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Celtics, for the last time: Courtney Lee 10.31.13 at 3:52 pm ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory began Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” Next up: Courtney Lee.

When’s the last time a mid-tier veteran improved in Year 2 with a new team?

Courtney Lee’s struggles last season are well documented. Heck, even he readily admits to his inconsistency. When a reporter treaded lightly last month on the subject of his 2012-13 season, Lee stopped him and said something to the tune of, “You don’t have to be afraid to ask that question. I wasn’t so good.”

Now accustomed to his new city and out of the Doc Rivers doghouse, Lee has a new lease on his NBA life. It stands to reason that his comfortability during his second season in Boston might breed consistency.

A handful of players on similar contracts to Lee’s $5.2 million price tag have found themselves in a similar situation over the past several seasons: Jamal Crawford in New York, Atlanta and now the Clippers; Kyle Korver in Utah, Chicago and now Atlanta; Andre Miller in Denver, Philadelphia, Portland and Denver again; Chuck Hayes in Sacramento, J.R. Smith in New York; Martell Webster in Minnesota and now D.C.; and Brandan Wright in Dallas.

Here’s how those seven players performed in Years 1 and 2 with their new teams over the years.

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Celtics, for the last time: Jared Sullinger 10.30.13 at 4:43 pm ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” Next up: Jared Sullinger.

When’s the last time a sophomore stud enjoyed success post-injury?

In the past 25 years, only two bigs underwent season-ending surgery as a rookie and ultimately became a star.

The most recent is Blake Griffin, whose broken left kneecap was discovered on the eve of his rookie season. He missed that entire year, and then unleashed himself on the NBA in 2010-11, averaging 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists to earn his first of three All-Star invitations. But he was a No. 1 overall pick.

The other is LaMarcus Aldridge, whose heart ailment cut his 2006-07 rookie year short in April. He responded the next season with averages of 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He’s now a two-time All-Star.

Kenyon Martin suffered a broken leg as a college senior, and then finished second in the 2001 NBA Rookie of the year voting. Otherwise, no big man who battled injuries that early in his career ever flourished in the NBA. In fact, on the flip side, there’s guys like Greg Oden, whose chronic knee problems are well documented.

Doctors have assured Sullinger he’ll fully recover, and the production of both Griffin and Aldridge suggest it’s not only possible to recover in time for your sophomore campaign, but you can potentially flourish, too.

But Sullinger is entering uncharted territory, especially considering his surgery involved back issues. Then again, the Celtics understood that when he dropped to them at No. 21 in last year’s draft.

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Celtics, for the last time: Jordan Crawford at 4:08 pm ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” Next up: Jordan Crawford.

When’s the last time an immature young guard saw the NBA light?

Barring the great 2003 NBA draft, every June last decade featured a young guard who declared early and subsequently tumbled down the draft for any number of reasons that fall under the category of “immaturity.”

2001: Joseph Forte
2002: Qyntel Woods
2004: Delonte West
2005: Nate Robinson
2006: Marcus Williams
2007: Javaris Crittenton
2008: Mario Chalmers
2009: Ty Lawson

And in 2010 that guy was Jordan Crawford — he of wearing weed socks to practice, practically falling asleep on the bench and mocking Carmelo Anthony after sitting throughout a playoff game fame.

Just for fun, let’s see how each of those guys matured by Jordan’s current age of 25.

Forte: Out of the league, but not before wearing a Scooby-Doo shirt to a Celtics playoff game.
Woods: Out of the league, partly because of running a dogfighting ring out of his house.
West: Submitted his best season as a member of the Cavaliers. (P.S. Arrested on gun charges at age 26.)
Robinson: Traded twice between his 25th and 26th birthdays, contributing to C’s 2010 NBA Finals run.
Williams: Out of the league, relegated to playing in Russia.
Crittenton: Out of the league, indicted on murder and gang-related charges.
Mario Chalmers: Emerged as the starting point guard of the two-time NBA champion Heat.
Ty Lawson: Submitted his best season as a member of the Nuggets.

