The Boston Celtics are 12-1 since Gordon Hayward went down on Opening Night. They are currently riding an 12 game winning streak. So who the hell needs Gordon Hayward?
Ok, that was waaaaay over the top. Of course this team needs Hayward. Over the long haul for sure. 14 games in doesn’t prove anything. There is still 83% of the season left.
That all being said, how much fun has this season been thus far? Friday night against Charlotte may have been the capper in this whole stretch. Kyrie Irving went down in the first two minutes of the game. Al Horford did not play. And of course Hayward. The C’s were down big. I hate blaming the refs for anything, as it is a tough enough job as it is. But there were some pretty bogus calls against the Celts in that game. Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier were a combined 9 for 42 (21%) from the field. The game was sloppy and honestly hard to watch (probably the only time one can say that about a Celtics game this season). But somehow, the Celtics WON.
Listen, the Hornets are 5-7 and I’m certainly not saying they are any kind of world beaters. But the Cs had absolutely no business winning that game. None.
Marcus Morris and Shane Larkin (Shane Larkin???!) were huge in the win and the team collectively stepped up their defensive intensity late. The Celts outrebounded the Hornets 49-47 as well. Having Charlotte shoot a ghastly 58% from the line didn’t hurt either. Of course, they have Dwight Howard, so a little “hack-a-Howard” helped push down that percentage.
Or maybe the win Sunday against alleged top Eastern rival Toronto is the high point of the streak. Toronto is of course a better team than Charlotte. And although Horford returned, the C’s were still missing Irving.
One benefit of Hayward being out is that 30-35 minutes a game going to other players and helping them develop. Right now, it appears Jayson Tatum and Semi Ojeleye are the prime beneficiaries. Tatum and “Shemi” are averaging about 30 and 15 minutes per game, respectively. Probably about 10 minutes a game more apiece than they were anticipated to play. Yes, I didn’t think they would throw Tatum out there with a ton of minutes to start his career. Figured he would be treated like Brown last year, 15-20 minutes a game to get his feet wet in the NBA. But he is getting the real minutes and certainly making the most of them as well. Let’s see how it looks down the road, as Tatum should play over twice as many games this season as he did in college last year. That may catch up to him at some point.
Terry Rozier is picking up a few more minutes as well. His shot hasn’t been as consistent as it has seemed…what with him shooting only 36%. But man, I love the way he rebounds as a guard. And he’s full of energy for sure.
But let’s be real. Even though we can be pretty giddy about the returns right out of the gate, let’s not be fooled into thinking that all of a sudden they are cruising to a championship this year, especially without Hayward. It’s a long season, some of the kids may wear down as they are not used to the schedule. Cleveland will improve and be there in the end. Isaiah Thomas should return and help that team. The Cavs will continue to gel and likely make trade deadline improvements when the time comes. They could also be treating the regular season like the preseason, like they did last year. And of course there are plenty of worthy squads out in the Western Conference as well.
Assuming the Celtics beat the Nets tonight, they will take a 13 game winning streak into a home date against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. That will give us a better idea on where this team stands. Then again, if Irving is still out, maybe it won’t. He may well play, but also be somewhat limited if he wears a mask or something as well.
So maybe it won’t give us a better idea on where they stand. But hopefully either way, the Cs will be competitive at least on Thursday night. On the flipside, a blowout loss may put expectations back where they belong…to where they were at the start of the season…Eastern Conference Finals, then we take it from there…this year.
The lesson here: Sit back, enjoy the ride, but let’s keep the emotions in check for a bit…maybe until at least March?
Moving on…not much more left to cover I don’t think. Well, as I said, there is one big one left:
*And it’s Tyler Zeller!! Ok, no it’s not. But he’s the 2nd to last one on the current roster to go over. 8 million dollar non-guaranteed contract for next year. To no one’s surprise, I’d rather spend that money on someone else. Like…someone a lot better perhaps. There’s really not much more to say.
*Isaiah Thomas. Of course. IT. What do we do with Isaiah?
I can tell you I have gone back and forth on this one all year…and longer actually. I know, he averaged almost 30 points a game this season, so how can there be any debate?
Well, when thinking about it during the regular season, the fact remained that IT hadn’t done much in the playoffs. Yes, I also know that he hasn’t always had a lot of help. But it was a concern. Another concern was that at his size, how will he hold up over the years? Legitimate question, especially if we are talking about giving him max dollars…or close to it. And his negative value on defense. Ultimately, is he the kind of player you really want to build around?
Lots of question marks. I feel like he played better this playoff season. Of course the Celtics played more games, but I felt better about his overall performance. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding him with the death of his sister at the beginning of the playoffs. And sure, he struggled some on the court. But let’s face it, you are going to face better competition in the playoffs, so things are going to be tougher to come by.
Then…the hip. Was this the reason he struggled in some games? Who knows? He supposedly had the injury for several weeks. But then it got to a point where he couldn’t go anymore. I don’t know Isaiah personally of course. But I have to believe that if he was sitting playoff games out, it was pretty serious. I’ve heard some question that and I don’t buy that argument. I believe that if he could have played, he would have.
