The Boston Celtics finished last season with 25 wins, and there is no quick fix to get back to contention this time around. Now a year removed from the overhaul which saw the departures of head coach Doc Rivers and future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Celtics are continuing to reconstruct its roster and forge a new direction. This season is filled with uncertainties and the faces on the team in training camp could be drastically different over the coming months.
Basketball Insiders takes a look at the 2014-2015 Boston Celtics…
Five Guys Think
If Boston Celtics fans want to feel good right now, their best bet is to take a long, hard look at their “future draft picks owed” list and start counting all the first-round selections they’ll be making in the coming years. If they want to feel bad, however, they can instead take a long, hard look at the current roster. While Rondo is still the team’s best player, it’s hard to believe he’ll be there much longer, especially with a young stud like Marcus Smart waiting in the wings. Brad Stevens is an interesting young coach, but still doesn’t quite have the talent to show what he’s made of. This is going to be another long year for the Celtics, and if lottery rules change, it could be that they don’t even have Jahlil Okafor to look forward to.
4th Place – Atlantic Division
What will the Celtics do with Rajon Rondo? That’s the big question in Boston entering the season. Unless the Celtics are able to use some of their young assets and draft picks to land a star player before the trade deadline (like they tried to do with Kevin Love), I think Rondo will be traded. Rondo will be 29 years old when he hits unrestricted free agency next summer and he is used to playing for a contender. I can’t imagine him re-signing with the Celtics as they’re currently assembled, since the franchise is in the midst of a rebuild that requires patience, when he could sign elsewhere and win in the prime of his career. I think Danny Ainge realizes this as well and will move Rondo before the deadline for more young players and draft picks. Holding onto him is too risky since they could lose him without receiving anything in return next summer. The Celtics had a nice offseason, adding potential cornerstones in Marcus Smart and James Young to a young core that already features talented pieces like Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger among others. Boston is likely another year or two away from competing for a playoff spot, but they have an excellent young coach in Brad Stevens and a lot of talented young players and valuable draft picks, so their rebuild is going exactly as planned.
4th Place – Atlantic Division
– Alex Kennedy
The Boston Celtics are in the midst of a rebuilding process president of basketball operations Danny Ainge long predicted would take place when Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were no longer in the fold. But the biggest cloud hanging over the team headed into training camp is the future of All-Star guard Rajon Rondo with the franchise. Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent next summer which will likely lead to trade rumors surrounding the star to be rampant throughout the campaign. There are some solid young assets on the roster and a few veterans who have been in their share of battles over the years. Playoff talk might be too much of a leap for this team, but with a healthy Rondo the Celtics will definitely be more competitive on a nightly basis.
4th Place – Atlantic Division
– Lang Greene
Now that Kevin Love is officially a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, it appears that Rajon Rondo’s departure from the only franchise he has known for his eight-year career is nigh. As it stands, with Ray Allen, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all having moved on, Rondo is the lone remainder of the five pillars that won the 2008 NBA Finals. Danny Ainge will likely continue to scour the market in search of a running mate for Rondo, but this is a team heading into the second year of what may be a long rebuilding effort. With second-year head coach Brad Stevens and newly drafted Marcus Smart, the Celtics do not seem to be a team capable of challenging for anything other than being the worst team in the NBA’s Atlantic Division. Fortunately for them, the Sixers are likely to wear that honor, but unfortunately for them, the Celtics will enter the season with nothing but questions about Rondo’s future at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
4th place – Atlantic Division
– Moke Hamilton
All you have to do is look at the Boston Celtics’ depth chart to realize that they’re more than ready to trade Rajon Rondo when the right deal comes along. They’re loaded in the backcourt with plenty of young talent to take his place whenever a deal does happen, and I’d expect to see it sometime before the deadline – perhaps even earlier if Rondo gets off to a strong start or becomes more vocal about his unhappiness. Danny Ainge pulled a contender out of his hat before, but this time it seems like the road back to contention is going to be a little bit longer, because he’s not going to get contending pieces in return for Rondo. He’ll be fortunate to get a promising young big man, like a Greg Monroe and a couple of draft picks. Brad Stevens really had his moments last year and looks like he could be the right guy for the job in Boston, but this looks like it’s going to be another painful year. The only consolation is that even with Rondo, their potential just isn’t that high. The East is weak, so perhaps they could slide in to one of the final playoff spots in the best-case scenario, but that’s not the goal in Boston. They’ll take a couple steps back in order to hopefully take several forward in the future before settling on just being a one-and-done playoff team with their most tradeable asset heading towards free agency and potentially laeving for nothing in return.
