Tag Archives: Rajon Rondo

Brad Stevens and Boston Skip Tanking for Winning

The Boston Celtics are far from a focal point of conversation these days as the NBA season inches closer the playoffs, yet it’s hardly been a disappointment. You’d be hard pressed to find a single Celtics fan who really believed this team would have any realistic shot at being a playoff team. Trading Rondo and Jeff Green were inevitable moves that most C’s fans (myself included) thought were going to improve chances of “tanking” the season in an effort to acquire a coveted lottery pick and a potential franchise player. However, the reality is that this continues to seem like a less likely outcome as the season progresses. Let’s not forget the season ending surgery for the promising Jared Sullinger. There have been moments this season where fans thought that this team would implode and rapidly trend towards being forgettable, yet Brad Stevens has managed to keep the ship afloat with what seems to be a continually revolving roster of players. Don’t get me wrong, this team is by no means spectacular in any fashion, but Stevens is showing that the popularized “tanking” notion is not the fail proof method for rebuilding franchises. He’s creating a culture that allows players to thrive, and his players are responding.

There have been quite a few pleasant surprises for Celtics fans this season to help restore some of the faith that was lost in Danny Ainge. I think the most fascinating development has been the emergence of Evan Turner. When you look at this current roster, Isaiah Thomas certainly may be the most talented player, but Turner has been the leader. Stevens’ best move this season has been moving Turner to the point. He has really thrived as a facilitator and is running an offense that currently ranks sixth best in assist ratio AND is tied for seventh lowest in turnover ratio in the league. Turner has quietly had two triple doubles this season as well as twenty-three (!) games of at least 10 points/five rebounds/five assists. His scoring is not very consistent but he is a capable enough ball handler for Stevens to place trust in him to run the offense. And why not?

This Celtics roster right now is entirely comprised of players that can score at least ten points on a given night. Besides Tyler Zeller, they can all shoot the three. Why is this important? Floor spacing. That’s one of the more underlooked aspects when planning defensive schemes against this Celtics team. They have no single player that will be the primary focus of a defensive game plan which actually makes them intriguingly problematic for their opponents.

One of the more promising things that Celtics fans can look forward to is Brad Stevens’ willingness to commit to team basketball, as noted in a recent NESN article. Stevens has been able to get the most value out of his players this season while building great team chemistry. In addition to the aforementioned Evan Turner, the recently acquired Isaiah Thomas has thrived as well. Thomas is a unique player as he can score as good as anyone but is likely not a true starter at point guard due to his size. The truth is, he is a perfect security blanket as a backup combo guard for any playoff contender.

Although it’s been a relatively small sample size, Thomas is averaging 21.4 points per game while averaging under 28 minutes a game in Boston. He is scoring at a higher average currently with this Celtics team than he did when he had his best scoring year with the Kings, when he averaged over 20 points per game. He’s also playing seven less minutes per game with the Celtics as a player coming off the bench than as a starter with the Kings. Thomas has proven his ability to score the basketball and is certainly someone that teams account for in the scouting report. However, he plays in a free flowing offense where players share the ball to get the best shot. This has been the main reason that his scoring efficiency is the highest of his career.

The Celtics will wrap up the season with the hopes of snatching the eighth and final playoff spot in the East where they could potentially be in a tough matchup with a Hawks team that has been remarkably good all year. While the Celtics would be far more likely to get swept than win the series, that would certainly be a matchup of interest to hardcore fans as both teams play very similar styles of basketball. Regardless of how the season ends for this young Celtics team, it is certainly reassuring to see Brad Stevens’ continued focus on playing the right way and the team’s ensuing improvements. If you call yourself a Celtics fan, you are thrilled to have Stevens at the helm for the foreseeable future given everyone’s expectations for them and what they have shown this season. This team plays to win, not to tank. As a Boston sports fan, you really have to admire the fight against the odds. It is the attitude carried by the city and its fans who are used to seeing their teams thrive. Brad Stevens is a winner, and this team will be too if they continue to show this progression.

The Trade Machine Diaries, Part 1

The ESPN Trade Machine has been a great innovation for avid basketball fans like us. If only real trades were able to go down so easily and without everyone’s consent like in your 2K franchise. I tried my best to come up with 15 realistic trades with all 30 teams involved. So when I say “go” everybody grab a dance partner and make a trade…go!