But the injury adds another layer to it all. We still don’t know how serious the injury is. Early indications were that if he had to have surgery, he’d be out 6-9 months or something like that. But we don’t know if he needs the surgery yet. So…another lingering concern.
Add it all up and what to do with Isaiah is a little tricky. But I’ve made my decision.
I’m keeping him and giving him some dough.
Maybe that’s me just getting caught up in his regular season performance this year. Loving how he keeps proving people wrong. I don’t know. But I do know he has been successful here. He has one year left on his current contract at about six and a quarter million…another bargain year. Sure, he will have to get his money after next season. But the C’s will be able to give him more, based on his Bird rights or some sort of cap mumbo jumbo that no one really completely understands. This will also give the Celtics more room to sign other guys too. So giving IT max or close to max money won’t kill them. From what I hear anyway.
I’ve discussed offering IT in trades before. I wouldn’t totally rule that out either. But the hip injury dampens his value a bit. Plus, he fits this system and may have more value to the local team than any others. Brad Stevens has been able to maneuver things where he can “hide” Isaiah on defense. Maybe not always, but seemingly a lot. Danny Ainge has always loved him and he usually hangs onto guys like that.
I think he stays, gets huge money after next season, but the team continues to build around him and he becomes just a piece and not necessarily the main guy. Just one of the main guys. Hope he will be ok with that…and I think he will be.
That does it for the end of season roster. But we are not done. Some more players/points to talk about:
*Geurschon Yabusele/Ante Zizic. 2016 first round draft picks. These two will be here next year. Not sure how much they play though. Both averaged about 100 points a game overseas I believe. But against Chinese and Turkish competition, I also believe. Noted powerhouses they are not. Zizic HAS to be better than Zeller and has some size, so hopefully he can add something. I don’t really have much more to say really…
*Abdel Nader. 2016 2nd round pick. He will be here I bet too…because they got him to stick around last year up in Maine instead of going elsewhere. Likely made him a promise for 2017-18, since the 2016-17 team had a roster crunch. But again, he has to be end of bench material. I guess he played well for Maine, but that is the WNBA…er, I mean the NBA Development League. I think James Young put up 40 every time they sent him there. So I am not expecting much.
*The “other”Marcus Thornton/Ben Pepper. 2nd round picks, Thornton from 2015 and Pepper from 1997. Ok, they won’t be here. But the team still holds their rights. That has to count for something.
*Lonzo Ball. Please God, nnnnooooooo…
*Markelle Fultz. I think the C’s keep the #1 pick and take Fultz. Since I know nothing about college hoops, my analysis may really end here. Fultz seems to be the consensus #1. Maybe some other guys are good too, but it looks like Fultz is the guy.
And if he is, he needs to be the 3rd guard (presumably behind IT and Marcus Smart, with Terry Rozier the 4th guy, if he remains here…and Avery Bradley traded…as I see it anyway). Fultz needs to play. But not start…yet. He definitely needs to come in and play meaningful minutes though.
*2018 Brooklyn first round pick. Giddyup!!
*Three 2017 second round picks. Yaaaaawn.
*Gordon Hayward. And there’s this offseason’s Al Horford. Maybe he likes Utah and will stay there. I just don’t see it. Sure, a lot of people are talking about this because of the Brad Stevens/Butler connection. But I also hear that Boston can offer Hayward more money over the long haul. I have no idea if this is true, but if so, that has to mean something too. Boston over Utah, just in general? Has to be a no brainer. Ok, maybe another team makes a run at him too. But it just feels like a done deal. I’m probably wrong.
Is Hayward a top 10 player in the league? Maybe not. A pretty good player nonetheless. And many believe he will actually come here. No small feat when you consider the Celtics have problems attracting marquee free agents in their history, despite being the most decorated NBA franchise. Then put him with IT, Horford, Fultz, Smart, Jaylen Brown, etc. and you may start to have something.
*Paul George. Seems hell-bent on eventually landing in Lakerland. At least that is the popular opinion. I’m not sure I would trade for him if that is the case.
*Jimmy Butler. Whatever. Good player. I just think the other options available to the Celtics are preferable.
*Big man X. I don’t know who this is. Hopefully someone who can bang around in the paint. I know Brad likes his big guys to heave up threes and all. But they should have a better presence inside somewhat next year. I think anyway. Ideally, they can dangle Bradley and/or Jae Crowder. We’ll see.
Ok, so where does that leave us? What it may look like:
Center: Big Man X, Zizic
Power forward: Horford, Yabusele, Jerebko
Small forward: Hayward, Brown, Nader
“Shooting” guard: Smart, Fultz
Point guard: Isaiah, Rozier, Jackson
A cheap veteran and/or 2nd round picks fill out the roster. Bradley is your trade chip, tough to keep Crowder if Hayward is here and Brown needs minutes, Jerebko could be cheap and Brad loves him, Kelly Olynyk is still an option, but he may get some dough…or get squeezed by the team needing his money for other guys. Moving pieces here and I’m certainly not looking to give Crowder and Bradley away. Hell, they could still end up being here under their reasonable contracts. They probably will, to be quite honest.
