The Boston Celtics wrapped up their preseason with a 2-6 record after Wednesday’s victory over the Brooklyn Nets. After a major overhaul to the roster in the offseason and a rookie coach at the helm, preseason 2013 was even more important than usual as coach Brad Stevens tried to find the right line-up combinations and worked to create an identity for his young team. As will likely be the theme of the season, the Celtics’ inexperience showed through their eight preseason games but there were a number of positives to take away from the exhibitions. Let’s check out the good, the bad and the ugly from the 2013 preseason.
Vitor Faverani Is The Real Deal
Few knew what to expect when the Celtics announced the signing of 25 year old rookie Vitor Faverani in the offseason, but the Brazilian big man has been the surprise of the preseason thus far. The 6’11 big man has competed hard on both ends of the floor, showing a surprising skill set and making the most of every opportunity he has had to adjust to the NBA. In just 15 minutes per game, Faverani has scored 7.3 points, pulled down 4.4 rebounds, blocked 1.25 shots and converted at .511 percent from the field. As the only real center on the roster, Faverani has shown he may have the potential to start for the Celtics in the middle when the regular season kicks off against Toronto on Oct. 30. He displayed what he could do with extended minutes with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocked shots in the team’s victory over Brooklyn.
Phil Pressey Can Play
As an undersized, undrafted rookie point guard, Phil Pressey was always going to battle to find a place in the league. However, with an impressive showing in summer league and now proving he can make a difference in the preseason, Pressey may have found a home in Boston and the Celtics could desperately use a playmaker with All-Star Rajon Rondo still out with injury. As the only “true” point guard on the Celtics’ active roster, there has been a noticeable difference in the offense whenever Pressey checks into the game. His ability to handle the ball and make accurate passes to set up his teammates are a welcome sight for a team predominantly relying on shooting guards to set up the offense. Pressey has made some impressive highlight-reel passes to go along with steady, controlled play at the point guard position. He is still prone to make rookie mistakes but the young guard out of Missouri has proven he can give the Celtics’ good minutes in his first season of NBA action.
Jared Sullinger Is Back
He may be out of shape, he may be taking way too many three pointers, but Jared Sullinger is back for the Celtics and will be a huge part of the 2013-14 campaign if he can stay healthy. The second year forward is still far from peak condition after recovering from back surgery last season, but has shown flashes of the player that caused such excitement in Boston during his rookie year. He played in seven of the Celtics’ eight preseason games, missing the last due to illness and displayed his great touch around the basket and natural feel for rebounding the ball. In just 20 minutes per game he averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds, at times having to play significant stretches undersized at the center position. As the team readies itself for the start of the regular season and Sullinger plays himself into game shape, expect big things from the former Buckeye as the season rolls on.
Preseason or not, teams want to win games. With a new coach at the helm and a bevy of fresh faces on the roster it was always going to take time for the Celtics this season and the preseason has shown they still have a long way to go. They lost two games by a single basket, showing their inexperience down the stretch missing opportunities to win or take the game into overtime. Coach Stevens has been experimenting with his starting line-up and different combinations on the floor trying to assess what his personnel can do, while the players are adjusting to their new teammates. It is no surprise to see just two victories in eight games for the Celtics but losing games is never a positive and the preseason has provided a reality check for the team on just how hard the season could be.
Jeff Green Still Lacks Assertiveness
One of the biggest question marks hanging over the Celtics’ 2013-14 season is where are they going to generate offense until Rondo comes back from Injury. A look at the roster and one would assume that responsibility falls firmly on the shoulders of swingman Jeff Green, who seems poised to break out with unlimited opportunities this season. There have never been questions over Green’s talent level, but his assertiveness has often come under fire. So far in preseason it has been much of the same from Green, which could be a troubling sign for the Celtics going into the season. In 24 minutes a game Green has managed just 10 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2 assists while he has shot a terrible .325 from the floor. The Celtics will be hoping that when the regular season begins Green will adopt a more aggressive mindset as he will be relied on often to carry the team offensively.
Kelly Olynyk Can’t Set A Screen
Rookie big man Kelly Olynyk entered the league as seemingly one of the most NBA-ready players in the 2013 draft and while his versatile offensive repertoire is well up to NBA standards, the rest of his game needs work before he can be a reliable contributor. The most glaring weakness is Olynyk’s game right now, more so than his perceived defensive deficiencies has been his inability to set a screen. Olynyk has struggled to make any contact with defenders when setting a pick, is not getting his guard any room to work with and this will be exploited by NBA defenses every time. Olynyk has a great jump shot for a big man and the pick-and-pop setting seems to be one way he will be able to effectively get his shot off, however before he does that he will need to learn how to set a hard pick and give himself, and his ball handler space to work with.
Wallace Calls Out His Teammates
Veteran Gerald Wallace blasted the team’s effort after a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Having one of your most experienced players calling out his teammates before the season even begins may seem less than ideal, but since Wallace’s public comments the team has reportedly practiced hard and finished the preseason with a victory over the Nets. Still, for a rookie coach and a young team, hopefully this will be the last time they have one of their own veterans attacking the effort of his own players.
Bradley At Point Guard
Due to Rondo’s injury and the lack of depth at point guard, the Celtics have been forced to endure with the experiment of running Avery Bradley at the position despite his obvious flaws running an offense. Bradley is an elite defender and good scorer off the ball but does not possess the playmaking or ball handling skills to run the point and it is painfully obvious when he is forced to do so. In the preseason he has averaged just 2.5 assists to 1.75 turnovers in 25 minutes and as mentioned earlier, the team has looked far more fluid when an undrafted rookie has been running the offense. Bradley is still a great young player and a core piece of the Celtics’ future but this once again proves that it must be at shooting guard for him to excel.
Courtney Lee, In General
Quite simply, Courtney Lee’s time in Boston is running out. Unfortunately for Danny Ainge and the rest of the front office, his play has been anything but enticing for teams looking to trade for a shooting guard. Many thought Lee would be a solid contributor when former coach Doc Rivers championed a trade to get him on the roster, however he has been unable to produce consistently and that has continued in the preseason. Lee has scored just 6.1 points in over 24 minutes a game while shooting a dismal .327 from the field. His shot is off, he looks out of sync and may need a fresh start to get his career back on track. Problem is that he will need a stretch of good games to improve his value if the Celtics hope to get anything in return for him in a deal.
Tags: Avery Bradley Boston Brad Stevens Celtics Courtney Lee Dany Ainge Gerald Wallace Jared Sullinger Jeff Green Kelly Olynyk NBA Phil Pressey Preseason Rajon Rondo Review The Bad The Good The Ugly Vitor Faverani