Friday, April 18, 2014

Causeway Street’s Year in Review

Now that the 2013-14 Celtics season is officially in the history books, we here at Causeway Street Blog have decided to recap an interesting six months. It was the year of rebuilding, new faces and even a new captain. Here’s a look of what we think were some cool moments, and what lies ahead in our end-of-the-year review.

Joel Pavón says…

Celtics MVP: Jared Sullinger

You could argue that the Celtics’ most valuable player was Jordan Crawford for the first two months of the season. We even thought he should have been on the All-Star ballot. But with Rajon Rondo coming back, could Crawford really continue to be productive as Rondo’s backup? Danny didn’t think so, and he was shipped out while Jerryd Bayless quickly filled that role, and it opened up playing time for rookie Phil Pressey at the point. When I get asked who is this season’s MVP? The obvious answer is Sullinger, but I had to really think about this question.

Sullinger is definitely the most improved after coming off of back surgery more than a year ago that cut his rookie season in half. This year he played in 74 games (started 44 of them), and besides suffering a concussion he was able to stay relatively healthy. He more than doubled his scoring average (13.1, the teams third best scorer) from a year ago and added a three-point (27%) shot to his arsenal, which became clutch at various moments and other times left you scratching your head. We can’t forget he also led the team in rebounding at just over eight a game. He registered 22 double-doubles on the year, including a 20-20 game (25 points/20 rebounds back in January), the first Celtic since KG to achieve that feat in seven seasons. Jared also won Eastern Conference Player of the week this season. Clearly Sully enjoyed a great 2013-14.

With injuries to Bradley, and Rondo playing less than half a season it’s hard to argue that a player on this Celtics roster was more consistent than him all season long. Then you have Jeff Green who led the team in scoring at just under 17-points a game (16.9), and had moments of brilliance followed by disappearing acts. But one could argue Brandon Bass could be the teams’ MVP runner-up. The forward was one of two players to play all 82 games (the other was Green). He averaged just slightly less numbers than Sully (11.1 points/5.7 rebounds a game), while leading the team in field goal percentage at 48.6% and was the team’s best free throw shooter at 86% (13th best in the NBA). That’s pretty consistent if you ask me, just some food for thought.

Best Moment of the Year: Celtics beat the Wizards in OT 113-111 (Jan. 22, 2014)

I know over 95% of C’s fans will say the ‘Miracle on South Beach’ was this season’s best moment, but hear me out. That game undoubtedly was incredible from start to finish. But granted that win was in the middle of a four-game winning streak very early on in the season. You can’t say in 74 more games after Green hit the shot of his career, there were other awesome moments? I think the day the Celtics beat the Wizards in OT was arguably a top two highlight this year. For the simple fact that Uncle Jeff played out of his mind that night in DC! There is nothing like some ‘home-cooking’ to help you shoot lights out at the Verizon Center, a place #8 knows all too well from his Georgetown days. He finished the game with 39 points on 14-of-26 (56%) shooting, including going 8-of-16 (50%) from behind the arc, and grabbed nine rebounds in the win.

Green was not the only one who went off that night. Pressey in only his second start (Rondo was out resting) of the season; added 20 points on 7-of-10 (70%) shooting and connected on 5-of-6 3’s before fouling out late in the fourth. After Boston had blown a 19-point lead, Gerald Wallace (who started in Bradley’s place) was elected to run the point as the Celtics forced overtime. With the game tied, ‘Crash’ went the length of the court to bank a running layup with 2.5 seconds left on the clock for the game winner! He also dished out a game-high nine assists in the win. Great team effort without their starting backcourt.

Other ‘honorable mentions’ for best moment in my opinion include:

Celtics beat the Heat at the Garden: 101-96 (March 19, 2014) Rondo finishes with 15 assists, 10 rebounds and nine points as they win the season series 2-1

Celtics beat the Pistons at the Garden: 118-111 (March 9, 2014) Rondo, Green and Humphries register double-doubles while the team finished with a season high 38 assists (18 of them from Rondo).

