BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Boston Celtics, rebooted to climb the East ladder

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BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Boston Celtics, rebooted to climb the East ladder

Post by bobheckler on Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:14 pm

BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Boston Celtics, rebooted to climb the East ladder

Ben Rohrbach, Ball Don't Lie

Oct 6, 2017, 6:24 AM

The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent All–Stars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.

The Celtics have a new Big Three that seemed almost unimaginable at the end of the previous Big Three era. (AP)


2016-17 finish: 53-29, Eastern Conference finalists
• Offensive rating: 108.6 (8th)
• Defensive rating: 105.5 (12th)

Additions: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis, Shane Larkin
Subtractions: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller, Jordan Mickey, James Young

Did the summer help at all?

Well, Jaylen Brown isn’t entirely sure yet, and that goes for the rest of us, too.

Boston essentially swapped Thomas and Crowder for Irving and Hayward, upgrading at both positions, especially if we believe, as the Celtics probably did, Thomas won’t ever be as good as he was during last year’s MVP-caliber campaign and may never be the same after re-aggravating a chronic hip injury.

Irving came to Boston by way of the most shocking trade in recent history, with the two Eastern Conference finalists swapping All-Star point guards, emboldening a budding rivalry with the Cavaliers and a feud festering between LeBron James and his former mentee. Few players (MVP candidates only) could take the reins from Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points per game and trailed only Russell Westbrook in fourth-quarter scoring last season, and fit seamlessly into Brad Stevens’ system.

Stevens found a way for a 5-foot-9 dude to operate on an extraordinary usage rate, while also working off the ball in an offense predicated on ball movement, and hid him defensively. Tell me a 6-foot-3 guy with the best handles in the game and an extraordinary knack for shotmaking won’t also succeed.

Hayward reunited with his college coach through free agency, providing the Celtics with another All-Star playmaker on the wing, where they occasionally started Gerald Green in the playoffs. So, yeah, that was a smart and necessary signing, but it also cost them Avery Bradley in a salary cap-clearing move. Arguably the game’s most underrated player, Bradley may have been Boston’s best two-way player during a 53-win campaign that ended in the conference finals last year, so that’s no small loss.

A still-developing Brown appears slotted for Bradley’s two-guard spot, and a slimmed-down Marcus Smart will see an increase in his agitator’s role, but Boston will miss Bradley’s knockdown shooting.

The Bradley trade did land recently acquitted Marcus Morris from the Detroit Pistons. Expect the Celtics to vacillate between starting Morris and free-agent acquisition Aron Baynes beside Al Horford, depending on matchups. The toughness of Morris and Baynes and increased length at the guard and quick forward spots, with Horford pulling the strings, should help shore up a defense that dipped closer to league-average levels from a top-five rating in 2015-16 — despite Irving’s apathy on that end.

The departures of Olynyk, Johnson, Jerebko, Green and Zeller turn what was one of Boston’s best assets last season — depth — into a question mark. How much the Celtics get from Brown and Tatum — two top-three picks with star potential who can’t quite legally consume alcohol yet — could provide the answer. Still, if the Celtics plan to roll 10 deep again, they’ll also need someone else from the first-year big man triumvirate of Yabusele, Ojeleye and Theis to fill a role in Boston’s shallow frontcourt.

Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum’s development could be a major factor for Boston this season. (AP)

Best-case scenario: Irving, Hayward and Horford are a tremendous blend of offensive skill, and Boston scores in droves. Slim Smart and Terry Rozier enjoy breakout shooting seasons, and Contract Year Smart is the Sixth Man of the Year. Baynes and Morris do the dirty work. Brad Stevens coaches up everyone from Brown and Tatum to Yabu and Theis. The Celtics unseat the Cavs in the East — Irving’s ultimate revenge — and establish themselves as the Golden State Warriors challenger of the future.

If everything falls apart: Irving’s path toward self-discovery serves only Irving. The Thomas trade disrupts the masters-level chemistry class Stevens put on last season, and the addition of two All-Stars somehow doesn’t equal the sum of those 2016-17 Celtics parts. The loss of so many shooters turns what was already a middle-of-the-road shooting team into a subpar outfit. Smart and Rozier make no strides. The kids aren’t ready. And the Celtics, after finally relinquishing many of their cap and draft assets, are still on par with the Wizards and the Raptors a tier below Cleveland.

Best guess at a record: 56-26

MY NOTE:  Only 3 wins more than last year?  I know it gets harder to make big strides when you get over 50 wins but only 3?  The Knicks will be worse, if that's possible.  Cleveland will be worse, at least until IT is healthy, we could pick up a win there.  Atlanta will be worse, as will Orlando.  There are victories to be picked up due to the tanking of all but the top 5-6 teams in the EC.  As you head into the playoffs benches get shortened and the quality of your top 9-10 players is more critical.  Having a better 11th and 12th man is nice during the season but not so much in the playoffs.

