Could we be getting basketball again soon? We have a schedule and it is starting to feel that way, but then again this is 2020 so who knows what new challenges could be hiding behind the next turn of the calendar. With that caveat out of the way, let’s be optimistic here.
I know it may take a while to shake out the cobwebs of your sports brain, so I’ve agreed to take part in SBNation’s “Things to know” week. I’m going all in on this with 18 things in honor of the 18th Banner we’re going to raise. You heard me.
As a bonus I’ll also include some fun SWAGs (silly wild ...awesome guesses).
- Kemba Walker is going to LOVE (winning) postseason basketball
Our newest star point guard doesn’t have much playoff experience. In fact, in his 9 seasons in the league he’s played a grand total of 11 games in the postseason (all against Miami). He averaged 21.5 points and 4.7 assists but just didn’t have the teams around him to make much of a playoff run. That looks to be different in Boston and I think he’s going to love every minute of it.
SWAG: Kemba drops 40 points in one game and does the MJ shrug for his old boss.
2. Jayson Tatum might not pick up where he left off, but he should get rolling soon enough
This was Tatum’s official “I have arrived” season, in particular since the moment he was named to the All Star team. It was like that validation set off a switch and he went supernova on the league. He was even named Player of the Month in February ...which is actually the last full month we saw NBA basketball.
As much as I want to see that same fire and brimstone Tatum there’s a good chance that he cools off just a tad and is merely just awesome. There’s bound to be some rust and he won’t be sneaking up on the league anymore. And if you think I’m reverse jinxing this so that he won’t miss a beat and play his way into being a top 3 player in the league, ... well you’d be right.
SWAG: Jayson debuts a new move that he’s been working on during all of quarantine and actually injures someone’s ankles when they fall over.
3. Don’t you dare sleep on Jaylen Brown
As Jayson Tatum ascends his throne as the Next Big Thing in Boston, Jaylen Brown is quietly having his own leap year. He could have easily been an All Star and has posted his own career highs in points (20.4), rebounds (6.4), and just about every other stat.
In addition to being a social leader and all around admirable individual off the court, he’s in the process of thriving on it. All without showing any outward signs of jealousy for the attention that his teammates get. Truly mature beyond his years.
SWAG: Brown kicks off his long term bid for the Presidency (first the Players Association and then the United States).
4. Gordon Hayward is having his best season in a Celtics uniform
Maybe the bar on this is low due to injuries, but it is notable that he was having a really good season this year. All the reasons the Celtics signed him are on full display this season. His dribble penetration and decision making are on full display. His “stop on a dime, elevate and square up, knock down the 5 footer in the defender’s face” game is on point. His glue-guy star talent is filling in the spaces between the show-out performances of Tatum, Brown, and Kemba. He’s basically exactly what this team needs.
SWAG: Hayward never tops more than 20 points in a game and yet he makes his presence felt in a major way.
5. Marcus Smart dominates worlds
I miss a lot about basketball but I really, really need more of Marcus Smart in my life and quickly. Don’t quote me stats on Marcus. No stats can define him. No offenses can solve him. Every time he steps on the court he creates beautiful chaos and improves his team’s chances of winning.
SWAG: Marcus Smart - Finals MVP
Time to fast forward into the speed round:
6. Grant Williams will become a key part of the Celtics playoff rotation. He won’t score in bunches but he’s already a reliable option for Stevens to turn to for quality minutes. (Bonus SWAG: He’ll also become a part time Disney Cast Member)
7. Daniel Theis is a hidden gem that Danny Ainge doesn’t get enough credit for finding (and Stevens doesn’t get enough credit for developing). He’s a modern big that can roll to the rim and stretch the floor and rotate out on shooters and basically do all the dirty work necessary to win games.
8. Enes Kanter could make a difference in the playoffs. I know every compliment to Kanter seems almost backhanded because I have to preface it with something along the lines of (I know he’s limited defensively). Still, Kanter is a specialist with a very specific skillset (rebounding in bunches) that can swing a playoff game in a good way. Just look at his performance in Portland last year.
9. Robert Williams might finally be ready for primetime. Injuries and inexperience have limited him to date but his athleticism and length are a weapon and (in short stints) I could see Brad Stevens using him to his advantage.
10. Romeo Langford might be a weapon off the bench. He hasn’t shown a ton in his first year in the league but he has earned time on the court with his defense. He might be an option for Stevens.
11. Brad Wanamaker is solid if unspectacular. He’ll give you quality minutes and may make a few plays here and there but I’m not sure if he’s going to win or lose you a game. Like a good long relief pitcher he’s necessary.
12. Semi Ojeleye will need to hit his 3 pointers to stay on the court. He’s proven (in the playoffs) that he can defend. He just needs to be more of a positive on the offensive side of the ball.
13. Brad Stevens is one of the most prepared coaches in the league. You can bet he’s been putting something together to maximize the talents of his squad.
14. Tremont Waters is going to force his way into a playoff rotation spot. Call it a hunch, or maybe just wishful thinking. But the diminutive guard did just pull down G-League Rookie of the Year honors, so he’s got that going for him, ...which is nice.
15. Tacko Fall will not play in the playoffs. Sorry folks, enjoy him while you can in the 8 games leading up to the playoffs.
16. Javonte Green, Carsen Edwards, and Vincent Poirier are all on the roster too. You may not see them in the playoffs but they are fun in garbage time.
17. The Celtics don’t really have a deep bench beyond Marcus Smart (who’s good enough to start for most teams) but that usually doesn’t matter as much in the playoffs where rotations get shorter and stars play longer minutes. If anything, the long break allowed many of Boston’s best players to get over nagging injuries.
18. Someone has to win the Championship this year. Odds are probably on the Bucks or one of the L.A. teams out West, but count out the Celtics at your own peril. (Bonus SWAG: Banner 18. Enough said.)