The Boston Celtics have entered training camp and suddenly the 2013-14 NBA season is just around the corner. With the overhaul to the Celtics’ roster in the offseason, the team’s frontcourt is suddenly deep with young talent and the fight for two starting positions may come down to performances in preseason. At power forward, the Celtics’ have an experienced veteran with two young guns looking to take over and lead the team into the next chapter in franchise history. As we break down the 2013-14 Celtics’ roster, here is a look at what to expect from the power forward position this season.
While inexperience and injuries hang over much of the Celtics’ frontcourt, it appears that Brandon Bass could reclaim a familiar role as the starting power forward to start the 2013-14 campaign. The 28-year-old Bass started 69 of his 81 appearances for the Celtics last season; He was replaced by rookie Jared Sullinger in the starting lineup, but that was short lived with Sullinger’s back injury shutting him down for the season. In 2012-13, Bass averaged 8.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and an assist in 27.6 minutes per game. Bass showed an improvement on the defensive end last season to complement his great mid-range shooting touch. He provides good floor spacing and experience but at 28 and with more than $13 million left on his contract for the next two seasons, he will likely be a priority for general manager Danny Ainge to move in trades.
Bass has proven shooting ability and is tremendous from the free throw line, shooting 86 percent last season. He could be a valuable role player for a playoff team in need of frontcourt depth and should have some value in a trade if he starts the season well. He will miss the creative passing of Rajon Rondo, whom he played off extremely well, and struggles to create his own shot. With young players gunning for more minutes as the season goes on, Bass may find himself as the odd man out before the trade deadline, but for now he provides new coach Brad Stevens with a proven, experienced player at the 4 spot and gives the younger guys a veteran to battle with for that prized starting role. With five players deserving of big minutes in the frontcourt, Bass is unlikely to get more minutes than last season so expect something around nine to 10 points and five rebounds and a mention in every trade rumor coming out of Boston.
Second-year big man Jared Sullinger returns after a solid rookie year that was unfortunately cut short by injury. Sullinger, who the Celtics took 21st overall in the 2012 draft, was one of the most highly regarded prospects going into the draft, but back issues caused him to drop and were also the cause for his season-ending surgery. Sullinger played in 45 games his rookie year, starting in five, and showing a great deal of promise as a rebounder and scorer. He averaged 5.9 points and six rebounds in limited minutes, but showed he was capable of much more when given extended time. In the five games he played more than 30 minutes, Sullinger scored 9.6 points and was in double figures on the boards with 10.6.
Per minute, Sullinger is among the leagues’ best rebounders and his natural gift on the boards is likely to earn him significant playing time once his body is back to 100 percent. While he is participating in practice already, Sullinger has admitted to being a long way from game shape and it is still under a cloud whether he will be ready for opening day. One of the Celtics’ key pieces going forward and one of the most productive big men on the roster when healthy, Sullinger will likely finish the season in the starting lineup, but the question remains how soon he will return to full health. Expect a slow start, but once the season wears on and Sullinger is playing big minutes he should be one of the biggest contributors on a young Boston team. Expect season averages around the eight-point, seven-rebound mark, but a huge boost in production after the All-Star break.
Rookie big man Kelly Olynyk has wasted no time making a good impression in Boston after an outstanding performance in the Orlando Summer League and appearances at countless events across the city in the offseason. Danny Ainge traded up in the 2013 draft in order to select Olynyk 13th and early signs have been great with the rookie leading the summer league team with 18 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game, all in just more than 24 minutes. Olynyk showed the full range of skills in Orlando with his ball handling, outside shooting and craftiness in the post. He has a natural feel for the game and it won’t take long for him to become a contributor in the NBA.
A foot injury has slowed down his momentum somewhat leading into his rookie campaign, but the team is hopeful he will be fine by opening night. He has the size and ability to play at either power forward or center, but will need to work on his defense and rebounding in order to earn consistent minutes. If the foot injury doesn’t slow him down to start the season, Olynyk could be a dark horse for the Rookie of the Year award as he should be able to score the ball immediately. He could start slowly as he adjusts to the league and recovers from his injury but an 11-point, five-rebound season from Olynyk would seem reasonable, with the chance at bigger numbers if Ainge decides to move some of the veterans at the trade deadline.