(Disclaimer #1: because you can’t swap draft picks in the trade machine, I ad-libbed and traded picks based on what I thought was fair value. Disclaimer #2: You may or may not be aware that I’m not a real NBA GM, so what I thought was fair value is subjective. Enjoy.)

Atlanta Hawks/Phoenix Suns

Atlanta sends Pero Antic and a future second round pick to Phoenix for Gerald Green

Right now Atlanta has a decent squad, I think ownership’s main focus is just getting into the playoffs and trying to generate some extra revenue as honest as that sounds. (Editor’s note: the Atlanta Hawks are likely to change owners in the near future after this summer’s very weird scandal). Paul Millsap and Al Horford are a great frontcourt and Jeff Teague is really good at times. They could use another scorer out on the wing though. Kyle Korver can fill it up, but it’s hard to get any consistency out of him; DeMarre Carroll is also a really nice role player. But Gerald Green can be asked to score 15-20 points a night for the Hawks, which is something they lack out of the two or three spot. The reality of this trade is that both Green and Antic are expiring deals, and the Suns might have a real concern about trying to resign Green, if they actually want to keep him. The Suns also just gave PJ Tucker and a new deal and drafted TJ Warren in the 1st round this year. Green is definitely expendable.

Boston Celtics/Sacramento Kings

Boston sends Rajon Rondo to Sacramento for Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, and a future top three protected first round pick

This would be a perfect move for both teams. Danny Ainge should really be on the phone 23 hours out of the day trying to get rid of Rondo before he becomes a free agent. If the Celtics get absolutely nothing for Rondo, they are insanely stupid. We know Sacramento is willing to make a splash, and this move might actually make them a contender to get into the playoffs. Celtics would get young assets and a future pick. The Kings would get a true facilitator and someone who could make DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins even better (that’s a scary thought for the Western Conference).

Brooklyn Nets/Indiana Pacers

Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett and a second round pick to Indiana for David West

It’s crazy to think that last year we thought the Brooklyn Nets would be able to compete with Miami for the Eastern Conference title. Oh, how quickly things can change in the NBA. I don’t think anyone still believes they can compete, but the reality is that the Nets are still probably bound for the playoffs. Deron Williams has been playing much better than last year, and Joe Johnson is still a very gifted scorer. If Brook Lopez can stay healthy they still may have a slim shot at making the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers could easily be sellers come the deadline and David West could be the first guy they relieve themselves of. The Nets could really use an upgrade from the walking dead that is Kevin Garnett. West is a proven guy come the postseason and could really complete this Nets squad and make them a headache for other teams in the playoffs. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and David West is a pretty formidable foursome. Pacers meanwhile acquire Garnett’s expiring, and could use the extra cash to put more pieces around Paul George upon his return. Also, losing West will clearly help the Pacers lose more games and yield them a higher lottery choice.

Charlotte Hornets/Detroit Pistons

Charlotte sends Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and PJ Hairston to Detroit for Josh Smith

This trade I admit is a little bit of a stretch, but it also makes sense for both teams. It’s not a secret the Pistons and Stan Van Gundy have become very disenchanted with Josh Smith. It’s also obvious watching Josh Smith play that he is simply not a small forward. This trade would send Smith to the Hornets where he could play power forward for them and stretch the floor creating space for Al Jefferson. The Hornets have invested a lot in Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker this offseason, if Charlotte doesn’t make the playoffs it would be a huge disappointment for the front office. Adding Josh Smith would really create an offensive juggernaut, if they can become a cohesive unit before season’s end they would have a real shot at a playoff series victory. In return Detroit gets a few young assets including MKG and Cody Zeller. Kidd-Gilchrist might benefit from a change of scenery and Zeller is a fundamentally sound scorer who could develop under great tutelage from Stan Van Gundy. Detroit also sheds Smith’s bounty of a contract. It may be a long shot, but this deal has me pining for a Josh Smith/Al Jefferson frontcourt.

(Editor’s note: If SVG pulled this off, I would move to Detroit and join a Van Gundy cult. Josh Smith’s contract, style and attitude are terrible. I would rather have MKG or Noah Vonleh than him on my team).

Center swap? Highly unlikely, but Portland would love it.
Center swap? Highly unlikely, but Portland would love it.

