Don’t worry Celtics fans, the 2013-14 season will be over soon enough. The Celtics were bad this year. I mean, really bad, but things will get better. The wins may not have come enough to make the playoffs, and the losses may not have come frequently enough to acquire Jabari Parker, or Joel Embiid, or Andrew Wiggins, or Julius Randle in this upcoming NBA Draft, but there’s hope for the future. There are a lot of ways the Celtics can turn this around, and the same can’t be said for a lot of NBA teams. Danny Ainge knows what he’s doing. He may not know exactly what he will do to turn the Celtics around, but there are many ways they can go about it, and it doesn’t all have to happen this summer, but the process will start. They could be the Knicks, or the Nets, or the Cavaliers, or the Timberwolves, or the Bucks, or the Sixers. They could be stuck in a bad situation and need to rely more on luck than anything else, and it could always be a lot worse.
There is a lot to like about the young talent on the team. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are two intelligent young big men who play well off each other. Phil Pressey is an elite passer who went undrafted because of his lack of height but the Celtics gave a chance since they saw him play high school basketball in Massachusetts and they know what he’s capable of. None of them are superstars, but they do have a lot of potential, and are nowhere near their ceiling.
It’s nice to see the growth the team has shown over the course of this losing season. A lot of teams would coast once they fall out of the playoff picture, but the Celtics compete every night. Olynyk, Sullinger, and Pressey have all grown immensely this season, and they did not let early season struggles get them down, and they learn from head coach Brad Stevens and veteran point guard and team captain Rajon Rondo. The Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks think they can compete in the future by tanking game after game this year to get a top pick in this draft, while the young talent on their roster learns some bad habits and doesn’t improve themselves the way the young players on the Celtics have been this year.
Brad Stevens deserves all the credit in the world for getting the young players and veteran players alike to keep showing up an playing hard as the season has gone on. He hates to lose and this season must be driving him crazy, but you’d never know based on his expression. He came to Boston with big shoes to fill after Doc Rivers departed for the Los Angeles Clippers, but he’s shown why Danny Ainge wants him to be the coach of the future. He’s patient with young players, having been a college coach at Butler University, and he’s smart enough to earn the respect of the veterans like Rondo, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Kris Humphries. Stevens is the wrong coach if you want to lose as much as possible and have the highest chance for the highest pick, and the Celtics know that one draft pick isn’t what will win championships. Cleveland tanked for LeBron James, but they didn’t build a good enough team around him to win a championship and he took his talents to South Beach when he got the chance. Stevens is building a winning culture with lesser talent, so when the greater talent arrives, the real winning can happen.
The Celtics have more draft picks than they know what to do with over the next few years, and they also have plenty of assets that can be packaged together in a trade for a superstar. They could trade for Kevin Love, or they could find and develop the next Kevin Love through the draft. I can’t pretend to know what they’re going to do, but they have plenty of options, and the sooner the season ends, the sooner we will have a better idea of what the next great Celtics team will look like.