We’re back baby! We’re back!
The long days of summer are long gone and we are entering a new season of Boston Celtics basketball. With just six days away from the start of the new NBA season and a week away from the Celtics opening game, whens a better time to take a look at the team we will be watching for 82+ games?
First let’s take a look at last year and the offseason real quick:
Record: 48-34 (Second in Atlantic Division, fifth in Eastern Conference
Playoff Finish: 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Hawks
PPG: Isaiah Thomas (22.2)
RPG: Jared Sullinger (8.3)
APG: Isaiah Thomas (6.2)
SPG: Jae Crowder (1.7)
BPG: Amir Johnson (1.1)
Key Losses: G/F Evan Turner (Portland Trailblazers), F/C Jared Sullinger (Toronto Raptors)
Key Additions: F/C Al Horford, F Jaylen Brown, G/F Gerald Green
After what many may say was a disappointing finish to last season, the Celtics went out and had a very good offseason. Obviously striking out on potentially bringing a guy like Kevin Durant was a massive disappointment, but the fact the Celtics even had a conversation with him is a good sign for this franchise. And that leads me to the guy the Celtics did sign: Al Horford…
I LOVE THIS GUY. He does everything on the basketball court from scoring in the post, scoring outside, moving the ball, setting hard screens, being able to guard guys on the perimeter and post, the list goes on and on. He isn’t the greatest rim protector but the combination of him and Amir Johnson will keep all opposing offenses on their toes while driving to the rim. Horford fits the transition the NBA is currently in with spacing the floor, stretch forwards, and being versatile enough to guard multiple positions. He defines versatile and will be a pleasure to watch light up teams at the TD Garden for the next couple of years.
Jaylen Brown is this years gift that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett left to us after getting traded. With the third pick in this past years NBA draft, the Celtics stole Brown from the Nets. Even though he may not have been the huge splash that many fans wanted, he is a guy that can play right of way and has the upside to be a very good to great player in this league. He has already showed he has unreal athleticism but has also shown that he is a man learning and will make plenty of mistkaes. He’s only 19 and will have lots of growing pains but he will surely give us lots of “Sportscenter Top Plays”. He should fit in nice as a back up 3 and a potential 4. Get excited to watch this guy for the next 10+ years.
Now to the rest of the team and expectations for this team. First let’s take a look at the starting five:
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Al Horford
They have looked great so far this preseason and I would expect that to continue. Bradley has come into this season with improved handles and passing and he looks to have an expanded role on offense to complement his First Team All-Defense. IT hopes to come back and prove that he is still an All Star caliber player. So far this preseason IT has shot well and shown a good on-court relationship with Horford. After receiving votes for First Team All-Defense last year, Crowder has come out looking very strong once again. The heart and soul of the Celtics is healthy and brought what looks to be a new refined offensive game that could vault him into the All Star Game conversation. Amir is gonna be Amir. Hustle plays, good rebounding, and the rest of the unnoticed stats will be where Amir will be making his money’s worth once again.
Now the bench:
PG: Terry Rozier, Demetrius Jackson
SG: Marcus Smart, James Young/RJ Hunter (whoever wins the last spot)
SF: Jaylen Brown, Gerald Green
PF: Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Mickey
C: Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller
I would expect big minutes from Smart and Olynyk (when he returns from injury). Smart should take lots of Evan Turner’s touches from last year. His shot looks improved but he hasn’t been making shots yet in the preseason. Even if Smart never becomes a great shooter, he is still a guy who can penetrate the defense and make the right pass. And on defense, phew, no one wants to be guarded by this guy. Hopefully KO can get healthy and build off of last years performance before his injury. Its also a contract year for him so I’d like to see an aggressive Kelly providing us with a nice outside punch and surprising decent interior defense (102 defensive rating last year which is very good). Rozier looks greatly improved after a nice summer league/preseason and should become the backup guard along with Smart. Jerebko and Zeller will have roles based off of matches more than likely with Jerebko getting more run more often. The bench as a whole should be solid, especially plugged in with a few starters, but scoring may be an issue at times if IT, Bradley, and Horford are all out.
Overall, I expect big things from this squad. I think a top four (really 3) seed should be expected along with 52+ wins. In the playoffs, anything less than a second round finish would be a failed season. The Celtics have the players to compete in a relatively weak, but developing Eastern Conference. Let the games begin!