On the Celtics Green forums, Derren posted the question "Who will have a breakout season?" After some discussion and a few different opinions, I started thinking that this team has several players who could break out this season, not just one. We have Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, and Dionte Christmas, all of whom are rookies, trying to make their very first mark on the league. We have Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Jason Collins who are veterans in the league but new to the Celtics. And there are the young guys coming back including Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Avery Bradley, and Brandon Bass along with the veteran Celtics which includes Rondo, Pierce, and KG.
Let's start with the rookies who have the potential, but are pretty much long shots to break out due to playing time restrictions their first season. All of these guys have talent, potential and something to prove. Jared Sullinger is a lottery talent who dropped to the Celtics due to a red flag in the draft. He has a chip on his shoulder to show every team that passed on him they made a mistake. He has great fundamentals and has proved he can play the game. The question about Sully will be conditioning. If he comes into camp in great shape, my money's on him to have a great season.
Fab Melo has been doubted and as with Sully, he dropped in the draft, possibly due to questions about his mysterious suspension at Syracuse and his relatively short time playing the game (He started playing just 4 years ago). Word out of the players' informal practices is that Fab is working hard and has trimmed down considerably. And, he hasn't even gotten to have school with professor KG yet. Considering how far he's come in the short time he's been playing, it's entirely possible that he could have a good solid season.
Kris Joseph is another player who dropped to the Celtics due to a deep draft and teams looking for younger players (He's 23 and a 4 year college player). He was the leading scorer for a team that was ranked #1 in the NCAA. He has skills and potential but will probably not get the playing time he needs to break out. Dionte Christmas is a very intriguing player. He honed his skills over 4 seasons in Europe and has the hunger it takes to make it in the NBA. He knows he has to earn his spot and has the potential to break out if given the playing time.
The most likely to break out group is the one that includes Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass. Jeff Green will be playing his natural position for the first time in his career. He had a near death experience that in itself can give a player a completely new lease on life and the game. He has vowed to come back more aggressive and to concentrate on rebounding. He is athletic and has the skills to be a great player. With a renewed sense of purpose, he could very well have a career best season.
Sharing the near death experience was Chris Wilcox. I mean, what are the odds that two players from the same team in the same year would need heart surgery? But, Chris is coming back with a renewed sense of urgency as well. He was just starting to take off last season and was making a great connection with Rondo as they ran the court together when he had to have the surgery. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off and if he can stay healthy may just have a career best season.
Avery Bradley had a break out season last year. He went from a little used bench player to starter, considered by most to be the best on ball defender in the league. Shoulder problems slowed his progress and eventually shut him down in the playoffs. After shoulder surgery, he should come back hungry and eager to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup. I believe he can be even better than he was last season.
The final member of this group is Brandon Bass. In Orlando, Stan Van Gundy didn't particularly like Brandon Bass. Van Gundy didn't use him like he should have but Bass never complained or lashed out at his coach. When he got to Boston, it must have seemed like he was unleashed. He emerged as a solid starting power forward, which allowed Doc to move KG to the center. Bass is a very hard worker and even when he was in China doing clinics, he had his shooting coach with him and was working on his game in between sessions. I wouldn't be surprised to see Brandon break out even further next season.
The next group with Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jason Collins isn't one that you would expect to break out since they are veterans. But, Courtney Lee has improved his game every year he has been in the league. With a solid system behind him and the chance to start at the beginning of the season, it isn't a stretch to think that he will improve yet again this season. Jason Terry has been a solid player and 6th man his entire career. He was comfortable in Dallas and possibly coming to Boston will give him a jump start. He is excited to be a Celtic and may just have a sensational season. After 11 years in the league, we can't expect a breakout season from Jason Collins. Just a solid contributor would be fine with me.
And finally, the returning Celtics core. KG has said that he is feeling fantastic and the best he has felt going into a season in years. He will be in the center again and that seemed to energize him last season. If he can duplicate what he did last season, that would definitely get Celtics fans excited. Paul Pierce will be coming back from a substandard post season due to a knee injury. He is a proud player and will be ready to prove to everyone that he's still got it. I expect a great season from the Captain. And finally, there is Rondo. If Rondo worked on his shot at all during the offseason, he would definitely move to the top of the PG class.
There are so many reasons to be excited about this upcoming season, not the least of which is speculating on which of the Celtics players will have break out seasons or perform above expectations. I think there's a good chance that there will be more than one!
I'm most excited about Sully's rebounding. He's got a knack for it and we desperately need rebounding. Green also said he's going to concentrate on rebounding. I expect great seasons from both CLee and CWilcox. Like I said, I'm expecting a break out team :) We've got talent, depth, and players with a chip on their shoulders. A good combination.