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Preseason Edition: Things I like and don’t like

Celtics beat the Hornets again, who stood out?

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of the usual stock report analysis on the Celtics, I decided to switch it up and talk about some of the things that I liked and didn’t like from last night’s Celtics win.

What I liked

Gerald Green’s “Spurtability”

The thing with building a bench or a second unit is that you want to have guys that can do certain things consistently. Second units all over the league are littered with specialists who come in to do one specific thing. Together, their job is to simply not mess up what the starters have already done. The Celtics have a different type of bench that makes that a little harder to achieve. Instead of old veterans who have established themselves as specialists, the Celtics’ second unit is littered with young players who are still finding their place in the league. This makes Gerald Green’s role even more important. Since returning from overseas, Green has been consistent in one specific thing: getting buckets. Where other franchises couldn’t get over his weaknesses in other areas, Boston’s second unit is built to hide them. Guys like Smart, Brown, Jerebko, and Olynyk have show that they are all capable of being plus defenders, but none are able to create a consistent stream of offense. With Green, that problem seems to be solved. In his first action of the preseason, Green recovered from a rough start by having a big third quarter on his way to a 13-point night. Surprisingly, he was even pretty solid defensively—something he hasn’t been for nearly his entire career. As long as Green is slightly below average on defense, his offensive talent combined with Boston’s lack of other scorers in the second unit make him a strong lock to not only make the team but also be a presence in the regular rotation.

R.J. Hunter Lives!

Though we’ve reluctantly noticed that James Young seemed to be outperforming Hunter based on his minutes plus court play, it always felt like Hunter was losing the job more than Young was winning it. Last night Hunter finally broke out from his shell with a 10 point, 5 assist, and 2 steal night. Hunter was involved a lot more offensively, and when given the chance to be a play maker, he seemed to regain some of his confidence on that side of the floor. Defensively, Hunter put together his second strong game in a row, getting his hands in passing lanes and putting up some decent shot contents. It’s games like this that remind us why we never for a second thought that Hunter was going to be cut. Hopefully he can build of this strong performance.

The Jae Crowder experience

He only played the first quarter of this game, but Crowder has looked absolutely fantastic this preseason. Maybe it’s because the last time we saw him he was on one good ankle, but Crowder has been flying around defensively. He has also shown shades on offense as a guy who might be able to create a little more off the dribble. Getting his first start at the 4, Crowder absolutely hounded Frank Kaminsky and carried the the starters’ offense as the rest of the lineup tried to acclimate themselves with each other. If Crowder maintains the season with a clean bill of health, he could be on his way to another career season.

What I Didn’t Like

The Smart-Rozier backcourt

It appears that the plan for the Celtics is to head their second unit with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. I was initially fine with it and thought that each would be able to play off each other, but I’m now starting to move a little closer on the pessimistic side. From the three-game sample size that we have, both Smart and Rozier have individually looked the best when they were the sole point guard of the team. Whenever either has been off-ball, they seem to disappear offensively, and I think that played a part in the team’s slow start in the first two contests. I’ve always maintained that this second unit should go to Marcus Smart, and last night was the latest example. When paired with a more traditional shooting guard such as Green, Smart did a great job running the offense and getting everyone touches. The Smart-Green backcourt actually struck me as a better fit than with Rozier because of how well Smart and Green complimented the other’s game. While Smart is the bulldog, defense-oriented point guard, Green is the microwave scorer who can create points in an instant. The two reminded me of back in Smart’s college days when he was playing with Markel Brown down in Oklahoma. Smart built up a strong repoitore with Brown, learning where all his sweet spots were on the court and feeding him liberally whenever the offense got tied up. Brown averaged 17.2 points with a 37.2 3P% and got drafted primarily because of the his offensive production that Smart played a big part in creating. Smart and Green have potential to have that same type of relationship, and it could be the reason that the second unit has any success.

James Young

Young had his worst game of the preseason at probably the worst possible time. As Hunter and Mickey showed flashes of their potential, Young wasn’t able to match their shine. To be honest, Young didn’t play much differently than he had the previous two games. He was pretty aggressive and had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals while posting a +16. The problem was that Young couldn’t buy a bucket and went 1 for 7 on his way to 3 points. While Green showcased his ability to get points up in bunches, and Hunter showed his skill as a shooter, passer, and defender, Young still hasn’t really shown what he can bring offensively. Though he initially looked like someone who could safely make the team, he has quickly moved back to most likely to get cut unless he suddenly turns into a 40% shooter in the next 4 games.

Jaylen Brown struggles

Last night, all of Brown’s weaknesses were out on display. Charlotte dared him to shoot, and he made the mistake of accepting, going 0 of 4 from three. On the defensive end, Brown had a hard time fighting through screens and keeping up with all the motion the Hornets were running. He was beaten several times, and it was evident that he started to overthink once he made a couple of bad plays. The good news is that we know Brown can be better, and this is just part of the process of being a young player trying to adapt to the new game. Brown has had his best moments when he’s rebounding the ball, pushing in transition, and attacking downhill, whether from PnR action or DHO. Brown was consistently parked in the corner and really didn’t have many possessions where he was actively involved in the offense. Regardless, Brown’s performance shouldn’t come as much as a surprise, as this year will be filled with an array of ups and downs for the rookie.

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