– Yannis Koutroupis
Top of the List
Top Offensive Player: There is no question Jeff Green has the ability to lead the Celtics in scoring every game. The question is, however, if he will do it consistently. Green’s offensive performances have roller coastered with standouts and struggles on any given night. Last season he averaged 16.9 points per game and should be the top scoring option again this year.
Top Defensive Player: The Celtics showed their belief in Avery Bradley by inking him to a four-year, $32 million contract this summer. When healthy, Bradley has proved himself to be a lockdown defender against some of the league’s top threats. If the guard can stay on the court, he could develop into an All-Defensive Team player.
Top Playmaker: Rajon Rondo is one of the most creative players in the NBA. The combination of sky-high basketball IQ and athleticism allow him to create plays on the fly. Over the years Rondo has shown it is often hard to predict what move he will make with the ball in his hands.
Top Clutch Player: Following up with the section above, the most clutch player doesn’t have to be the one taking the final shot. (Think back to Rondo’s in-bound alley oops.) He uses his stealth-like court vision to put his teammates in position to attempt that dagger game winner.
The Unheralded Player: Undrafted, undersized, and playing behind one of the best point guards in the league, yet Phil Pressey has still established himself as a legitimate floor general in the NBA. He showed growth in Summer League and proved he is a reliable backup PG who should develop his game even more in his sophomore season.
Best New Addition: Given the uncertainty of Rondo’s future on the team, the Celtics made a smart (no pun intended) move and drafted Marcus Smart with the sixth pick this summer. The 20 year old from Oklahoma State University enters the NBA at 6-4, 220 pounds. The Celtics now have backcourt security for the future and a gritty young player who can be utilized at the one or the two.
Who We Like
1. Brad Stevens: Amid a struggling season, the newly appointed head coach was one of the standouts. Brad Stevens is gearing up for his second year in the NBA and has already made a positive impression. The players bought into his system early on and he has a season’s experience to build upon with a solid coaching staff.
2. Jared Sullinger: No longer the young guy in a group of veterans, Sullinger could have a breakout year in his third NBA season. Last year was his return from back surgery; this season he will be entering the season healthy. If he can improve his conditioning, he still has a lot of potential to reach in the front court.
3. Kelly Olynyk: After being named to the All-Rookie Second Team last season, Kelly Olynyk continued to impress in Summer League. The seven footer can stretch the floor to give the Celtics options in rotations. With the rookie learning curve behind him, Olynyk should become a more consistent contributor in his second year.
4. Tyler Zeller: For as many frontcourt players as they had last season, the Celtics lacked depth at the center position. Tyler Zeller, who was acquired this offseason in a three-team trade with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, will give the Cs a young contributor who can play both the four and the five.
The Celtics roster is packed with youth and athleticism, giving them the advantage to get out and run. Stevens up tempo system allows Rondo to play in transition and creates matchup problems when players one through five can move up and down the court. What they lack in experience, they can use to outrun veteran teams.
Who are the Boston Celtics? The team lacks a true identity after being contenders for many years. Rather, this is the time when they are developing who they will become in the future. In addition the Celtics do not have the star power they boasted during “The New Big Three” era. The one remaining player from that period (see below) may not be around the entire season.
