With Training Camp right around the corner, I want to take a look at this years Boston Celtics and how they could shock the world. But people will sleep on this team until they realize how talented they really are.
Granted, the Boston Celtics made the playoffs last year after going on an absolute tear after the All-Star break last season. The trade for Isaiah Thomas was probably the best trade out of any team last season. Isaiah led the Celtics in scoring with 19 points a night, even though he came off the bench and only played 26 minutes per game. He was the spark plug that the team needed down the stretch. Unfortunately he went ice cold in the playoffs and only shot 33% from the field.
The Celtics were supposed to be a team that was challenging for a top five lottery pick last year, instead they nabbed the 7th seed in a pretty pitiful Eastern Conference. In the first round they drew the eventual Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who happen to have the best player on the planet. The Celtics played Cleveland tough, however. Was there ever a time where I thought the Celtics could actually win the series? Absolutely not. But three out of the four games were decided by less than 10 points. Basically the only thing Boston fans will remember from this series is Kelly Olynyk injuring Kevin Love and knocking him out for the playoffs, and costing LeBron James his 3rd ring. But the Celtics can be a contender in the East.
As I already said, the Eastern Conference is horrible. Putrid, disgusting, awful, whatever negative adjective you want to throw in there would probably be accurate. This definitely helps the Celtic’s chances of shocking some people. Brad Stevens’ teams always love playing for him. He led Butler to the national championship game in 2010 and they came up just a half court shot close of winning the Big Dance. Even in his first year in Boston, which was filled with little to no success, you could see the team played hard for him, they just weren’t a good team. Last year the Celtics finally put that hard work into results. The C’s were one of the deepest rosters in the league last year, consistently running 10 deep in the bench. That depth really helped down the stretch, and now the roster may be even deeper.
With three picks in the first 40 selections in the draft earlier this year, the Celtics snatched up athletic point guard Terry Rozier out of Louisville, sharpshooter RJ Hunter out of Georgia State, who (along with his father) became famous after his game winning shot against Baylor. In the second round they drafted athletic rim protector Jordan Mickey out of LSU and Marcus Thornton out of William & Mary, who will play in Australia this year. Marcus Smart will be expected to play an ever bigger role than he did as a rookie, as he played tremendous down the stretch for this team.
I love Marcus Smart. I feel as though he could be one of the best point guards in the league during his prime years. But this team is all about depth and fitting the system. The Celtics have maybe two or three standout athletes on the team, and with the NBA rapidly disregarding skill and only caring about athleticism, the C’s are already at a disadvantage. But the actual skill this team possesses is unreal.
Outside of Amir Johnson who was another offseason addition, the likely big man rotation of Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, David Lee and Jared Sullinger may have a max vert of about 20 inches, but they’ll kill you from inside or outside, as Brad Steven’s loves to spread the floor with shooting big men. On the wing, James Young brings athleticism and shooting, Evan Turner is incredibly skilled passing and driving to the basket, and Jae Crowder brings lockdown potential.
The guards are all small, but fiery and feisty. Avery Bradley might be the best on ball defender in the league, Isaiah Thomas is short of 6′ but plays with a huge heart, Marcus Smart has the potential to be an absolute stud, and the jury is still out on Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter but they can both be immediate contributors.
The only things holding this team back are rim protection, three point shooting and lack of minutes to go around. The Shamrocks desperately needed a rim protector last year and they got a couple of good ones in Amir Johnson and rookie Jordan Mickey. They ranked last in blocked shots per game with only 3.6, not good.
On the offensive side, the Celtics only made 32% of their threes, which ranked 27th in the league. Once again, not good. Depth is always a good thing but when it seems as though quality NBA players such as David Lee and Evan Turner struggle for minutes, you have a problem, The Celtics have the assets to trade for a star player, but its a matter of finding a player to fit the system and wants to play in the Bean.
The Celtics definitely have a playoff roster. They may not win the Atlantic division with Toronto looking like a borderline elite team, but the Celtics can and will make some noise in the playoffs. Don’t be surprised to see this team in the Eastern Conference Finals if the pieces fall in place. This Celtics team will be the best since the Big Three of the late 2000’s. I’m projecting this team to go 49-33 and get a 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. But as Kevin Garnett would say in this situation “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLEEEEEEEEE!”