Celtics lose to the Nets at the Garden: 85-79 (January 27, 2014) Despite the lost it was a great second half of basketball after emotional video tributes to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in their returns to Boston for the first time this season. Let’s face it we will all rooting for ‘The Truth’ and KG anyways…

Predictions for Next Season: Danny Pulls Of a Blockbuster Trade/C’s get third pick

Pending how the ping-pong balls bounce if the Celtics don’t land one of the first three picks, look for a roster change via a huge trade that could include a draft pick along with a Sullinger, Green, or even Bass. Even some of the non-guaranteed contracts of Chris Johnson and Chris Babb for an all-star. Kevin Love would look great in green, wouldn’t he? If the Celtics do land one of three picks I’m hoping that center Joel Emiid is the one Ainge drafts. There are just so many options Danny has to play with when it comes to all the trade assets and picks for the next few years.

As far as Celtics free agents, look for Pressey to be resigned; he has proven he is a reliable pass first guard when called upon. Kris Humphries can average a double- double on any given night, (for the record I saw that coming) but for the right price. Look for him to be resigned along with Bayless who became the best pull up jump shooter for Boston this season. Of course there is Bradley, who when healthy is a dangerous slasher and shooter, who became the teams second leading scorer. I say C’s will keep him and give him an extension as well.

The 2013-2014 NBA Champs: San Antonio Spurs

After what I witnessed last spring, Tim Duncan is still a beast. Pop will not rest until he gets his ‘adoptive son’ a fifth ring before he rides off into the sunset. That game seven (game six as well) of the Finals is something that he and the Spurs will never forget! They are on a mission and they could even be better this time around than they were a year ago, they are coming out of the west and are destined to hoist that Larry O’Brien trophy.

My final four looks like this:

ECF: Pacers vs. Nets (yup you heard it here first, Nets will beat Miami in the second round) Brooklyn goes on to beat the Pacers in an epic seven games series in Indiana. Pierce and Garnett make their third trip to the NBA finals.

WCF: Spurs vs. Clippers (LA beats OKC in the second round) Spurs advanced to their second straight NBA finals in another game seven classic in San Antonio.

Finals: Spurs vs. Nets (Surprise matchup of the year) Unfortunately, since the Nets went deep into every series to get to the Finals, the Spurs will prove that they are the better stronger team beating Brooklyn in six games after going up 3-0. Duncan (MVP) and KG both retire after going through battle one last time, a fitting ending to their hall-of-fame careers…

Sean Dutra says…

Celtics MVP: Brad Stevens

Tough decision here and it’s actually pretty depressing. There wasn’t a consistent performer that really made a difference all year. This was supposed to be Jeff Green's year to be “the man”; he failed to prove himself. Avery Bradley started to prove he could be counted on consistently, and then got injured. Rondo missed half the year, so he’s out of the running. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk were sort of up and down all year, and I refuse to vote that Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries, Chris Johnson, or Phil Pressey to be the MVP of any NBA team at any time, ever.  So I’m voting for Brad Stevens.

Stevens was the difference between the Celtics having a respectably bad season and the kind of awful, embarrassing season that the Bucks and Sixers had. He answered all the critics that said that the college coach couldn’t make the transition to the NBA. He proved himself with the white board drawing up plays, and doing what he could with a sub par roster. Really, what wasn't there to like about him this year? His demeanor, his interactions with the players, his business as usual attitude, all struck a chord almost instantly with the team and the fan base that Stevens was indeed the real deal.  Even with all the ‘tank talk’ at the beginning of the season, he had his team buying in to the fact that they had a legitimate chance to win the division. And they played like it until the turn of the new year when the lack of talent on the team outweighed the expectations set forth by the coach. Danny Ainge made a great hire in Stevens. I think the Celtics, Ainge, and the fans look at Brad Stevens as one of the stars currently in the organization.