2016-2917 vs 2017-2018

IT = KI (let's just say that's true.  IT was a great 4th quarter player, Kyrie is just a great player)
JC < GH (upgrade)
AB > JB/MS (but only when AB was healthy, which was problematic)
AJ < MM/AB/DT (I really appreciated Amir's game, but he was so limited in so many ways that any of these 3 bigs can compete with him)

Overall, our starting 5 got upgraded.

KO was a loss for the bench, he opened the floor for his teammates who weren't as good at shooting (e.g. Rozier and Smart) and Gerald Green was a "break glass in case of emergency" player like Zeller.  Morris might not have 25 point games like Kelly occasionally had, but his man-to-man defense will be consistently better and Jayson Tatum's contribution will certainly be greater than GG's.  Baynes is a huge upgrade over Zeller.  Huge.  Theis might take a little while for his man-to-man defense to be good, he needs to learn his opponents, and his help defense will likewise take time to become instinctive, but eventually he could defend like Jerebko and his offense will be more diverse.  So the loss of Jonas will be offset by Theis by the end of February, at the latest, as Theis settles into the NBA game.


How are all these upgrades in our top 10 worth only 3 more wins?


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Re: BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Boston Celtics, rebooted to climb the East ladder

Post by KyleCleric on Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:03 pm

I agree. The East is so bad that the Pacers might be able to make the playoffs


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Re: BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Boston Celtics, rebooted to climb the East ladder

Post by dboss on Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:05 pm

"Boston essentially swapped Thomas and Crowder for Irving and Hayward"

This is essentially incorrect.  Hayward had nothing to do with with the Irving trade and to disregard the 2018 Nets pick and Zizic ignors a most important element and big time gamble.

Hayward + Morris = Bradley + a 2nd round pick and a huge piece of our cap space (created by not resigning most of the 2017 roster)

The Celtics have a better frontline because Horford, Hayward and Morris is better than Horford, Crowder and Johnson.  In the backcourt Irving + Brown has the potential for being better than Thomas and Bradley but a healthy Thomas + Bradley would be better than the new mix from day one.  The key measuring stick can be used once Brown has proven to be a reliable defensive/offensive player like Bradley was.  He is not their yet at either end.

Overall the starting 5 is better than last year even without the maturation of Brown.

The rotation last year was really not that good.  The most consistent player was Smart and that only applied to the defensive end.  All of the rest were inconsistent players even KO.

This year the rotation is mostly new.  Baynes looks pretty good but the same midrange jumpers that he hit the other night are the same ones that Zeller could hit.  The big questions is related to defense and rebounding and physical toughness.  Zeller was a soft player but Baynes appears to be a big physical presence.

After only seeing Theis one time he looks like an upgrade over Jonas because Theis is more fluid and is significantly more athletic.

Smart and Rozier should be better than last year versions of themselves.  Smart's weight loss was significant and he has made a change to the way he shoots the ball.  A more reliable shooting form combined with an increase in his athleticism reflects an upgrade.

Terry played well in the playoffs last year and he looks smoother and more under control this year.  He can defend, rebound and is as quick up and down as any player on the team.  His improvement finishing at the rim and knocking down open looks will be his main challenge.  I expect that he will be improved in both areas from last year.

Jaylen Brown was our high end draftee last year.  This year we have Jason Tatum.  While Tatum is not as physically ready his skills are more advanced than Brown's were last year.  Rookie over rookie I see this as an upgrade.

Larkin brings more solid PG depth and experience to the mix which we did not have last year.

The rest of the bunch are really big question marks.  Nadar is the more experienced player.  Yabusele and the remaining players like Semi are still developmental players.

Overall the rotation looks better but we do not know who will emerge a the key guys other than Smart, Rozier and Baynes.  Where will the offense come from?

So here is my starters and 7 active rotation players



Nadar could travel regularly and Brad may rotate activating the 12th man from game to game

Last year Boston carried 5 bigs on their active roster although not all of them got consistent minutes.  With that in mind I expect Yabusele and Theis to round out our bigs.

Nadar is a very intriguing offensive player and could rise in the rotation if our starting and/or backup 2 do not perform well.

The biggest question mark on this team is at the SG (both starter and backup)  Brad will need a solid starter and reliable backup.


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Re: BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Boston Celtics, rebooted to climb the East ladder

Post by k_j_88 on Sat Oct 07, 2017 10:59 am

I think it's interesting how people are automatically assuming that once IT rejoins the Cavs that it will make them significantly better. By then, he'd have been out of significant game action for a good 10 months or so. Plus, it takes a while to incorporate a new player into the rotation and overall chemistry of a team that had been playing together for months. It's not quite a foregone conclusion yet.

Offensively and defensively, I expect this team to be better than last year. So far (and I realize it's only preseason), rebounding looks much improved. Offensively, this team has better ballhandlers and shooters. Once they get more comfortable with each other, they'll really start to take off. On defense, they are very athletic but have significantly more length.

I could see this team pushing 58-60 wins.



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