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Early season Celtics hot takes and reality checks

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The return of the 20-game “rule” (guideline)

NBA: Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Yup, it’s that time of year again! Time to completely overreact to way-too-early observations and spit out scorching hot takes to burn down the internet. Grab your “Jump to Conclusions” mat and hop right in!

We wait all offseason to see our team play and we get really excited for the first few games. So it only makes sense that we might get a little carried away with our opinions after just the first week of the season.

So I thought I’d have a little fun and write some sizzling hot takes about the Celtics. Of course, I can’t stop there. I had to step back and look at each one with a more sober eye. Hope you enjoy the exercise.

As a baseline, I could just write “small sample size” and copy+paste for all of these, but I’ll just state once for the record that we’ve played only 3 of the 82 games on the schedule thus far. That’s less than 4% of the season.

I also thought I’d split this between “good news” hot takes and “bad news” hot takes. Since I prefer to hear the bad news first...

The bad news:

What happened to our defense? We’re giving up 106.7 points per game!

Points per game can be a misleading stat. You can influence the points per game quite a bit by simply dictating pace. The Celtics have been playing at a fairly high pace, so they are giving opponents a number of looks at the basket.

What might be a more telling stat is opponent field goal percentage. The Celtics are allowing teams to score at a 41.4% clip, which is tied for 5th best in the league thus far. That is also lower than their 44.1% average from last year, which was good for a top-ten finish last year.

They are currently in the bottom third of the league in three-point percentage allowed, but their 34.7% mark isn’t that far off the 33.6% average they had last year, and that was good for fourth best in the league. Give these figures time to average out before jumping too far to conclusions.

Oh yeah, and Marcus Smart hasn’t played a single regular-season minute yet. So he should help.

Why are we paying Al Horford max money for just 12 points per game? He doesn’t even rebound!

This made my eyes roll even as I wrote it. I’m pretty sure that most fans are aware of his beyond-the-box-score impact, but it bears repeating over and over again: The guy makes everyone around him better. He makes good decisions. He is very efficient. Everything is going great with Al Horford, regardless of what the counting stats say.

He will have a few high-scoring games when the situation dictates it, but he’s not going to force that when better options are available. Horford flat-out helps you win basketball games—and that’s the only stat that really matters.

With all that said, I would like to see some more rebounding from everyone in the front court, including Al Horford. Just because he’s great doesn’t mean he can’t improve.

So much for the Terry Rozier breakout year. I miss Evan Turner already.

Let’s remind ourselves that Turner was never going to be replaced by any one player, and one of “the replacements” has been on the shelf thus far. Rozier hasn’t gotten things going in terms of counting stats (6 points per game), but he hasn’t cost the team much either. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0 is good for second on the team, behind only Al Horford.

Terry showed us enough in the playoffs, summer league, and preseason to keep me confident that he’ll have some better games in the regular season.

Oh no, the Nets might actually be good! Trade all the picks!

This one comes courtesy of the FanPosts section.

Call me an alarmist, that's ok, but you're wrong. I refuse to look at those picks through rose-colored glasses, the Nets are not playing like a bottom-five team, nowhere near. The Pelicans, Sixers, Suns, Lakers, Heat, Knicks, Orlando, Chicago (maybe), Sacramento all look like they are worse on paper and by the eye test. Barring major injuries, 35-40 wins this season. Danny Ainge --Caveat Emptor!

That’s too hot to handle. These oven mitts I’m wearing make it hard to type.

Look, there’s a chance that the Nets could win a few more games than expected this year. There’s a chance that they could end up with the fourth- or fifth-worst record. That can happen (especially if Miami decides to tank hard).

The Nets will be scrappy and they have no motivation to lose. But that team is not going to be good enough to sniff 35 wins, never mind 40. I still say that there’s a much bigger chance that they trade Brook Lopez and focus on the youth without much regard for wins and losses.

So let’s show some patience and see what that Nets pick is worth at the trade deadline. If it doesn’t buy us a star player, hang onto it and see if we can draft one. Anything can happen, but I like our odds with the picks they owe us.

The Good News:

Avery Bradley is an MVP candidate!

I wish this were true, but I’m gonna pump those brakes a bit.

He’s playing ridiculously well through the first three games, and that is wonderful. We should be very encouraged to see his progress. His ball handling and playmaking appear to have taken a big leap forward, and that’s a great sign overall. He’s just 25 years old, so it shouldn’t be a shock that he’s still getting better.

With that said, I’m pretty sure that 66.7% shooting from three-point range isn’t sustainable. That would be a record or something. I’m happy that he’s rebounding so well, but I’m not sure if he’ll be leading the team in boards for the whole season (and if he is, there’s big problems elsewhere).

I love that Bradley is doing great. I’m a big fan of his and hope he can continue to have an awesome season. Let’s just not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Jaylen Brown is our next star!

This statement may be true in the long run, but like any rookie he’s going to need time to develop. Hey, I’m as excited as the next guy about this kid. I’ve already waxed eloquent (or at least legible) about the fact that Jaylen Brown is not afraid. He’s fearless and he’s talented, and that’s a great mix.

But he’s also a rookie, and he’s going to make mistakes (like say, getting called for traveling late in the Bulls game). He still hasn’t hit a three-point shot either. Soon enough, teams will start taking away some of the things he does well (posting up, slashing) and force him to make some shots from outside. But he’ll keep getting better, and we’ll get to see just how high his star will rise.

The 20-Game “Rule”... more like a guideline:

Long-time readers of this site will remember that I’m a big proponent of the “20 game-rule”, which is really more of a guideline. I don’t like to make any sweeping judgments of the season until 20 games in. Of course, I break this rule all the time because my job is to analyze, and it is easy to fall into over-generalizations based on the limited data that I have before me. Sometimes it is glaringly obvious that a team is “good”or “bad” in the first week or two.

But for specific evaluations, it takes a little more time. Case in point: the Celtics started off 1-3 last year. The team looked disjointed, and Brad Stevens was forced to make dramatic rotation and lineup changes in the first week.

Yet after 20 games, they were 11-9 which put them on pace for a 45-win season. They ended up with 48 wins, and all the early-season struggles were just a footnote.

So far this team is 2-1, and the game against the Bulls was winnable. They should have handled the Nets better, but at least they came away with the win. Let’s all take a deep breath and enjoy the process and check back in on the hot takes when we have a bigger sample size.

You know, unless you like hot takes. In which case, call your local sports talk show and have at it. Or feel free to play along in the comments below with your own hot takes and cold reality checks.