For the Boston Celtics, the word of the 2014-15 season is rebuild.
It's a label that the C's will have expected after they spent the off-season making small deals that didn't warrant many headlines or segments on Pardon The Interruption. With a great deal of aplomb however, Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have made some moves that bolsters their team that little bit more. All of their acquisitions have hopes for the future, but little pressure for them to deliver in the present.
If they want to keep their place in a potential banner winning team however, they will need to earn their keep. Brad Stevens is certainly not the kind of coach who would play favorites. Fortunately for all of the new blood, they all have qualities that can be exploited to create quite a formidable force.
The Steals of Marcus Smart
On some teams, Marcus Smart would be considered one of the starting guards. However, when Avery Bradley resigned for the C's to a lucrative contract, it became clear that at least for the time being, Smart was going to be coming off the bench. What Smart can provide from that position though is some all-round play that the Celtics will find very beneficial.
He didn't have the best of times during Summer League, but his defensive play is something that will come in handy. He is quite a formidable force to play against, and his college numbers support that. He had 89 steals over the course of 31 games last season for Oklahoma State, adding to his 188 steals in total over two years. He's probably only going to get just over 20 minutes a game in the NBA for now, but if he can take full advantage of them, there is no reason why he can't get nearly two steals a game.
Predicted Steals: 1.7 per game
The Blocks of Tyler Zeller
Zeller has quite a decent opportunity to make the starting lineup for the Celtics. That's certainly more than he got in Cleveland last year. He'll be going up against Kelly Olynyk, who has a totally different style of the playing the game. For that reason alone, he'll probably get to see many minutes on the court this season.
The great thing about Zeller is that he has the ability to score double-digits when he's on the court, and he can also make himself a human brick wall on defense. The seven-footer has an amazing ability to block shots, something that would become quite an asset to a C's team defending a lead. So many times last season the Celtics had a lead and then lost it because they simply didn't have enough gas in the tank to hold off their opposition. Zeller – who had 70 blocks in the 2012-13 season and has 108 in total in the NBA – could be a big step towards preventing that happening too often this season.
Predicted Blocks: 1.5 per game
The Rebounds of James Young
As long as Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green are on the roster at TD Garden, there is very little chance of James Young seeing much action. The roster is fairly well stocked in the areas Young applies his trade, so he'll probably find himself making the occasional trip to Maine now and then.
But there is no need to rush Young. He's still only 19-years-old, and needs a little bit of time to mature into a fully fledged NBA player. The Maine Red Claws will provide the perfect place for Young to get the experience he needs. While playing for Kentucky, Young had 41 offensive rebounds out of a total of 171. After a couple of years in Maine, Brad Stevens will be hoping he can provide those kind of number in the NBA.
Predicted Rebounds: 1.9 per game
The Outside Shooting of Marcus Thornton
Thornton is one of those players that you can see not staying around the Garden for very long. After being acquired after a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, the general consensus seems to be that he will be traded away to a willing team when the February trade deadline approaches.
If that is the case, then the Celtics need to take advantage of his presence while he is there. The C's certainly need a lot of help with outside shooting, so Thornton will certainly be able to help them in that particular area. During last season with the Nets, Thornton was .615 with shots from between 10 and 16 feet away from the basket. With three-pointers, he netted .380. Granted, he got these numbers from just 26 games, but they are impressive all the same. There is no reason why he can't knock down a few threes for the Celtics while he is in town.
Predicted Three-point Percentage: .369
The All-Round Play of Evan Turner
At the moment, it's all still rather unclear what kind of role Evan Turner is expected to occupy on the Celtics roster. Ultimately, it will probably come down to how he performs on the court whenever he gets his chance. Ainge and Stevens are not really taking any risks by having him on the roster, but the potential for him to be an integral part of the team is certainly an appealing one.
The reason Turner is worth keeping around is his all-round play. He can score, grab rebounds, and play some good defense. The only time he really has struggled is when he is not on the ball. He's also quite a durable player as well, only missing six games with injury during the four years he has spent in the NBA. The Celtics may have quite a clogged rotation, but that doesn't mean that Turner can't force his way into the team and grab quite a few minutes. Out of all the newcomers, Turner is arguably the most likely to do that.
Predicted Stats Per Game: 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 25.5 minutes
All stats found on basketball-reference.com.