As you can tell, these guys have had their ups and downs, and Crawford hasn’t had the legal troubles many of these guys have experienced (well, unless you count the whole allegedly stealing a cell phone in college thing), but he has already played for three teams in his first three seasons.

The best comparison here is probably Nick Young. One’s called Swaggy P and the other Steez, and both have horrible shot selection. They were even Wizards teammates once, but that didn’t end well. However, Young enjoyed his best season at age 25, averaging a career-high 17.4 points, albeit on a lottery team.

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Celtics, for the last time: Jeff Green at 1:38 pm ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” Next up: Jeff Green.

When’s the last time a 27-year-old NBA veteran made the All-Star leap?

In the final months of last season, as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett stared father time in the face and Rajon Rondo sat injured on the bench, Jeff Green rewarded the Celtics with the potential they saw in him.

“Is he an elite talent in this league? I believe so,” Jason Terry told WEEI in March. “If he didn’t have that surgery, you’d be talking about an All-Star. He’s an All-Star caliber player, and … I believe he’s the X-factor.”

Now, only Green stands in the way of an All-Star season. No Pierce, no Garnett and no Rondo for a while. The Celtics will give Green every opportunity to emerge as the star of this team — whether or not he ever does.

If his 32.5 field goal percentage (23.5 3P%) during the preseason is any indication, then this could be a long season for Green. But preseason generally isn’t an indication of anything. Green’s 17.3 points (49.3 FG%, 43.9 3P%), 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per game in the second half of last season is more like it.

It certainly isn’t unprecedented for a player to make his first All-Star Game appearance at age 27. Just last season, a 27-year-old Joakim Noah became the 108th player to do so after his 27th birthday, and Tyson Chandler earned his first invite at age 30. In the past few years, Andre Iguodola, Chris Kaman, Jameer Nelson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace and David West all made their first All-Star roster at either age 27 or 28.

Still, the odds of emerging as an NBA All-Star rapidly decline after age 26, when 52 players have made their first appearance. Here are the number of players who made their first showings at ages 27-34 (h/t AllStarNBA.es).

Age 27: 38
Age 28: 34
Age 29: 13
Age 30: 12
Age 31: 5
Age 32: 2
Age 33: 1
Age 34: 3

In other words, if Green ever hopes to become an NBA All-Star, now’s the time.

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Celtics, for the last time: Kris Humphries at 11:18 am ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” Next up: Kris Humphries.

When’s the last time an offseason expiring contract acquisition was dealt midseason?

We could have asked, “When’s the last time Kris Humphries played well in a contract season?” But that one’s too easy. He recorded career-high averages of 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds in 2011-12.

It should come as no surprise if Humphries performs well this season. That’s what Celtics president Danny Ainge was banking on when he acquired Humphries’ $12 million expiring contract in the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett deal this summer. That deal is an attractive one to any team looking to create cap space this coming summer.

And, sure, the C’s could let Humphries play out the final year of his two-year deal and create that cap room themselves this coming offseason. But they’ll also be shopping him come February. So, what might they get?

The list of famous expiring contracts in the NBA is an extensive one, including Theo Ratliff‘s deal that helped bring Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007. But, really, how often does a double-digit expiring deal like Humphries’ get traded twice in a season, considering the Nets coincidentally already used it to acquire KG?

Actually, there are four recent examples of such a scenario in the past 15 years: Antoine Walker in 2004-05, Antonio Davis in 2005-06, Troy Murphy in 2010-11 and Mehmet Okur in 2011-12. Like Humphries, all were veteran power forwards. Let’s examine how teams in the C’s position fared in those swaps.

After acquiring Walker from the Mavericks over the summer, the Hawks sent him back to the Celtics On Feb. 24, 2005, for Tom Gugliotta, Gary Payton, Michael Stewart and a 2006 first-round draft pick. That pick would have been a huge boon to the Suns had they not dealt it to the C’s in the form of Rajon Rondo.

After acquiring Davis from the Bulls over the summer, the Knicks sent him to the Raptors on Feb. 3, 2006, for Jalen Rose and a 2006 first-round pick that became Renaldo Balkman. Not exactly a haul worth bragging about.

