"The Crossover" is a season preview series we're running here at Raptors HQ in which we'll talk to other SB Nation team sites in the Eastern Conference to give us an idea of what to expect from the competition, what their expectations are for both their own team and the Raptors.
1. What would constitute a successful season for the Celtics this season?
Development, but that means different things to different people. For me it has nothing to do with the Boston Celtics’ actual record, only with how each individual player progresses their skills and how they begin to mesh as a collective unit. It’s vital that players like Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and Avery Bradley take a step forward in their games.
Last season coach Brad Stevens talked about the "process" was more important than "results," because if you have a successful process the results should take care of themselves. The team should take that same approach this season. Finding out who will be "on the bus" for next season will add a lot of clarity to the future of the Celtics.
2. Expectations for James Young and Marcus Smart in their rookie season?
I wrote in-depth article about my expectations for Marcus Smart, but in short I think he should make an immediate impact on the defensive end. His skills are exceptional and I think he’ll jump right into Brad Stevens’ rotation and earn heavy minutes. However, his offensive game needs a lot of work. His shot selection is poor and he still needs to develop pure passing skills, but if he proves he can consistently drain catch-and-shoot three-pointers it’ll mean a lot for his ability to stay on the floor.
As for James Young, I’m expecting him to spend a lot of time with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s D-League franchise. There are about six players who will receive minutes before him at both small forward and shooting guard, so I don’t see how he’ll get on the floor. Spending time in Maine will allow him to play every night and work on his vast weaknesses, such as mechanics, defense, and ball handling. He’s a major project and shouldn’t make an impact this year, unless he comes on very late.
3. How do you see the Rajon Rondo situation playing out?
(note: we had this conversation before the news that Rondo would be out six to eight weeks with a broken hand)
I’m really split here. Personally, I’d like to see them go another direction if the team struggles again this season, but the front office would obviously prefer to keep Rajon Rondo. He’ll be one of the best point guards in the league if he gets back to what he was pre-ACL injury, but the league is loaded with talented starting point guards. Are the Celtics really going to get fair value for him in a trade? That question is impossible to answer right now.
Yet, even if they get 80 cents on the dollar come February, that’s a hell of a lot better than losing him for nothing. If Rondo hits free agency and the Celtics can’t make another major move (Danny Ainge has said that Rondo needs to see "hope" in Boston), then he’ll be a goner. If I had to give a response, I think they’ll end up trading him, but it’s really hard to say.
4. Give us the best case/ worst case scenario for the Celtics this season?
The best-case scenario for the Celtics is that Jared Sullinger takes a large step forward and exceeds his "probable potential." By that I mean, he becomes better than the high-end role player Celtics ownership expects him to be, and instead shows that his upside is more like that of the top-ranked high school player he once was -- an All-Star talent. If Sullinger makes that leap he’d greatly accelerate the re-tooling process heading into next summer.
The worst-case scenario is that Rondo is "just another guy." He showed flashes of his old self last season, but the explosiveness wasn’t there at all. If he never gets it back then the Celtics will be put into an impossible situation. They’ll be bad, Rondo will have poor trade value, and he’d still likely demand a wealthy contract in the summer. Whether or not Rondo is a part of Boston’s future as a player is unknown, but he certainly is a major asset, so the team had better hope his increases or retains his value.
5. In your mind, from an outsider's point of view, where do you think the Raptors will finish in the division and in the East?
I don’t see how the Toronto Raptors can’t win the Atlantic Division, unless Brooklyn or New York exceeds my expectations, so they should certainly going to lock up a top three seed. In terms of actual win totals, I can see them finishing third, at best, or fifth, at worst, in the Eastern Conference. I think the acquisition of Louis Williams will really help Toronto, since they ranked near the bottom of the league in bench scoring last season. Plus, the young core players should all continue developing this year. The Raptors have a really bright future and will once again be a lot of fun to watch this season.