Playoff Result: Lost in First Round
Key Additions: Kelly Olynyk (draft), Gerald Wallace (trade), Kris Humphries (trade), Brad Stevens (coach)
Key Losses: Paul Pierce (trade), Kevin Garnett (trade), Doc Rivers (trade), Jason Terry (trade)
Predicted 2013-14 Record: 25-57 (13th in East)*
What to Expect: Boston faces their first year of a full rebuild. Gone are veterans Pierce and Garnett along with former head coach Doc Rivers.
The Celtics face a tough season of growing pains with a young core of developing players and injured stars. Rajon Rondo will be returning from an ACL tear that put him on the shelf midway through last year. Jared Sullinger underwent back surgery days after the team found out about Rondo’s knee. Rookie stud Kelly Olynyk is currently dealing with plantar fasciitis, forcing him to miss playing for the Canadian national team this summer.
This is also a team that struggled mightily on the defensive end with Garnett on the bench. They could rank near the worst in the league, defensively, while they attempt to establish a new identity under Stevens. It will also be interesting to see how the offense develops early on, with Rondo assumingly still recovering from his knee injury.
Matchup with the Hawks: After taking the season series 3-1 last season, Boston will take a large step back this year.
Both teams bring in a few new, intriguing pieces, but the Hawks are the more established squad from top to bottom. Coach Bud has pro experience, while Stevens is largely unproven. The Hawks inked two stud power forwards in Paul Milsap and Elton Brand, while the Celtics brought in Olynyk (draft), Vitor Faverani (overseas acquisition) and Gerald Wallace (on the decline).
Matchup wise, Rondo’s health obviously tilts the scales. His knee injury could really hold back his dynamic game this season and he could struggle from opening night if he returns too early. Teague and rookie Dennis Schroeder will be a viable one-two punch as solid, young ball-handlers. Backing up Rondo is undrafted rookie Phil Pressey, who could be a decent option, but isn’t on the level Schroeder has displayed thus far.
Jeff Green holds the advantage over Atlanta’s Kyle Korver as a do-it-all guy, while Korver’s three-point shooting will be what he’s relied on for. Courtney Lee is coming off a down season at shooting guard and Lou Williams is coming off ACL surgery, so we’ll call this one a wash.
The Hawks bigs (Al Horford/Milsap/Brand) will pound the smaller Celtic front court as Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass will surely struggle to find their ground early on. Horford had an excellent season last year and should excel with two likeminded bigs playing next to him. Humphries dedication to the game is questionable (just watch his introduction presser) and Bass’ struggles on both ends of the floor leave a huge gap in terms of talent level between the two teams. Sullinger could be the answer for Boston’s early struggles, but most of that depends on how his back is and if he’s back in game shape.
The Hawks faced a similar situation as Boston when they shipped Joe Johnson and allowed Josh Smith to walk, which was a smaller-scaled rebuild. They’ve done a remarkable job to stay competitive and should take three of their four meetings with the Celtics.
*predicted record based on Bo’s ESPN Forecast projections for every team