Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Boston Celtics are positioned for a great season ahead of them, after last season’s misery.

Gearing up for the new season I am incredibly on tilt. It’s been a raucous couple of months, not to mention emotionally draining. But this year’s Boston Celtics team seems refreshing. There are little qualms about roles and shots. Kemba Walker went multiple preseason games taking under ten shots and didn’t say a single thing about it. Already I can tell the vibes on this team will be far better than last year’s plague.

But good vibes can only take your team so far. They also have to be able to play together; not just be able to fraternize. I’m confident in the Celtics rookie class jelling extremely well on the floor. I’m optimistic Grant Williams with either Carsen Edwards or Tremont Waters, will make sweet pick-and-roll music together. Javonte Green will be the ultimate energy spark off bench. It’s the starters and more established name that inspire worry.

In the 385 minutes spent sharing the floor, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown did pretty well together. It’s a wonder why Brad Stevens didn’t use that lineup more often: a respectable offensive rating of 105.9, a spectacular defensive rating of 98.8, and a positive net rating of 7.1.

Perhaps the Celtics were too clogged up at the forward spot to adequately facilitate the lineup? Certainly that will not be the problem this year. Without Marcus Morris, Brad Stevens will be forced to use this lineup more often this season.

Fans couldn’t have asked for a better class of rookies to bless their roster. Excluding Romeo Langford, who remains intriguing, but his jump shot is broken and we haven’t seen much of him since he spent his final year at Indiana competing on a broken thumb.

The aforementioned trifecta of Williams, Edwards and Waters dazzled since being drafted. During Summer League, Edwards averaged a team high 19.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 23.4 minutes over five games.

Waters averaging 11.2 points, a team high 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals, has earned himself a two-way contract on the Celtics professional squad.

Lastly, Williams gave many flashbacks to good ole Al Horford. Averaging 24 minutes a contest, he shot 47 percent for 13 points, 6 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Of the three, Edwards exudes real potential to be a sneaky Rookie of the Year contender. Edwards continued to give us hope after an inspiring preseason, averaging 15 points a night on 51 percent shooting from the field, and 45 percent from deep.

But sadly, you don’t win championships because of your eighth, ninth and tenth men. You win by overwhelming opponents with your one through five. In that respect, the Boston Celtics are fine. Hayward is bound for a bounce back season. Walker is only a minuscule drop off from Kyrie Irving.

Hopes are high Tatum and Brown will benefit from accepting bigger roles in the offense, plus their defense upside goes sorely unnoticed. But, it’s the center position that stands out like a sore thumb.

Likely starting center Daniel Theis had himself a solid preseason. Averaging 7 points, 6 rebounds and 2.5 assists. While nobody on this roster can really replace Horford, Theis stat line reads like his on a smaller scale.  Theis’ assist totals outmatch Horford’s preseason output (2.2).

We have little depth at center besides Theis. Robert Williams flatly isn’t ready; he’s far too raw. Enes Kanter couldn’t even defend you, if his life depended on it. It is likelier the 6 foot, 7 inch Williams sees more time at the five than either of those two… or at least Stevens should seriously consider this far more profitable than adhering to traditional lineup structures.

The best case scenario for Theis is he is the virtual clone of Walker’s former teammate, Cody Zeller. Zeller earned himself a reputation in analytical circles as the “RPM God.” Theis and Zeller, this last season, were basically tied in box score plus-minus. In the pick-and-roll, as the roll-man:

Zeller: 26 frequency %, 0.96 points per possession, 30.1 percentile 

Theis: 26.8 frequency %, 1.30 points per possession, 86.1 percentile

If Theis is just a skinnier Cody Zeller with a jump shot, Boston Celtics fans should be overjoyed. It’ll probably lead them to 48-wins, the same amount as last season, but they’ll look damn fine doing it. If not, their ceiling is 44.

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