Championship team? Nope, but one with some promise. Especially if “Big Man X” is a player.
BUT if Anthony Davis is available and can be had…well…I may have to rewrite these three posts in their entirety…
As we sit back and wait for months for the NBA Finals to begin…ok, an exaggeration of course. But we can all admit the week-long gap between the end of the Conference Finals and the beginning of the NBA Finals is ridiculous. As always, we can thank the television networks for that.
In any event, it’s time to put a cap on the Boston Celtics season. The Celts lost to the Cavs in 5. Exactly what I had predicted! But regardless, a sweep or five games is what pretty much everyone thought. So the Blowhard doesn’t deserve any extra props there, unfortunately.
Whimpering out of the playoffs certainly isn’t ideal. However, their performance in the series certainly does not diminish the great season they had or the organizational progress they showed.
What the series does reveal is that there is still a great deal of work to be done. No question there. The 4 losses were by an average of 26 points…and it really was worse than that. #1 seed in the East or not, the Celtics were just not in the same league as the Cavaliers.
So what do the Celtics do going forward? Getting the #1 overall draft pick for the first time in franchise history certainly was a nice start to the offseason. What else? Here’s one man’s look at the current players on the 15-man roster, along with some added commentary on other random players. Starting in alphabetical order, but maybe not finishing that way:
*Avery Bradley. I know what I would do with Avery…I’d shop him. I don’t hate the guy. But the fact remains that Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, Boston’s top 3 guards, are all free agents after next season. Though Smart is actually restricted. All are going to want sizable raises. Not to mention that they also have Terry Rozier. Jaylen Brown, though listed at small forward, stepped in for Bradley in several games when Avery was hurt. The elite draft prospects are all guards, etc…
We will get into IT more later, but Smart may command less money than Bradley. There are possible free agents coming. Bradley signed a 4 year, 32 million dollar deal after the 2013-14 season, which many thought was a steep overpayment at the time. Bradley got better, then pretty quickly became dissatisfied with the contract he signed. You think he will “settle” this time? Not likely. Bradley also always seems to have plenty of nagging injuries that affect his availability.
Something has to give. He’s a good player. I’m guessing we have seen his ceiling however. It just makes too much sense for him being the one to depart, based on all of the above. This offseason. Why let him walk after next year for nothing? So I am moving him…we shall see what Danny does though.
*Jaylen Brown. Easy here. Keep him and play him more than the 17 minutes a game than you gave him this season. 20 years old, the third overall pick from last year had his moments this year, including the playoffs. Sure, he looked like a rookie quite often, but what did you expect? Hopefully, Year #2 will be another step up for the kid, with added responsibilities. I have to say, he shot better than I expected this season. That was the biggest knock on him coming out of college. The physical tools appear to be there. Take the training wheels off next year, and live with any bumps in the road.
*Jae Crowder. See Bradley, Avery. Move him. Good player. We’ve likely seen his ceiling. Also see Brown, Jaylen. They both technically play the same position and Brown needs more minutes. There may be another impact small forward coming via free agency. And all that.
Problem is, Crowder has an extremely team friendly contract. He has 3 years left on a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal. Great by today’s NBA standards. I’d have no problem keeping him if he accepted a lesser role off the bench. I don’t see that happening though. Especially with Brown here and potential Free Agent Player X coming. That’s one too many small forwards. He also should have some good trade value, especially with the contract. So in the end, I try to move him too. I don’t know if Danny will though.
*Gerald Green. I’m not really sure why he was here in the first place. Sure he can shoot and get hot in a hurry. But what else does he do? And did you really need him? I would’ve given his 11.4 minutes a game to James Young to see what you could salvage there in Young’s third year. No need to bring Green back. Brad Stevens may feel compelled to give him minutes again.
*Al Horford. Welp, he’s going to be here for the next three years, whether we like it or not. Would love to see him down in the paint more offensively and also grabbing more rebounds. But he is what he is now. And Brad loves his big guys to fire up threes. So we have to deal with it.
That being said, he is a good piece to have. Played pretty well in the playoffs. Hopefully the C’s can find a true center next year and Big Al can play power forward. Though I guess all of these “small forward, shooting guard, power forward” designations don’t necessarily mean as much as they did in the past, what with the current NBA style of play. Either way, I’m ok with Al in my starting five next year.
*Demetrius Jackson. Who? Yup. 2nd round pick from last year, played in 5 games for a total of 17 minutes the entire year. 17 minutes. On the roster the whole year. Let that sink in for a bit. That being said, if you have to fill the end of roster next year with cheap “talent”, it can’t hurt to have another ballhandler in tow. Contract is non-guaranteed for next year, so your guess is as good as mine on what his situation will be. Not sure it really matters anyway.
Next: Wait, I can’t believe I wrote that many words about DEMETRIUS JACKSON!! Because of that, I don’t even know what’s next…