Boston Celtics Preview
The Celtics have walked the line between the present and the future. Do they have to pick?
The Celtics won 53 games and earned a one seed out East despite a roster that lacks a true two way star (notwithstanding a complaint to the contrary from the individual on bath salts who thought it would be a good idea to vote Isaiah Thomas third team All-Defense) and elite wing talent.
Thomas had the best offensive season ever for a player listed under six feet and that’s almost understating his impact. He may have been the best scorer in basketball, period.
Outside of IT’s brilliance the surrounding talent mostly held to the status quo. Al Horford provided a boost, but he’s clearly past his prime, Jae Crowder took a step backwards on defense, Avery Bradley remains an underrated menace but nothing more, and outside of Jaylen Brown none of the Celtics 347 draft picks over the last five years showed anything beyond role player potential.
Draft From The Past
This one’s easy. While calling Duke-Florida from MSG (don’t mistake that for a humblebrag, there’s nothing humble about it) I compared Jayson Tatum to Paul Pierce and now that the rest of the country has caught up I’m sticking with it.
Despite being one of its youngest players, Tatum had far and away the most advanced offensive game of any player in this year’s draft. He already has a credible back to the basket game and jab series. He was the most efficient low volume post player in the nation. You saw just how varied his skillset is when he dissected one of the best defenses in the country with utter ease.
Like The Truth he lacks elite athleticism and still has to add a jump shot if he wants to reach the heights of the Celtics legend, but at the same stage, he’s better.
Free Agency Tinder Superlike
It’s eyes season! That means after years of rumors, people reminding you ad nauseam that Gordon Hayward played for Butler, and Bill Simmons having to go through hundreds of pairs of pants, the Celtics might finally get their man.
Hayward is a game changer on both ends and beyond that gives the Celtics a legit chance at signing and extending Paul George. That team isn’t beating a healthy Golden State, it’s probably not even beating Cleveland, but it gives them a shot. I’d question just how well three ball dominant guys fit together, but both Hayward and George are smart passers and talented spot up shooters. Superstar fits are tough without those qualities, but with them it’s just a matter of time. Plus if anyone could make it work cleanly it’s President Stevens.
One Defining Stat
IT’s 4th quarter dominance is well documented, but what’s less talked about was his ridiculous ability to carry Boston in back to backs. Players are almost universally worse when they have to play two nights in a row. Particularly those like Thomas that take a constant pounding and aren’t necessarily big enough to handle it. And yet, that was when Thomas was at his absolute best.
According to NBA.com, in 16 back to backs the (*Clyde Frazier voice*) diminutive dynamo averaged 33 and 6 on near 40–50–90 shooting. If he had done that for a full season he’s the MVP, even if Russ had averaged a triple dou…wait he did what?!?!
How Far Away Are They?
You could argue Danny Ainge is brilliant. You could say he’s playing Wizard Chess while everyone else is playing Tic-Tac-Toe. You could also say he’s simply competent with a penchant for taking advantage of idiots (one in particular).
Either way he’s done the impossible, putting together a team capable of losing in the conference finals to LeBron James for the next decade while simultaneously collecting a golden turd of a top five pick from the Brooklyn Nets until the end of time (okay, last one is next season, but it feels that long for Nets fans).
No one’s beating the Warriors, but very few teams are better set up to compete for second than the Boston Celtics.
The Up & Under:
The Up: The Celtics’ heaven is better than your heaven. They sign Hayward, who takes the minimum after Stevens convinces him he only has a “scholarship” to offer him and that the NBA is a “non-profit organization dedicated to student-athletes first”. Ainge then proceeds to swindle Kevin “Not Larry Bird” Pritchard and acquires George for Marcus Smart, Crowder and ownership of the Brooklyn Nets. Their three superstars mesh flawlessly and the Celts roll to 62 wins and the one seed out East. After dropping just one game through the first two rounds, George plays a finally declining LeBron to a near draw (helped along by French Draymond who slows The King down with a well placed kick), Avery Bradley locks down Kyrie, Boston’s league best bench dominates when the Cavs stars are off the floor and the Celtics take the East in 7. In the Finals Boston’s ridiculous wing duo matches Kevin Durant shot for shot while IT does the same with Steph for a couple of games before Kevon Looney gets hot and the Dubs go back to back in six.
The Under: Got two top three picks and likely a third for two players over 35? Check. Turn a point guard no one wanted into an MVP candidate? Check. Sign one of the five best coaches in basketball, from Butler of all places? Check. It’s hard to imagine a world in which Zeus isn’t a big time Celtics fan, but how could it go all wrong? Simple.
Brad Stevens decides to start on his 2020 Presidential run early and takes Danny Ainge with him as a campaign manager. After failing to coerce Pop they name Utah Congressional Candidate Tanner Ainge as his running mate.
The Celtics promote Assistant (to the) GM Mike Zarren to take over for Ainge. Little does Boston’s ownership realize that after years of his lottery wheel proposal getting rejected and not being allowed to eat anything other than Chipotle, Zarren has gone utterly insane and rebranded himself as a super villain called…you guessed it…The Spin Master. He’s essentially a cross between Two Face and Professor Chaos, making all of his decisions based on the spin of a wheel. In the off-season the wheel tells him to fire the entirety of the analytics department in order to have more money to build a death ray. The wheel next tells him to purify his assets by giving the Nets back everything he stole from them. Finally, fueled by IT’s continued dominance and his general fascination with “hobbits,” Zarren decides he wants everyone on his team to be under 6 feet leading to the acquisitions of Earl Boykins, Nate Robinson and Greg from the Y. After years of futility the franchise is mercifully shut down after Quesarito Night causes an E-Coli outbreak.