Chicago Bulls/Portland Trail Blazers

Chicago sends Joakim Noah to Portland for Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright and a future first round pick (lottery protected)

I realize this move may be unpopular with the (D)Roses and Thorns faithful, but just hear my explanation before you excommunicate me. Derrick Rose’s and Pau Gasol’s health is a real concern, it doesn’t really seem like the Bulls are going to be able to make a real run at the title as is. Noah is almost 30 and has been banged up himself; if a willing suitor comes along looking for a center the Bulls would really have to consider. Noah has a costly contract, and the looming Jimmy Butler deal is not going to weigh favorably on the Bulls salary cap. This trade enables the Bulls to take on three expiring deals and a future first rounder. Even if you swap Robin Lopez for Noah, I don’t think this necessarily takes the Bulls out of playoff contention if they’re close to getting a spot at the deadline. Thibs will for sure get the most out of his players, this includes Robin Lopez. The Trail Blazers will get a legitimate defensive stopper to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge. Noah will help the Blazers get past the first round in the playoffs once again, and potentially win another round. Noah’s passing ability will also make Aldridge and Dame Lillard better as well. The Bulls have certainly gotten the best years out of Noah; the Blazers are hoping for a couple more.

(Editor’s note: NOOOOOO STOP IT)

Cleveland Cavaliers/Minnesota Timberwolves

Cleveland sends Dion Waiters to Minnesota for Corey Brewer and a second round pick

The displeasure that LeBron James shows for Dion Waiters is painfully obvious, and as we all know, LeBron is the real GM of the Cavs. So GM LeBron decides he’s had enough of Dion and sends him to a city that’s even colder than Cleveland. It’s a disappointment for the Cleveland front office that this is all they’re receiving for the former #4 overall pick Dion Waiters. But they’re clearly “all in” this season, and if swapping Corey Brewer for Dion Waiters will make them a better team and more formidable in the playoffs, this a deal they have to do. The Timberwolves on the other hand get another young Cleveland asset, and they are hopeful they can squeeze any remaining potential Waiters has out of him–but with Flip Saunders calling the shots that’s pretty doubtful. Eventually Waiters will hook on somewhere that utilizes him properly. He can really be a spark off someone’s bench where they ask him to be a pure scorer when he’s in the game. It won’t be in Cleveland and it certainly won’t be in Minnesota, but the kid has talent.

Miami Heat/Houston Rockets

Miami sends Norris Cole to Houston for Clint Capela and Nick Johnson

This trade is really simple for both teams. Listen, I can’t be expected to produce blockbusters every time. Houston isn’t necessarily desperate for a PG, but they could really use an upgrade for their second unit. That is something Norris Cole has proven he can do for the last three seasons. Isiah Canaan has been a good surprise for Houston, but he can’t be expected to deliver in the playoffs. Norris Cole could really be a valuable piece for Houston come April. Miami has really gotten a steal in Shabazz Napier. Between Napier and Mario Chalmers, the Heat are pretty much set at PG. Trading Cole for some young assets like Clint Capela and Nick Johnson isn’t too shabby of a deal.

PART 2 OF THE TRADE MACHINE DIARIES

Shipping Down to Boston

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Life is tough for a Celtics fan right now. Seeing one of the most storied franchises in the league gather a whopping 25 wins in addition to finishing last in the completely irrelevant Atlantic Division was simply a cherry on the farewell cake that saw three Hall of Famers and a head coach bolt for other teams.

While a championship run certainly won’t be in the cards for the foreseeable future, the Celts still have managed to make enough unique moves during the offseason to pique the interest of us avid NBA fans who remain loyal to the cause.

Here is the beautiful thing about the NBA today: being terrible gives you a chance of getting a player that can turn the franchise around, wherever he may be found in the draft. One player in the draft can have a drastic impact on a team (ex: LeBron, Durant, Curry, Aldridge, etc.) almost instantly. This is something that is not common in other professional sports leagues, notably the MLB. Sure, you have the Kwame Browns and Darko Milicics of the draft, but you also have plenty of diamonds in the rough, as draft history has continually showed us in years past.

