Training camp is less than a month away! Here are the 6 keys to the Celtics having a bounce back season:
Too many times have we seen Jayson Tatum iso into a long contested two. He needs to cut them down. Granted, he makes the shots look silly easy at times, but it’s not the best look Boston can get. There were too many instances last season where the ball was in one player’s hand the entire play. No ball movement, no body movement, no cutting, just straight iso and hoping to attract help defenders to ultimately kick it back out. This was lazy coaching.
Hopefully, with a new suit leading the pack on the court, the Celtics can run more dynamic ball movement plays. Boston has the players with the ability to cut to the rim and finish, as well as the guys that are able to find the open man. The Celtics should utilize their talents, in that regard, a bit more.
Danny Ainge made Brad Stevens use the mid-round picks they acquired throughout the years on some developmental players. From recent picks in Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard, to Grant Williams, Romeo Langford and Robert Williams, the Celtics actually have a solid young core. I’m expecting the biggest contributions to come from Time Lord out of the names mentioned. He’s clearly the best center on the team and gives the team a plethora of good looks in pick-and-roll actions. He is also absolutely relentless on defense.
Now this might be because of how little he actually played in Stevens’ rotations, but he has more career blocks (166) than missed shots (111). Let that sink in for a bit. The guy is a menace and I am glad he’s in the green and white. The potential is there for the Celtics youth to make significant contributions in their quest for Banner 18.
Brad Stays Hungry
Now that Stevens is in Ainge’s position, he has wasted no time trading away this year’s pick in a salary dump trade that I actually love. Boston got rid of Kemba Walker’s obnoxious contract and knee issues while also getting back Al Horford and a 7’2 Moses Brown who had shown spurts of real potential last season. The Celtics, however, are done with potential. Boston needs to win and they need to win now. Realizing this, Stevens then flipped Moses Brown into Josh Richardson, who should give the team a decent scoring punch and solid defensive play night-in and night-out.
In addition to J-Rich, Stevens was also able to snag Dennis Schröder, a not-so-highly sought after commodity after his abysmal performance in the playoffs for the Lakers. The Celtics got an absolute steal with Schröder on a one-year, $5.9 million deal. He gives the Celtics an additional playmaker (averaged 5.8 assists last year), as well as being a gritty defensive asset. The Celtics also got fan favorite Enes Kanter back, while also adding Juan Hernangómez to the forward depth chart. Hopefully, with this new and re-tooled team, the Celtics have a real chance to stir some things up in the East.
Health is Wealth
We have a very talented roster when fully healthy. For this reason, there really is no excuse not to be in the top four in the East if the majority of the team stays healthy. Last year was a disaster. There wasn’t one game, in the entire season, where the Celtics had all of their top seven players in the lineup. Hopefully, the Celtics can avoid this at all costs this year, as it obviously took a huge toll on them last year. If the Celtics can manage to avoid the injury bug this time around, it’ll put them in line to be serious contenders.
Brad Stevens’ time in Boston was great overall. That doesn’t mean there weren’t some head scratching moments throughout the years. Whether it was bad rotations, late and/or no calls for timeouts when the team needed them, or lazy play calling, Stevens was on his way out before any of us even knew it. Nonetheless, he’s picked a good successor.
Udoka has solid experience, being exposed to multiple systems and cultures across the league. Jaylen Brown and Tatum both gave their stamp of approval to the Udoka hire. They have been around him before, from their time on Team USA in 2019. He was also an ex-player that can hopefully connect with the players more than Stevens ever could, unlocking another level for the squad, especially the Jays.
Speaking of the future Hall of Fame duo, they need to ball out next season. They will undoubtedly be the centerpieces to the team for the foreseeable future (hopefully their whole career). Tatum came into his own last season, establishing himself as a top 10 player in the NBA with his play on the court. If Tatum can hone in on his playmaking skills, there should be no reason why he isn’t leading the Celtics in assists.
Brown had an overlooked season, partially because of Tatum’s blossoming, partially due to the struggles of the team overall. Still, Brown averaged 19.2 FGA per game (an increase of 4 from last year), while still boasting his best field goal percentages of his career at 48.4% from the field & 39.7% from three. Brown has also developed his playmaking ability which led to a spike in his assist numbers as they jumped from 2.1 to 3.4 last year. These are all encouraging statistics, especially now that the Jays don’t have to split shots with Kemba.
Overall, the Celtics should look forward to an exciting year ahead. This is the year that the Celtics can finally break the bad luck streak of heartbreaks in the Eastern Conference Finals and punch a ticket to the Finals, where anything can happen.
Photo: (Bill Streicher – USA Today)
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