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Four questions facing the Boston Celtics in 2014

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As the Boston Celtics enter the New Year, they face many questions that may not be answered for a few years. But the current core of Celts elicits many questions that will likely be answered before season’s end. Let’s take a look:

What to do with Avery Bradley?

Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling reported that, in the offseason, the Celtics’ shooting guard declined a 4 year, $24 million contract extension from the team. It has been rumored that Bradley wants a contract in the $8 million range.

Bradley’s play this season has exceeded most expectations. AB is averaging 14.0 PPG and an impressive 4.2 RPG. His shooting has improved so much that you can start looking at Bradley as an actual shooting guard, rather than just as a guard. Bradley is shooting 46% from the field, compared to 40% last season.

Tony Allen, who is a very similar player to Bradley, signed this offseason for $20 million over 4 seasons. Offensively, Bradley brings more to the table than Allen, but will the Celts shell out an extra $3 million for him?

When Celts’ GM Danny Ainge had to make a decision on Allen’s contract when he was in Boston, he declined to give him an extra year. So the years for Bradley, rather than the dollar amount, may be more of a factor in contract negotiations.

If you look at better offensive players, like Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson (3 years/ $18 million), Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan (4 years/ $38 million), and Atlanta’s Jeff Teague (4 years/ $32 million), you have to question if the Celtics are confident enough to give similar money to Bradley, a player who is just starting to get into a rhythm on the offensive end when it comes to shooting the ball.

Prediction: Bradley signs with the Celtics this offseason for 4 years, $28 million.

Will a Jared Sullinger make the All-Star Team?

With recent injuries to the Hawks’ Al Horford and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez, the list of all-star big men in the East is dwindling. It’s apparent that Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (14.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG) and Miami’s Chris Bosh (16.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG) should both make the teams as reserves, barring any injury before the February All-Star Game. This leaves a couple of spots open on the team for some deserving big men.

Detroit’s Andre Drummond (13.2 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 1.6 BPG) and Charlotte’s Al Jefferson (16.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG) are both having excellent years. In Jefferson’s case, he is the best player on a surprising Bobcats team that would be in the playoffs if the season were to end today.

Sullinger has the potential to be an All-Star this season. His plus/minus rating of +77 is good for the team lead. Sullinger’s plus/minus is more than twice that of Kris Humphries, who is second on the team with a +38.

Sullinger is averaging 13.9 PPG, while grabbing 6.9 RPG, and has clearly been the Celtics’ MVP this season.

Prediction: Sullinger will be on the outside looking in, at the All-Star Game this season.

Playoffs?

If the season were to end today, the 13-17 Celtics would make the playoffs as an 8 seed. But since the season doesn’t end in December, the Celts know they have a lot of basketball ahead of them. To start the year off, the Celtics have a tough West Coast road trip, playing the Clippers, Warriors, and Blazers. That’s not exactly an easy way to start the year.

Watching this team, it is clear that no game is easy (well, except if they are playing the Knicks). The inability to hold leads at home is a sure sign of a team that doesn’t know how to close out games. What was great about the 2008 edition of the Celtics was that when they had an opponent down, they didn’t let up until the final buzzer.

Prediction: The Celtics just miss the playoffs. Cleveland, New York, Chicago, and Brooklyn all have a legitimate chance to sneak in the playoffs over the Celts.

Who gets traded first?

It is going to happen. It is no secret that the Celtics are openly shopping everyone on the roster. Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee were almost sent packing until Boston and Houston couldn’t come to a decision to trade for Houston’s Omer Asik. Jeff Green is another name that has been brought up in trade talks and, when it comes closer to the deadline, I expect fringe contenders to call Ainge to discuss the possibility of acquiring Green.

Prediction: The Asik deal finally happens. Bass, Lee, and Green are all dealt in a three-team trade.

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