The hope of drafting a potential franchise superstar is always on the forefront of fans minds whenever they see their team tank a season. That certainly was the case for me. Was I hoping that the Celtics would be in the sweepstakes for Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? Of course. It would be idiotic to not want to take a risk on a player of that caliber who has so much potential to be great in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Celtics last season, they were bad, but they weren’t the worst. I can live with that though, seeing as the C’s still had the 6th and 17th overall draft picks. I thought they did a pretty good job acquiring talent with their selections of Marcus Smart (Oklahoma St.) and James Young (Kentucky), both who possess above average athleticism and have fairly strong offensive capabilities respectively. I will touch on each of these two players a little later on in this piece.

So what are left with here looking at this young Celtics team? From where I stand, I see a group of players that lack the leadership of a superstar player that they so desperately need. That’s not to say that the Celts don’t have valuable pieces, because they certainly do. However, the fact that they do not have a top 20 player who plays at an elite level night in and night out will impede any hopes of getting into the playoffs or having success in the playoffs this year. Enough negativity though. I want to dive into this team of young misfits and address how some of the personnel changes they made this offseason will impact the team moving forward.

Celtics

First things first, I absolutely loved the hiring of Brad Stevens. This guy worked with a team that really only had one All-Star caliber NBA player in Gordon Hayward during his tenure at Butler. He was able to evoke a style of hard-nosed and team oriented basketball, something that is not seen too frequently in the NBA. The guy is a winner and he knows how to manage conflicting player attitudes. His energy and focus are very transparent from the sidelines and you can see the demeanor of his players both on and off the court. Hiring Stevens was a very strategic long term move by the Boston Celtics in my opinion. Stevens is not a coach that they plan on canning after a year or two after sustaining a few bad seasons. Danny Ainge is fully aware of his current roster as well as the team needs and talent gaps. I really do embrace his logic of growing Stevens with the team from the ground up to really develop a fundamental basketball system that players can all buy into once the right pieces come into place over the next few seasons.

I briefly discussed how I truly appreciate the direction that the coaching staff and team management is going towards in the future. What about the players though? The Celts may not have acquired Kevin Love or Melo in the offseason, but they did make some moves that are worthy of further observation and analysis. The two major offseason moves I liked the most were the acquisitions of Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller. Starting with Turner, he came to the C’s after being underutilized as a role player for the Pacers as they tried to make a deep playoff push last season. The one thing I like about his game is the fact that he can do a little bit of everything. He is not necessarily top notch in any offensive or defensive category, but he certainly is able to contribute in many different areas. His addition to the roster will certainly alleviate a lot of the scoring burden that was primarily placed on Jeff Green last season. It also gives the Celtics another wing player that is actually meant to be a wing player based on physical size and strength, which will help defensively in terms of matching up against opposing teams 2 and 3 spots.

Another player that I expect to make an immediate impact for the Celtics this season is Tyler Zeller. I truly believe that he is one of the more underrated players in the whole league. He is a legit seven footer with a well developed offensive skill set in addition to being an excellent rebounder. His presence will certainly be noted on the defensive end as he will serve as the primary rim protector for the Celtics this season. His addition to the roster also allows for players like Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger to match up against more traditional power forward size players rather than having to guard players that are simply just bigger and stronger. I digress. Going back to Zeller, he should also help balance out the scoring attack for the Celtics this upcoming season. He provides another easy scoring outlet for Rondo to dump the ball off to for easy dunks when attacking the basket.

Both Zeller and Turner will help the Celtics out in terms of scoring distribution as well as their overall team defense. Both are well above average NBA talents that will improve a depleted Celtics roster from last season. More importantly, they are valuable trading pieces to have if and when the C’s are trying to make a big move in the future. However, for now I am content with having both of these guys on the roster for this season because of the fact that they will be more involved in the offense. They will be asked to carry more of the scoring burden than they have had to on their previous teams. Maybe this will serve as the perfect opportunity for both of these players to break out and have career years.

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Looking back at the players the Celtics have gotten through the last few drafts, I really can’t complain too much. They have a young nucleus of drafted players that includes Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and James Young. Sullinger has shown signs of incredible productivity on the boards as well as proficiency from beyond the arc and around the rim. I fully expect him to elevate his play to a higher level this season. Olynyk had a few bright moments last year but I still think he has room to improve. I see him as one of the backup centers (with Vitor Faverani) to Tyler Zeller who will earn his time based on his ability to score and rebound in the sparing minutes that he will receive this season.

