celtics in the postseason.
In the West, the Spurs will hold off the Warriors, Clippers, Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Mavericks, and Thunder to win a third straight conference title but will fail to repeat as champions, losing to the Bulls.
MVP? LeBron James.
Rookie? Nerlens Noel.
Sixth Man? Taj Gibson.
Coach? Tom Thibodeau,
Defensive Player? Dwight Howard.