Best Moment of The Year: ‘The Miracle on South Beach’

This one is easy.  Jeff Greens buzzer beater on November 9th, in Miami against LeBron and the defending champs. Everything about the way that game ended pleased me to no end.  Down two with .6 seconds left on the clock.  Wallace had the ball to inbound, with literally a .00001% chance of success.

Wallace says “hike”, and lobs the most perfect of passes to the opposite corner of the court right over the out stretched hands of LeBron, (BUT THAT PASS THO) to a surprisingly open and ready to jack up the three, Jeff Green, who sinks the shot right in LeBron’s face. OOOOOOMYYYYYYYGAAAAAAAHHHHD I THINK I HAD A HEARTATTACK! I don’t know what was more epic the fact that Jeff Green made the shot of his life, and of the Celtics season, or the fact that Brad Stevens just mean mugged it straight into the locker room like an OG.  No emotion, like he knew it was a fool-proof play to win the game, just the best reaction ever.

But seriously, the end of that game was classic. The Celtics were down by 4 points with three seconds left in the game. Thanks to a nice play drawn up by OG Stevens, to get Gerald Wallace a layup with 1.6 seconds left, they brought it within two, and committed a quick foul on Wade. Who in turn missed the first, and then did the only thing he could have done not to secure the victory for the Heat.  Shot went up, no rim, just back board, violation: Celtics ball, and the rest is history.

Predictions for Next Season: Celtics get the second pick or Trade for an All-Star

It's definitely safe to assume that the Celtics will improve upon their 25-win season. The question is how? What way Danny will go this offseason? The Celtics are in line for a top 4-draft pick, presumably acquiring Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, or Julius Randle. Now, my gut is saying that unless the Celtics get a top 2 pick they will package it with one of their trillion first round picks over the next ten years, and make a run at Kevin Love, or possibly Kyrie Irving.  Since Wyc Grousbeck has recently promised fireworks for the off-season, and Danny Ainge has done his best fire extinguisher impersonation of trying to squash all expectations for a blockbuster, anything can happen. The fact remains, they have a top 4 and top 20 pick in the deepest draft since 2003, at the very least Danny Ainge has a ton of options.

Right now, it’s almost impossible to gauge a win total for next year’s squad because I wouldn’t be surprised if there is like a 50% roster turnover. The future is uncertain for Jeff Green, who has an opt-out clause that he would be silly to use, but you never know. Also, Danny could try and trade literally anyone on the team at this point, including Green, Sullinger, and Rondo. It will also be interesting to see the market value for impending Free Agent Avery Bradley, who should make some money but still has yet to prove he has an 82 game body.  Even with all these question marks surrounding the team, I give you this.

Option One: Sean Dutra’s Projected 2014-15 Celtics Starting Five- Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Kevin Love, and Kelly Olynyk.  I have literally no clue if this works salary wise but this is how I got here. Two huge trades. Trade 2014 tops 4 pick, Jared Sullinger and a 2016 first round pick (Nets), plus salary dump (Wallace-Bogans) for Kevin Love. Trade Rajon Rondo and the 16th overall pick in 2014 for Kyrie Irving.

Option Two: Sean Dutra’s Projected 2014-2015 Celtics Starting Five – Rajon Rondo, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Adreian Payne.

Celtics get the second overall pick, draft Wiggins, then get the biggest steal of the Draft in Michigan States Adreian Payne. No trades, but let Bradley walk to rebuild.

Either way, it will be an interesting off-season.

2013-2014 NBA Champs: Miami Heat

I really want to say Big Al, Kemba, and the Bobcats, but I think I’m still in fantasyland with my projected starting lineups for next year.  In all seriousness though, I think the final four will end up being Miami vs. Indy in the East and then in the West, Houston vs. OKC.  Both series go to Game 7 with Houston prevailing over OKC, while Miami makes it out of the East.  Miami wins the third straight championship, and I drink immediately after. But don’t worry; next year the Celtics may get Kevin Love!