The Salary Cap
The Celtics have so many players, they can’t ink Evan Turner — despite coming to terms with the free-agent guard/forward. The offseason maximum is 20 players, where Boston sits with five non-guaranteed players including Keith Bogans at $5.3 million. The Celtics may hope to cash out Bogans in trade, along with a number of players including Rajon Rondo, Marcus Thornton, Brandon Bass, Joel Anthony, and Gerald Wallace, among others. Boston won’t rush to deal Rondo, looking for a lot in return, but the team needs to also mind the luxury tax line at $76.8 million in any deal that might come up before the roster is cut down to at least 15. The Celtics are also loaded with future picks, a $4.2 million trade exception (for Kris Humphries) and their Bi-Annual Exception ($2.1 million). Turner is expected to get a portion of the team’s $5.3 million Mid-Level Exception.
– Eric Pincus
The future is simultaneously bright and dismal in Boston. The Celtics bit the rebuilding bullet hard last year, trading away Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers in exchange for salary ballast (Gerald Wallace still has two years left on what is probably the worst contract in the NBA) and a bevy of future draft picks. But the current reality is roster with only one player–Marcus Smart–who looks like a good bet to become an above-average NBA starter on the next good Celitcs team. Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger have their strengths, but they all look to be mostly one-way players. Rajon Rondo’s contract will expire at age 29 next offseason, and he should not be a part of the Celtics’ long-term plans considering his age and likely salary demands. And while the squad has both draft assets and cap space, it remains to be seen whether superstars may be available via trade or free agency. Even if one were, the lack of established talent on the roster could hamstring efforts to acquire such a star.
Perhaps the best asset in Boston is their coach, Brad Stevens. The former Butler wizard scraped together a nearly league-average defense from a roster without a single decent defensive big man last season, but he (like most coaches) proved powerless to improve the offense given the lack of high-end talent. Some may point to the potential return to form of Rondo, but it is worth remembering that the Celtics struggled offensively in 2011 and 2012 even with a younger Rondo at the controls of an offense featuring Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen. It seems very unlikely the offense will improve much on last year’s 27th ranked attack.
Best Case Scenario
If you scrolled down, you will note the best case scenario involves a worse record. That is because this season is all about developing talent, both for internal development and to potentially land a star via free agency or trade. An improved draft pick would also help the rebuilding effort along as well, but this scenario is all about trading the older players and letting the young guys play. Rondo and Jeff Green are traded, hopefully for something amounting to a first-round pick between the two of them, while the team manages to buy out Wallace so he can sit on a contender’s bench. That opens the door for Smart, James Young, and Olynyk (probably the most promising of the young bigs due to his mobility) to play at the expense of the 2014-15 record.
Worst Case Scenario
Rondo, Green, Wallace, and Marcus Thornton are all Celtics at the end of the season because Danny Ainge cannot obtain anything worthwhile in trade. Both Rondo and Green have career years and block the young guys behind them, the defense gets into the top half of the league, and the team overperforms its point differential (it underperformed by 3 wins last year) to get stuck in the back half of the lottery.
– Nate Duncan
The Burning Question
Where will Rondo finish this season?
The Celtics captain has an expiring contract and the most value on the team. The combination of those two factors make him an instant trade candidate. The Celtics and Rondo have to determine whether they will to continue a future together. Rondo wants to win again, and there will be other suitors out there who can provide that opportunity. Expect the Celtics, as well, to explore what they could receive in return for their top asset. If Rondo doesn’t want to commit to the team beyond his current contract, it is hard to imagine him in a Celtics uniform at the end of the season.
NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson
Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.
Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?
Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.
“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”
Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.
While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.
Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.
“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”
Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.
“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.
Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.
Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.
“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”
When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.
And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.
“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”
One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.
“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”
And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.
Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?
Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.
With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.
It couldn’t get worse, could it?
Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.
My understanding is that Kyrie Irving is getting a 2nd opinion on his left knee, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Bottom line: he needs the screws out. Knee is flaring up. He will either play thru it going forward or … he will get thee screws out and won’t play at all. Stay tuned.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) March 20, 2018
With lack of progress on his ailing left knee, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving plans to travel for a second opinion later this week, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 20, 2018
In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.
The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.
Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.
The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.
Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.
Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?
If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.
Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.
NBA Daily: Houston Has It All
Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.
It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.
So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.
As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.
Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.
One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.
Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.
Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.
This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.
Small Ball Ready
Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.
At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.
When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.
Shooting, Versatility and Experience
All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.
Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.
Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.
With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.