Mailbag: Lineup Talk, Dunk Contest and More
I asked you all on Monday to submit your Celtics questions to me on Twitter using the hashtag #CelticsMailbag. I chose six of the top questions and answered them below. These opinions are mine and do not reflect those of the team's front office personnel.
What do you think our opening night starting five will look like? #CelticsMailbag— Justin Condo (@JustinCondo) August 11, 2014
ANSWER: I can confidently guess three of Boston’s five starters on Opening Night. After that, it gets a bit more complicated.
I’ll predict that Rajon Rondo, this team’s captain, will start at point guard and that Avery Bradley will join him in the backcourt. Jeff Green, who led the team in scoring and minutes last season, will start at small forward.
Now we move on to the tough decisions. I think Boston wants to get Jared Sullinger back to being a full-time power forward who can slide over to center when need be. He gets the nod at the 4, and he’ll be joined by newcomer Tyler Zeller, who I believe will win the starting center competition.
Where do you see Tyler Zeller fitting in this roster? With Jared moving back to the 4, those two could work well together. #CelticsMailbag— Justin Condo (@JustinCondo) August 11, 2014
ANSWER: As stated above, I think he’ll win the starting center spot. He brings so many skills to the table that Brad Stevens puts a high priority on, particularly running the floor. Zeller ranked in the 94th percentile of the NBA last season in points per possession on transition plays, according to Synergy Sports. The big man also has a nice touch around the basket and can extend out to 15-20 feet with his jumper; he shot 51.1 percent (24-of-47) from 15-19 feet last season, according to NBA.com/stats.
These skills, along with the fact that he’s a legit 7-footer who can rebound the basketball, make me believe he’ll be this team’s starting center.
ANSWER: I don’t want to blow up my Excel (our VP of Technology, Jay Wessel, wouldn’t like that), but I’ll give this a go.
I think Rondo, Bradley, Green and Sullinger will each average 30-36 minutes per game this season. As my predicted starting center, I think Zeller will eat up closer to 20-25 minutes per game, simply because the C’s must also find minutes for budding big man Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass and Vitor Faverani.
Stevens should also give plenty of minutes to Boston’s top draft pick, Marcus Smart. I’d be surprised if Smart averages fewer than 25 minutes per game when all is said and done. A crowded backcourt will be rounded out with playing time for Phil Pressey, Marcus Thornton and James Young, but it will be tough for those guys to garner big minutes while playing behind Rondo, Bradley and Smart.
The final key piece in the rotation, in my opinion, is Gerald Wallace. He brings so much to the table when he’s on the floor. If he can stay healthy, I think he plays about 20-25 minutes a night.
It is my belief that the top nine players in the rotation will be Rondo, Bradley, Green, Sullinger, Zeller, Smart, Olynyk, Bass and Wallace. The rest of the roster will split the remaining minutes.
ANSWER: Those are some big names you’re throwing out there, but I like the comparisons.
Let’s start with Olynyk. He’s almost certainly not going to become Dirk 2.0 – that’s a future Hall of Famer we’re talking about – but he has a lot of similarities to Nowitzki. Neither player is overly athletic, but they’re both smart and can shoot the rock. I think Olynyk needs to run with those skills and be himself, rather than try to be Nowitzki. Olynyk can become a very good player, but becoming a Hall of Fame-type player is unlikely.
Sullinger and Zach Randolph are also very similar. Both players are undersized big men who use creativity to get their shots off. Both are also very good rebounders. I think Randolph is more of a one-on-one player, while Sullinger will excel within the flow of the offense. That being said, this is a pretty good comp. Two double-double guys who can also step out and hit the outside jumper.
ANSWER: I think the surprise scorer on this team next season will be Bradley, but I don’t think he’s going to catch Jeff Green. Green is my pick to lead the team in scoring.
My expectation is that Green is going to be even better this coming season than he was in 2013-14. Last season was the first of his career during which he was a full-time starter at small forward or a team’s go-to scorer. He was both for the C’s. That’s a lot to adjust to, and I think he’ll be much better at handling those roles this season.
Also consider the fact that Green has now had another full summer to work on his perimeter skills. I’d be surprised if we don’t see bumps in his field goal and 3-point percentages, as well as more consistent trips to the free-throw line.
ANSWER: We won’t know the answer to this question until about two weeks before the 2015 All-Star game. But what we do know is that Phil Pressey wants to be a part of the Slam Dunk Contest.
Pressey told our Emily Austen last month, “I would love to do that, but that’s all up to the people deciding (the participants). That would be a great honor to do it, but it’s not up to me. If it was, I would love to do it.”
That sounds like a little bit of a play to the league to give him an invite. If the NBA is wondering whether or not it should extend the invite to Pressey, its decision makers should watch this. The dude has crazy hops.