The Celtics got off to a bumpy start to the year, with a win on opening night over the 76ers and a pair of losses against the Raptors and Spurs. Celtics fans have no reason to panic, but this week’s mailbag does detail some of the early-season concerns that might require addressing.
Also, my apologies for the delay on the mailbag. I worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and didn’t have an opportunity to sit down until now to answer your questions. I’m just glad I got it in before midnight.
Q: Why do you think the Celtics choked so badly against the Raptors and could not hit their open shots? – RC (Essex, VT)
A: RC, this isn’t the answer you’re looking for – but it happens. Every team will have games like that. The Celtics couldn’t hit open shots on Sunday against the Spurs, either. They shot 2-of-18 on uncontested shots in the first half, per SportVU. Isaiah Thomas (20%), Avery Bradley (33.3%), Jae Crowder (27.3%), and Kelly Olynyk (12.5%) should all improve. The law of averages should kick in sooner rather than later. The Celtics are a better shooting team than they've shown so far.
Q: The rationale for keeping Turner on the floor has been that we don't have any playmakers that can create. With Terry Rozier now on the roster, when do you think Stevens rolls the dice and gives him some minutes? -- Alex Kungu (Lowell, MA)
A: Alex, I’m sure Rozier will likely get a chance at some point. But I think it’s a little unfair to expect a lot from him. Maybe if the Celtics are in a rut, Brad Stevens will turn to him similarly to how he did Phil Pressey – for energy, a change of pace, for speed, for feisty defense. Rozier is also a better off-ball shooter than Pressey, so he provides that -- heck, Rozier’s probably a better scorer, period. But Rozier is still a rookie and will need to prove it on the practice court.
Q: How long before David Lee should not be starting? He is not the 20-10 Knicks David Lee anymore. -- Jsherm007 (Lawrenceville, GA)
A: Jsherm, you’re right – Lee isn’t the same guy anymore. Since Lee’s third game of the preseason, he’s attempted 37 shots within 8-feet of the rim. He’s made 11 of those shots and he’s been blocked 10 times. I assume the original thought was for Lee to facilitate offense on the starting unit, and for Isaiah Thomas to be the orchestrator of the bench. But maybe those roles should be flipped. If Lee’s ineffective against starting NBA frontcourt players, maybe he should be utilized more frequently against benches. Lee is still capable – we’ve seen signs of it. He didn’t suddenly lose his basketball instincts. But he’s getting blocked a lot by starting caliber players and that’s alarming. I wouldn’t mind seeing him come off the bench on Wednesday against the Pacers, since they play small with Paul George at power forward.
Q: Kevin, great stuff, I love your work and have learned so much about basketball since I starting reading your articles. Not overreacting to the Toronto loss, but what do you think of starting Jonas Jerebko over David Lee? This gives the starting lineup more spacing on offense without sacrificing the great chemistry on the bench and Jerebko is a better defender. Thoughts? -- Papa Barnes (Salem, NH)
A: Papa Barnes, thank you for the kind words. I hope you also enjoy Brian Scalabrine on Comcast SportsNet’s Celtics broadcasts; he’s entertaining and educational. As I alluded to in the prior response, I think Wednesday is a perfect game to start a guy like Jerebko. The Pacers play small with George at power forward, meaning Lee or Tyler Zeller would get matched up against him if the Celtics stuck with their same starting five. And that it’s a major mismatch in favor of the Pacers. So, you’re right. Jerebko is a better shooter. He’s also a very good passer, and he’s a significantly better defender.
Q: How long until the Celtics can actually compete for a title? – Robert (Europe)
A: Robert, I don’t want to set expectations too high or too low, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say next season, if Danny Ainge and the front office have the type of offseason they could have with all their assets and cap space.
Q: The Nets are 0-4. This of course has gotten me dreaming about the 2016 draft. I know it's incredibly early, but are you pining over any player in particular? -- Terrier Green (New York, NY)
A: Terrier, I answered a question similar to this in last week's mailbag, which you can see by clicking here. On that, I focused on Ben Simmons, Skal Labissiere, and Dragan Bender. This time let's look at a couple wings/forwards, starting with Duke freshman Brandon Ingram. He's tall, lanky, can play multiple positions, and he's super athletic. He's versatile on offense and I could see the Celtics using him in a number of different roles. His play seems to come and go on the court, and in interviews he seems almost too chill -- I worry about guys like that ever reaching their defensive potential. His shooting mechanics also need some work. And then there's California freshman Jaylen Brown. Like Ingram, his jump shot needs a lot of work. Offensively he's more of a Stanley Johnson type -- drives closeouts hard and can run pick-and-roll, but needs to show he can hit threes. Despite the lack of a reliable jumper (yet), those are nice skills to have in a wing. Keep in mind that it's very early to be discussing these guys and evaluations will change during the college year.
Thanks for your questions this week! Now, I'm gonna watch this week's episode of Fargo. Please submit your questions for next Tuesday's mailbag!