With the depth, youth and fantastic offseason, the Boston Celtics have become the basketball darling of not only the Eastern Conference but the entire NBA. After going 48-34, being the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, fourth year head coach Brad Stevens looks to take this young team to the playoffs again and eliminate some teams. They have a much different team than last year acquiring big name center Al Horford in free agency and drafting third overall, small forward from California Jaylon Brown. Because of all of this, many are expecting the Celtics to be in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers, including us collectively at Creamcitycentral. I personally, if you’ve read my article on Indiana, believe the Pacers will be that other team to face the Cavs but the Celtics have all the necessary tools and unpredictable talent to be that team. Only an 82 game season along with the play of the playoffs unknown will tell.
PG Isaiah Thomas
SG Avery Bradley
SF Jae Crowder
PF Amir Johnson
C Al Horford
When I look at this lineup I see a great balance of almost everything besides two important factors in which I will talk about later. Isaiah Thomas has quickly become one of the better point guards in the league since being traded to Boston. Last season he averaged an impressive 22 points and 6 assists a game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 36 from the 3-point line. These numbers should be even greater this year as Thomas will have a field day running the floor for this team because of their acquisitions. Thomas will look to make his second all-star appearance this season and hopefully bring a teammate with him.
Many believe if Avery Bradley didn’t injure his hamstring in game 1 of the playoffs, the Celtics would’ve made it much further in the playoffs. His production on both ends of the floor is so vital to this team and it makes him a huge difference maker. Bradley averaged 15 points a game shooting 45 percent from the field and 36 from the 3-point line. More impressive and what really makes this Celtics team from good to great is Bradley’s perimeter defense. It was so great last year; he was getting defensive player of the year considerations based on it.
After being thought as too small as a four and not quick enough to be a five, Jae Crowder has really proven himself to be a solid NBA starter ever since being traded to Boston from Dallas in 2015. Crowder made 73 starts last season and averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds a game.
The power forward position was last year and it will continue to be the most unstable position for this Boston team as they do not have a permanent starter. I have Amir Johnson listed here because he has been the most depended on since coming to Boston from Toronto even though he has split time with Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko. Because of that instability Johnson has never been asked to do much as he averaged only 7 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season.
Last but not least in what was one of the most underrated free agency moves in the NBA is Al Horford. Along with power forward, the center position has been a revolving door for the Celtics since the departure of Kevin Garnett. This has included tall but undersized players like Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller. With Horford, the Celtics finally have a big man center who has been around in the top 5 at his position since coming into the league. Last season with the Hawks he averaged 15 points in a very scoring oriented lineup and 7 rebounds a game. His skill set will allow him to be Boston’s second offensive option behind Thomas, while opening things up for their entire offense when it comes to space for shooting, as well as being that solid defensive anchor.
When it comes to reserves I think the first player that should be looked at is 2016 third overall draft pick Jaylen Brown. Brown was highly touted coming out of California because of his youth, size and guard like abilities. He averaged an impressive 14.6 points and 5 rebounds a game but only shot 43 percent from the field and 29 from the 3-point line. The Celtics will look to use him a lot off the bench as he grows and develops in the league.
Many thought Marcus Smart would be the Celtics long term answer at point guard when he was drafted but unfortunately for him he has been plagued with injuries and Isaiah Thomas emerged as the Celtics’ guy at the one. When he has played he has found himself to be a solid player off the bench, averaging 9 points and 3 assists a game last season. Jonas Jerebko added 10.5 points a game including shooting an impressive 40 percent from the 3-point line. The last player to look at off the bench is Kelly Olynyk who again posted impressive numbers with 10 points and 4 rebounds a game.
I think the Celtics biggest strength is what I just listed; their depth. They have so many guys who can come off the bench who can do many different things offensively and defensively. One of the players I didn’t mention was Gerald Green who I think was criminally underused in Miami last season. He has always been a presence in the NBA as a very athletic wing and decent shooter. This is a team that can give other teams fits because they won’t have a major decrease in production when starters rest. This will also help them as later in the season as far as durability and stamina.
Even with the acquisition of Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas being named an All-Star last season I still think the Celtics lack an elite difference making player that some of the other teams in the Eastern Conference have. Horford and Thomas can very well become that this season as they will be together but right now they are second to third tier players and in today’s NBA, teams need an elite player to go to that next level. Another big problem the Celtics will face is their size. The NBA is still a league of large men and yes shooting has become the new thing but players also need to be larger to shoot well in situations. Even though they have all proven themselves in the NBA as fantastic players, Thomas, Bradley, and even Horford are all undersized for their position and that’ll always be problematic. It is really in the same conference as the Cavs and Pacers who have all larger, athletic men for their positions.
The Boston Celtics are definitely a playoff team this year. We collectively at Creamcitycentral.com have them finishing in second place in the Eastern Conference, as to many fans of the NBA. I personally believe they will disappoint a lot of people and finish in that third to fourth place area. They have a fantastic deep lineup but I think they still have a way to go and the lack of a star will not do them good, especially come playoff time. I do expect them to win a playoff series this season and they should because of those reasons that were given. The Boston Celtics should be a competitive upper level team in the Eastern Conference.