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Celtics might not be that bad next season

Rajon Rondo, weak East may prevent collapse

Many around the league believe Rajon Rondo and the Celtics won’t be nearly as bad as some might believe.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff/File

Many around the league believe Rajon Rondo and the Celtics won’t be nearly as bad as some might believe.

The dust is still settling from the blockbuster deal that will ship Celtics icons Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce south on Interstate 95 to Atlantic Division rival Brooklyn in exchange for a cadre of players and first-round draft picks.

But, already, the notion is firmly in place that the Celtics’ first season in full rebuilding mode will be loaded with losses, which could land them in the 2014 draft lottery — and in the running for star prospect Andrew Wiggins.

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On Twitter, a strong contingent of Celtics fans is all but rooting for the team to implode next season to improve the chances of earning the No. 1 overall pick. This rallying cry is popularized by the hashtag “TankForWiggins.”

Lloyd Christmas might think the Celtics have a chance to compete in 2013-14, but few else do.

Before the trade was agreed upon Thursday, in fact, the Bovada sports book in Las Vegas had the odds of the Celtics winning the title next season at 33-1. The odds after the trade: 75-1.

Tim Hardaway, a scout for the Miami Heat, told the Associated Press, “We don’t have to worry about Boston no more.”

While there are still questions surrounding the Celtics’ immediate future — such as who will be the coach — many around the league believe the Celtics won’t be nearly as bad as some might believe.

The main factor, several league sources said, is All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.

“Rondo + whoever is the new head coach = whether the Celtics are competitive or not next season,” one source wrote.

Another league source said, “If [Rondo] wants them to be a playoff team and he’s healthy, he’s good enough to will that.”

Yet another source said that, considering the Eastern Conference isn’t exactly loaded with powerhouse teams from top to bottom, the Celtics should be somewhere between a train wreck and better-than-expected next season.

“Unless Rondo demands a trade at some point next season . . .” the source added.

With a core of Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger, along with Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee, the Celtics are now younger (the average of those six is 25) and more athletic.

Add in players such as MarShon Brooks, a capable scoring guard who averaged 12.6 points in 2011-12 with the Nets and will be coming to Boston instead of forward Reggie Evans; and Gerald Wallace, a rugged swingman who’s on the tail end of his career but can still contribute.

Then factor in the pair of 7-footers the Celtics acquired in the draft in Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Colorado State’s Colton Iverson, both of whom should bolster a roster that was lacking in front-line depth.

In all, their roster will have the talent to , at the very least compete in the East, where last season the Milwaukee Bucks reached the playoffs with a losing record (38-44).

“Who’s going to make a run? Detroit? Orlando? Milwaukee? Philly? Cleveland?” a league source asked. “The [Celtics] are still a playoff contender until someone bumps them out.”

One league source said the Celtics’ situation isn’t nearly as dire as it was in the 1996-97 season, when they posted a 15-67 record, the second-worst mark in the league.

Legend has it that the Celtics weren’t exactly interested in winning that season because an awful record gave them a shot at landing the top spot in the draft lottery to select Wake Forest forward Tim Duncan.

But the ping-pong balls bounced another way, and Duncan went to the Spurs.

“This is nothing like that team,” a league source. “This team can go .500.”

.   .   .

With decisions on Pierce and Garnett out of the way, the Celtics can put more focus into rounding out their roster for Summer League play in Orlando, which begins July 7.

Center Fab Melo, whom the Celtics drafted in the first round last year out of Syracuse, will be on the roster, as will the two 7-footers they drafted Thursday.

Missouri guard Phil Pressey, whom the Celtics signed to a free agent contract, will also be on the roster. Pressey’s father, Paul, was once an assistant coach for the Celtics.

Other free agents lined up to play: Forward Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame), forward Courtney Fells (North Carolina State, Israel), point guard Jayson Granger (Spain), forward Lawrence Hill (Stanford, Israel), guard Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette), and forward Tony Mitchell, who was named the NBA D-League’s Rookie of the Year last season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes.
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