Josue Pavon says...

Celtics MVP: Jared Sullinger

Sully, who returned from last season's back injury better than he was last year, made himself comfortable inside and outside the paint. Even though Jared's three point attempts in the beginning of the season made me cringe more than I wanted to, his attempts from behind the arc were complemented by drives in the post and mid-range jump shots. His rebounding is what Celtic Nation loved the most last season and it was what makes him very valuable. Sullinger's 20-points/25 rebounds against Toronto in mid January was the best game of his career. He also flirted with 20 rebounds a couple of other nights this past season. My only concern for Sullinger is; can he stay healthy? Of course because Sullinger is still growing and has loads of potential. He is thought of as a great trading piece for the Boston to use this summer or next season but whether Sully is a part of Celtics' plans moving forward or merely Danny Ainge's best trading chip, damaged goods isn't going to help the Celtics get better either.

Best Moment of the Year: Jeff Green's game-winner at Miami

.6 of a second. That's all Gerald Wallace needed to pull off the best buzzer-beater I've ever seen on an NBA court! Jeff Green executed the greatest catch-and-shoot from the corner at the OTHER end of the court and right in LeBron James' face. Celtics were coming off of back-to-back wins in November and took one from the champion Heat in their building. It was a moment when I think most Celtics fans thoughts to themselves, this team isn't the best team in the NBA but they're fun to watch because they play hard. Jordan Crawford had a great fourth quarter, he kept things close along with Avery Bradley's shooting. It was a special night.

Predictions for Next Season: Celtics trade for a big man 

In a perfect world I would love to see Minnesota trade Kevin Love to Boston in exchange for Celtics' lottery pick, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and a future first round pick (or our second first round pick in this year's pick, heck, I'd do it) but I'm not quite sure Minnesota is ready to bite. But it isn't completely out of the realm of possibilities. Especially if the C's somehow land the third pick. Minnesota, that's the best deal you're going to get and unless you want to roll the dice and risk seeing your superstar walk away at the end of next season and leave you empty handed and irrelevant for the next few years, I suggest you give Mr. Ainge a call. This deal is an even better deal than Denver pulled off with New York for Melo a few years ago. Hey, speaking of Melo... *sighs* never mind, that's for another day.

Chances are there won't be "fireworks" this summer but I think there will be a spark. I think Danny will revisit the Asik deal with Houston and will find a way to get that done. It's hard to predict what the Rockets will need after the playoffs but if I had to guess right now I'd say a package that includes a future draft pick, Brandon Bass and maybe a sign-and-trade for Bogans to replace their need for a shooter (they were interested in Courtney Lee this past season). If it isn't Asik it will be a big man who will fill in that center role that the Celtics have been missing since Kendrick Perkins. It wouldn't be a huge story on Sports Center but it's a good start in solidifying the defense. Then Danny can go from there. Asik would be a good center to have aside someone like Love if the Celtics were able to pull off the blockbuster deal with Minnesota.

2013-2014 NBA Champs: San Antonio Spurs

A rematch of last year's NBA Finals will end with Gregg Popovich and his San Antonio Spurs hoisting up the Larry O'Brien trophy. After being so close to knocking off the Heat last season, the Spurs have dominated the Western Conference this season. They've held the top seed for most of the year and haven't shown any signs of fatigue. Getting to the Finals won't be easy though. I expect a seven-game Western Conference series between the Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Spurs will have a tougher time knocking off the Thunder than the Heat in the Finals. San Antonio will knock off Miami in six games.

On the other side of the bracket, Miami limps into the NBA Finals on LeBron James' back. Dwayne Wade will shine against Charlotte in the first round and will struggle the rest of the way. Brooklyn Nets will take them to seven games and so will Indiana. Both Nets and Pacers will be very close to knocking off the Heat but both teams will ultimately get out-LeBroned in their Game 7's.

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