The NBA is increasingly becoming a 12 months a year sort of thing, but there are still fans out there that check out during the summer. Some of them dive into baseball and some are just too focused on vacations, summer jobs, or running kids from one camp or another.
So if you are one of those folks, I am writing this for you to get you caught back up on the Boston Celtics’ summer and their outlook for this season. Let’s start with a quick rundown.
Guys that are no longer here:
Isaiah Thomas (you may have heard about this), Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller, James Young, Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey.
New guys that are here now:
Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum, Aron Baynes, Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis, Shane Larkin.
Wait, why would we trade Isaiah Thomas???
That was my first reaction as well. Thomas was nothing less than a hero in my eyes. He exceeded everyone’s expectations, except his own which powered by his limitless self-confidence. He played through pain, both physical and emotional. He flat out made Boston Celtics basketball fun again for the first time since the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded to the Brooklyn Nets all those years ago. So why would the Celtics trade him away?
Because Kyrie Irving was available. Thomas may have had a better season last year, but that was most likely the best we’ll ever see of Isaiah. Irving is younger and considered the better player by most basketball experts. He’s also under contract for two more years, where Thomas was going to be a free agent at the end of the season. Finally, Thomas has a hip condition that ended his playoffs last season and there are at least some indications that it could be a serious and/or lingering issue.
In short, it was a cold business decision that feels horrible but could end up being the smartest decision in the long run. Remember how the Pierce and Garnett trade felt at first? That deal then is the reason why this team is positioned now to be a contender for years. This deal may look genius a year from now. It all depends on how well Irving fits in and develops his already impressive game.
Is Gordon Hayward really worth a max contract?
Yup. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA and he recruited Gordon Hayward back at Butler, so they know each other extremely well. However, even if Stevens had never met Hayward before and was asked to describe his ideal player, that guy would sound an awful lot like Hayward.
He’s an efficient and effective scorer, an exceptional passer, a solid rebounder, and a solid defender. He can move with or without the ball; work in the pick and roll or create his own shot; drive to the hoop; stick a midrange shot; or launch from outside the arc. In short, he might be the best all-around player on the Celtics this year (which is saying something for a team that employs Al Horford).
The Celtics won the lottery, how did they end up picking 3rd?
I think most people heard that the Celtics won the chance to pick the No. 1 draft pick (by way of that Nets trade that sent out Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett). What some people might have missed was the fact that the Celtics traded that No. 1 overall pick for the No. 3 pick and future draft considerations.
The consensus number one pick around the league was Markelle Fultz from the University of Washington. He is a remarkable talent at point guard and most believe that he’s a sure thing star in the league. Fultz is also 6’5”, which definitely would’ve been an improvement over the 5’9” Thomas, and beats out Irving at 6’2”. However, according to the Celtics, Jayson Tatum from Duke was higher on their draft board. So they got their guy at three and picked up an extra pick in the process.
About that other pick: It could be a top-five pick next year if the Lakers are really terrible again (and if they don’t get the top overall pick). Next year’s draft might be even better than this past year’s one was at the top. So there’s at least a chance that Ainge traded one top pick for two top-five picks.
Five years from now we’ll still be measuring this deal as Fultz vs. Tatum, but that extra pick could swing the balance and give the Celtics another trade asset to make yet another move.
That’s a lot to process, what else do I need to know?
Well, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and even Amir Johnson did a lot to establish a defensive intensity that this team was known for the last few years. They are all gone now but Marcus Smart remains and a lot of other players are going to need to step up and defend to make this team successful.
There are also five guys on this roster with no NBA experience (rookies) and at least one of them (Tatum) figures to play a major role in the rotation. Chances are good that we’ll see some minutes being played by Ojeleye, Yabusele, Theis, or Nader at some point too.
You can also expect to see more from Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. Both showed flashes of brilliance in the playoffs last year and Brown might even compete for the starting off-guard spot.
The team still won’t be able to rebound much and it could take a little while for all the moving pieces to fit together and for Brad Stevens to figure out the best combinations on the floor. Seems like every year they start slow, but by the end of the year Stevens has them performing optimally.
Ok smart guy, give me a prediction.
Last year the Celtics won 53 games and Vegas puts the over-under for the 2017-18 season at 56.5 wins. Call me conservative, but I am going to guess that they start off slow, pick up steam, and finish with 50 wins. I also predict that they’ll make a return trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Can they win that series and head to the Finals? Maybe...maybe.