As promised, Chris Forsberg and his panel have a new batch of questions to help get the Celtics faithful through the summer. Today I come bearing gifts: answers to the next five questions and some good news. My pleas have been answered and Chris has been nice enough to extend me an invitation to the panel for the third and final week of Celtics questions. All it took was a well thought out — and probably annoying — tweet:
@ikeiltyDWN send me your email and I'll get you in for week 3.
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) August 10, 2016
So there you have it. If you liked the first batch of questions you’ll obviously enjoy today’s, so check out my answers next week in Forsberg’s Summer Forecast articles next week on ESPNboston.com. And if you’re not following me on Twitter, what the hell are you waiting for?
Without further adieu, let’s jump into today’s Celtics Summer Forecast.
Question 5: Which young player will make the biggest leap this year?
The players in question are; Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson. While I’d love to say Brown, I haven’t seen enough of him yet against actual NBA competition to even know what to expect out of him. So with nothing to go off of, it’s hard for me to judge what even qualifies as a “leap” for him this season. My answer here is Rozier, simply because he should get the most playing time out of the bunch, giving him the best opportunity to have a “leap” this year. Rozier proved last year he could rebound quite effectively, and his blazing speed definitely translates to the NBA. With Evan Turner gone, there’s plenty of “ball-handler” minutes for Brad Stevens to dole out, and it’s likely Rozier will get these before Hunter or Jackson. Rozier should be a solid contributor this season, but I’m a little worried that his stellar play in the Summer League has bumped up our expectations a bit too much. I’m confident Rozier will be able to contribute and be a solid role player this season.
Question 6: Best candidate(s) for All-Star appearances this season?
If you read my missives last season, you know I’m sticking with my man Isaiah Thomas on this one. I had him pegged early last summer as an All-Star and I think adding Al Horford will only help his numbers this season. Thomas’ assists per game this season will top last year’s for a new career-high. Adding Horford will also take some pressure off Thomas in terms of scoring, so he’ll have an easier time avoiding double-teams.
Horford is my second choice for an All-Star appearance. He’ll fit seamlessly into the Celtics offense and I’m excited to see how Stevens utilizes his first true stretch big man. Sure he’s had Olynyk, Jerebko, and Sullinger, but Horford can consistently knock down jump shots and has been doing it for years. I don’t see him regressing at all from his numbers last year so it would really surprise me to not see him in an All-Star uniform again this season.
My dark horse candidate is Jae Crowder. After an offseason of rest and relaxation, Crowder should start this season as healthy as ever. Adding Horford takes a lot of pressure off Crowder to be one of the Celtics top scorers and will allow him to fall back into a role that better suits him. With the focus on Thomas and Horford, there should be plenty of wide open lanes for Crowder and teams will tend to forget about him spotting up along the three-point line in transition. The less Crowder needs to work on offense, the more focus and energy he can put into defense, where the Celtics need him the most.
Question 7: Who should the Celtics target next?
Now that Russell Westbrook has signed an extension he’s clearly out of the question and with Blake Griffin hitting free-agency next summer, the Celtics best option with him would be to wait and try and sign him without giving anything up. The C’s don’t need to do anything drastic right now, so any move that involves Boston giving up one of their core players is a dumb move. I’d like to see the C’s go after Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor, since the asking price wouldn’t be very high on either guy. Noel tweeted out his love for Boston last night after attending the Drake & Future concert at TD Garden, then mysteriously changed his Twitter picture from a Sixers image to a blank, black picture.
I'm blessed to be from Boston. Love my city.
— Nerlens Noel (@NerlensNoel3) August 11, 2016
While this is probably nothing, Celtics fans on Twitter have exploded with theories about his return to his hometown. He has also expressed a willingness to be traded, with the Celtics showing interest in the Philadelphia big-man since before the draft. The ideal trade here would be to give up younger players or one of Brooklyn’s draft picks for the young power forward/center. Any trade involving Smart, Bradley, Crowder, or Thomas [assuming Horford is untouchable] is too rich for my blood.
Question 8: Who will be the biggest overachiever this season?
I’m stuck here between Jaylen Brown and Gerald Green, because I think both guys will exceed Boston fan expectations. Selecting Brown at third overall was widely viewed as a bust by Celtics fans, so the expectations for him are so low that any type of production could be considered overachieving depending on who you ask. Brown will be a solid player off the bench for the Celtics this year, the main problem is that he won’t produce as much as top picks Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Boston fans [not necessarily Celtics fans] that will compare him to the other top draft picks and consider him a bust, which just isn’t fair. Likewise, many fans did not understand re-signing Gerald Green and probably haven’t been aware of his development as a player since his first tenure in Boston. Many will only remember him as an immature, high-flyer, but he’s more than that now. In today’s smaller NBA, Green is a versatile defender who can be utilized at multiple positions and simply by joining the Celtics, he becomes one of their better three-point shooters [sad but true]. He was signed for the veteran’s minimum, so that alone means the expectations for him from a fans’ perspective are much lower than they are for someone like Horford, who the Celtics broke the bank for. Green will be a solid rotation player and will end up being one of, if not the top, scorer off the bench.
Question 9: Who will be the biggest underachiever this season?
This question was a bit easier for me, Kelly Olynyk will be the biggest underachiever for the Celtics this year. Prior to injuring his shoulder last season, Olynyk was making strides in the right direction. He shot over 40 percent from three for a solid stretch, led the Celtics in scoring with 28 points in their double-overtime thriller against the then-undefeated Warriors, and was playing some of his best basketball as an NBA player. Unfortunately, after injuring his shoulder in late March, he never truly returned to form. After having offseason shoulder surgery, who knows how long it will take Olynyk to get back to mid-season form. The Celtics traded up in 2013 to select Olynyk and thus far, he hasn’t exactly panned out as a lottery pick. Celtics fans have high expectations for all their players in general, but they especially don’t like to wait for their lottery picks to pan out, and with Olynyk entering his fourth season, I’m sure patience is wearing thin. The 2016-17 season could be Olynyk’s coming out party, but I see him being mediocre once again. Prove me wrong Kelly.