After acquiring Murphy from the Pacers, the Nets sent him to the Warriors on Feb. 23, 2011, for Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright. (The Warriors waived Murphy, who signed with the C’s for the rest of the season.) Just bad.

After acquiring Okur from the Jazz on Dec. 22, 2011, the Nets sent him to the Blazers on March 15, 2012, for Gerald Wallace. That deal was horrific for so many reasons, including the fact New Jersey sent a first-round pick that became Damian Lillard that summer and forced their own hand into signing Wallace long-term.

Somehow, nobody benefited from double-dealing an expiring contract and Ainge has ties to three of these deals.

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Celtics, for the last time: Phil Pressey 10.29.13 at 6:53 pm ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” Next up: Phil Pressey.

When’s the last time an undrafted rookie point guard set the NBA world on fire?

The answer, quite simply, is Jeremy Lin, who transcended basketball and transformed into a global phenomenon during the Linsanity outbreak, and the odds of Philunacy recreating that magic are however-many-people-have-ever-played-basketball-to-1. Let’s just agree Lin’s an aberration and move on from there.

The list of undrafted college point guards who developed into productive NBA players is fairly extensive: Darrell Armstrong, Carlos Arroyo, J.J. Barea, Earl Barron, Earl Boykins, Troy Hudson, Mike James, Avery Johnson, Jannero Pargo and David Wesley, to name 10. And none of them produced as a rookie.

Their average line as rookies: A whopping 2.5 points (38.1 FG%, 25.2 3P%), 1.5 assists, 0.8 rebounds, 0.7 turnovers and 0.4 steals over 8.2 minutes in 26.3 games. What’s the opposite of Linsanity?

Oh, yeah, it’s Hansbr-awful. Last season, Ben Hansbrough made the Pacers out of training camp, averaged 2.0 points, 0.8 assists and 0.6 turnovers in 7.1 minutes over 28 appearances, and now plays in the Canary Islands.

Other than Lin, the only other exception to this rule is Chucky Atkins, who averaged 9.5 points and 3.7 assists over 19.8 minutes while appearing in all 82 games for a Magic team that finished .500 under Doc Rivers in 1999-2000. Both he and Pressey are listed at 5-foot-11. (So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?)

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Celtics, for the last time: Brandon Bass at 5:45 pm ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” Next up: Brandon Bass.

When’s the last time an overshadowed big emerged in the wake of his frontcourt mate’s blockbuster trade?

Commanding the Celtics frontcourt, Kevin Garnett was talkative, intensive and abrasive. Upon his arrival to Boston in 2011, an inaudible, tranquil and cordial Brandon Bass — Garnett’s starting frontcourt mate the past two seasons following the Glen Davis trade — had zero chance to shine in the shadow of such a bright NBA light.

Trading great bigs isn’t a standard basketball business practice, but it happens, particularly in the twilight of their careers. In the past 15 years, Chris Webber, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace, Alonzo Mourning, Pau Gasol, Jermaine O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Garnett have all been dealt.

In their wake, each left a frontcourt mate who surely hoped to take a(nother) step forward in their departed mentor’s absence. Webber left Juwan Howard in 1998 and Brad Miller in 2005, Ewing left Larry Johnson in 2000, Mutombo left Alan Henderson in 2001, Shaquille O’Neal left the immortal Stanislav Medvedenko in 2004, Wallace left Zach Randolph in 2004, Mourning left Nenad Krstic in 2005, Gasol left Darko Milicic in 2008, Jermaine O’Neal left Troy Murphy in 2008, Howard left Big Baby in 2012 and Garnett left Bass this summer.

Those 10 sidekicks averaged 12.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals per game during the season leading up to their star partner’s departure. Those numbers barely budged — dipping ever-so-slightly to 12.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 blocks and 0.5 steals — the ensuing season.

Not much changed, clearly. Most stepped back, if only because great players made their teammates better, and Davis took the biggest step forward, which either means nothing (considering Howard’s tumultuous final season in Orlando) or everything (since Bass mentored Big Baby throughout their Baton Rouge childhoods).

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