Previews season is starting. On one hand that's awesome because it means that the season isn't that far away. On the other hand it means I have to hear other people talk about MY TEAM when I know they clearly don't eat, sleep, and breathe the Celtics like I do. Still, on the other hand (wait, how many hands do I have? moving on...) sometimes you focus on something for so long that you let your desires cloud your judgement and you miss the forest for the trees. ["Oh my, too deep please stop thinking, I liked it better when my car had sound."]
Anyway, the first season preview dedicated to the Celtics that I've seen is from CBS Sports' Ananth Pandian. It also includes a video blurb from Matt Moore and if you subscribe to the Eye on Basketball podcast you can hear Zach Harper and James Herbert talk Celtics as well. For the moment I'm going to focus on Pandian's review because I can pick it apart word for word with a cut and paste.
Yup, that's fair. I was hoping for a big move (see, I'm trying to not use the "f-works" word) and it didn't happen. We are left wondering if it will ever happen. Still, the bright side is that we didn't make a dumb move that seems like a good idea on the surface but in the end puts us back 5 years (see Joe Dumars and the summer of Ben Gordon and Charlie V.). So there's that.
Ainge did actually upgrade the roster with pretty good players but no one of any real, star-quality significance. Amir Johnson should instantly help Boston improve its defense and will become a fan favorite with his all-out hustle. David Lee is more than serviceable but he is past his prime All-Star days.
You can't see me as I type this but I'm nodding my head with my lips in a thin line. Yup, we got two good pieces added to the roster. The only thing I'd add to that quick blurb is that we got them for practically nothing. One was a free agent and the other was traded for Gerald Wallace (nice locker room guy but a non-factor on the court). If you keep making to get something for nothing, eventually that has to work out well for you, does it not?
Skipping down a little the Pandian asks an interesting question. "Can Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas successfully co-exist?" I guess both play point guard so it is a valid question, but I think the end of last year proved that they can and have excelled together.
With Smart playing hard yet exhaustive defense, Thomas can then come in and score in bunches. The two do have their literal shortcomings, of course, as Thomas is a shade under six feet and Smart is 6-feet-2 -- however both players are quite dynamic in their own right and can be a problem for opponents on both ends of the floor.
There's no such thing as platoons in basketball (except in certain end-of-game situations where coaches can sub in players for defensive and offensive plays), but there are times when one player can cover up a little for the other. In this case, the two should see a good amount of time on the floor together in a rotation with Avery Bradley.
Smart may never be as good on offense as he is on defense but I have a lot of hope that he will improve enough on that end of the floor to become the star that we all want him to be. With that said, patience is important with young players and he needs time to season. Thomas is never going to be a lockdown defender, but he'll be sharing the court most of the time with guys that are. Bottom line: his offense is worth it.
Pandian then asks "What would be considered a successful season for Boston?" This is an interesting and layered question that I considered dedicating a whole post to - then I decided that I've probably done that a few times and will likely do it a few more times this Fall, so ...whatever.
For the people of Boston, a championship.
More realistically, another first-round exit coupled with a trade or two that relieves the overflow of guards should appease the Garden faithful.
Wait, go back to that first one again! Ok, ok, might as well face reality. This team isn't likely going to get that banner this season. But is another 1st round exit and a trade or two really what we'd consider a "success?"
On one level, I'd say progress would be a 2nd round exit and still more experience for the "kids" on the roster. On another level, I wonder if it makes sense to invest so much effort into getting playoff experience for guys that will likely play their prime years for someone else.
So you could argue that a really successful year is one where Ainge finally makes that home run trade to get us a difference maker. But that kind of diminishes the efforts that Brad Stevens and the current roster are going to be making this year.
If the Celtics miss the playoffs and Ainge stands pat with the roster, the season can still be considered successful if Stevens and his staff are able to develop some of Boston's younger players and create some sort of core centered around Thomas and Smart.
The East is getting better, so the Celtics missing the playoffs isn't out of the question by any means. With that said, I would be disappointed if this team (even without any trades) didn't make the playoffs. I do agree, however, that advancing the core is a good goal.
Here's where I come down on this complex issue (at least today). I still see the development of the core guys as priority number one because there's no downside to that plan. You either get better players or you get better trade assets.
Sure, gaining playoff experience is quite valuable for players but how many of the Celtics on the current roster will actually be there if Boston ever becomes elite in the East again?
I don't know, but if we take a guy like Kelly Olynyk and develop him into a player that can be a piece of the package that brings us back a foundation player, I call that a very valuable development process.
So on the whole, I don't have any glaring problems with this Celtics season preview. I'm probably more optimistic than Pandian but considering my allegiance that can't be all that surprising.
Note: I quoted him a lot, but you should absolutely go read the whole thing yourself.
Here's my obligatory and wholly unnecessary request that you share your own thoughts in the comments below. You too lurkers!