For the first time in NBA history, the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics will all miss the playoffs in the same year. Early in the season, the Celtics were at the top of the Atlantic Division, however, the second half of the season saw them sink to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Following a 111-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics hold a record of 25-55. They sit fourth from the bottom in the Eastern Conference, and fifth place in the standings for this year’s draft lottery. With two regular season games left to play, the Celtics will either stay within the top five for the draft lottery, or if they win both games, they will slip to seventh and hurt their chances at a top five pick.
One of the reasons for the Celtics slide down the Eastern Conference standings has been injuries. Rajon Rondo has played in only 29 games this season for Boston, and on a team with a rookie head coach, and plenty of young players, the Celtics missed the leadership of Rondo dearly.
Rondo has slowly worked his way back from a torn ACL, and in his 29 games this season he is averaging 11.8 points and a team leading 9.7 assists. In one of the worst Celtic’s seasons in recent years one of the few bright spots for the team has been the play off Jeff Green.
Green, who had heart surgery a few years ago, has played and started in all 80 games for Boston and is the team’s leading scoring at 16.7 points per game. The Celtics will need a consistent scorer like Green to help the team during their rebuilding period.
Players for the Future
Along with Green, the Celtics will need to keep Rajon Rondo on the team. With the departure of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and head coach Doc Rivers, Rondo is the only member of the Celtics left with championship experience, and he is now the heart and soul of the team.
To accompany Rondo and Green, the Celtics will need to hold on to some of their young talent. Jared Sullinger has had a solid second season in the NBA, and is averaging 13.3 points and 8.10 rebounds for the C’s. Rookie Kelly Olynk has also had a solid year with Boston, as he just came off a career night against the Cavaliers where he scored 25 points and grabbed a career high 12 rebounds.
Rookie NBA head coach Brad Stevens will need a combination of veteran leadership, as well as young talent to improve this team moving forward.
Players to Look at in the Draft
The Celtics have plenty aspects of their game that they need to address in the offseason, and with one of the deepest pools of talent in this year’s NBA draft, this is the year to do just that. One of the main concerns for the Celtics this season has been their lack of size down low.
If Boston ends up acquiring a top five or possibly a top three pick in the draft, they will consider drafting Kansas Jayhawks center Joel Embiid. While Embiid saw his only season at Kansas cut short due to injury, his draft stock soared during his limited time on the court.
Embiid would give the Celtics a true seven-foot center, and an anchor to their defense, as Embiid averaged 2.6 blocks per game with Kansas. The Celtics may also consider Kentucky’s Julius Randle in the top five, if he is available. The Kentucky power forward averaged a double-double in his freshman year with 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Thanks to the trade with the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics will have two first round picks this year, and with an organization as storied as the Boston Celtics, expect Danny Ainge and his men to be a completely different team on the court next season.
Commentary By Eric Kummel