The Celtics hope for big contributions from their rookies
The Celtics hope for big contributions from their rookies

Obviously it is a little early to make an accurate projection for Smart and Young, but I will give one anyways based off of practice reports and the current structure of the roster. I am a big fan of Smart. I think he has a rare combination of size, strength, and athleticism that makes him a tough guard to cover. At 6’4″ Smart can be considered either a 1 or 2 guard when he is on the floor. Although it is a little far fetched, I can understand the early comparisons that he drew to Dwyane Wade while he was still playing college ball. I think he will get some good opportunities to showcase his abilities with the absence of Rondo for the beginning portion of the season due to surgery on his hand. I am interested to see how Smart fits into the Celtics gameplan going forward. Another player who is very intriguing to me is James Young. If you don’t remember this guy, just think back to some of the electric plays he had for the John Calipari during the NCAA tournament. From his thunderous dunks to draining wing threes, this guy really impressed viewers with the multitude of offensive skills he has in his arsenal. He also has a very long wingspan and is left handed which can make him a defender’s nightmare when trying to cover him. He needs to bulk up a bit so he can be more physical when facing other 2 and 3 positions in the league, but it is difficult not to be optimistic about this kid’s future. He is a very capable ball handler and seems to mesh well into different offensive sets, even an elite offense like that of the Kentucky Wildcats. He may take some time to really thrive in the NBA, but he is definitely someone to keep an eye out for going forward into the season.

In closing I would just like to throw out a few notes about the Celtics going into this season. Rondo will not be playing for at least the first week of the season seeing as he is still recovering from hand surgery. Avery Bradley will most likely be asked to shoulder the point guard duties for a while in his absence with Phil Pressey handling some of those duties off the bench. Jeff Green has a temporary setback with a strained left calf but the coaching staff does not see that being serious enough to prevent him from being ready for the season opener. Although there are some scattered injuries and inexperienced players, Brad Stevens will have these guys ready to compete as soon as the regular season starts. They may not be tremendously successful this season, but there is no doubt that it will be entertaining to watch the new blend of young players integrated into the Celtics rotation as well as the players from last year who continue to progress.

 

2K14: It’s Almost Here

2k14

TWO MORE WEEKS UNTIL THE NEW 2K

In case you missed it, the makers of NBA 2k14 released a bunch of player ratings yesterday.  This basically means we are that much closer to putting off all of our schoolwork and running our friends in the new game. 2K14 is set to come out in about two weeks, so make sure you put that 60 dollars aside now.

As anticipated, some of the players were pretty underrated. It seems like they don’t give a lot of love to the big men, which breaks my heart because I’m such a low post force at the Rec. Come on, 2K sports!

Below are a few players who I thought weren’t rated properly. The rest of the ratings that were released are below.

The Underrated

Brook Lopez (81) The most consistent player on a solid Nets squad last season, also seemed to play unreal against the Bulls in the playoffs.

Marc Gasol (83) Won Defensive player of the year last season and is arguably one of the best centers in the game.

Roy Hibbert (81) Killed the Heat in the playoffs and the anchor for a defensive squad.

Harrison Barnes (76) Thought his coming out party in the playoffs would have bumped him up to the low 80s.

Steven Adams (58)  Kidding, just thought this rating was so low I had to mention it.

Hey guys, it’s Jake now. I’ll look at the overrated.

The Overrated

LeBron James (99) I know, I know, it’s LeBron. But the next highest rating on the list is Kevin Durant at 94! In real life or NBA 2K, I don’t think LeBron is that much better than KD. While he’s obviously the best in the league, LeBron should probably be closer to 97 if the other elites are in the low 90s.

Derrick Rose (92) I’m not making any friends today. All I’m sayin’ is that 92 is pretty damn high for a guy we haven’t seen play in over a year. 

Rajon Rondo (90) This is even crazier. Rondo is not two points better than Steph Curry (88) or one point worse than Russell Westbrook (91). He’s a great passer, but struggles to score unless he has a lane to the basket. Curry and Westbrook are far more dominant 2K players. Oh, by the way, Rondo is rehabbing a torn ACL with no timetable for a return. WTF, 2K sports?

Kobe Bryant (93) Maybe I’m wrong and Kobe will have the greatest return from an Achilles tear ever, but it’s a big jump for 2K sports to assume that. A healthy Kobe is maybe a 93.

2kratings

DON’T FORGET 2 WEEKS!!! 

-G