SBNation is compiling articles on strengths and weaknesses for each team headed into the NBA season bubble restart. I thought about writing a new article on this but it occurred to me that we’ve kind of covered that from dozens of different angles for the past several weeks. So rather than re-treading that road, I figured I’d aggregate our own blog.
As a bonus, there may be some of you out there that haven’t been paying close attention (and nobody would really fault you). So this is a great chance to get caught up.
In a word, Tatum.
Despite missing his son Deuce, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum seems locked in on playing the best basketball he can when the season restarts. Tatum said he’s “trying to take it to another level” when the season resumes.
Another level for Tatum would mean superstardom. Tatum was named an All-Star for the first time this season, and then went on to play even better after the All-Star break.
Tatum said he used the hiatus to put on some muscle but grinned “It’s not for public knowledge. I can’t tell everyone my secrets.” From a couple of Zoom calls, Tatum is noticeably bigger and defined in the upper body area.
But not just Tatum.
Tatum is the rising star, but Walker, Brown, and Hayward make up fearsome foursome - via Arjun Balaraman
The other big benefit of Brown and Hayward hitting shots is that teams will be reluctant to help off them, making life much easier for Tatum and Walker. Brown and Hayward have both shot above 40% on catch-and-shoot threes this year, keeping defenses honest and forcing them to guard them up at the three-point line – which in turn gives Tatum and Walker more space to work with.
A popular narrative entering the season was that Boston’s defense would fall off without Al Horford. Many ran with Enes Kanter replacing Horford up front as being a disaster. But Brad Stevens went a different direction. He essentially replaced Horford with Daniel Theis.
Did the defense fall off? Not even a little. Boston ranks second in points allowed per game. That’s not a function of playing a middle-of-the-pack pace either, as the Celtics are fourth overall in defensive rating. Last season, with Horford, Boston was seventh in defensive rating, a full point behind this year’s team.
A modern offense.
The potential impact of the Celtics’ five-out offense - Adam Taylor
In the modern NBA, pace-and-space offenses are commonplace as teams continue to place increasing value on the three-point shot. Boston has succeeded in generating high quality opportunities within their pace-and-space system, due to their consistency in creating open looks and forcing mismatches. In large part, these opportunities exist due to the quasi five-out scheme the Celtics have implemented throughout the season.
While the two may have differences in what boards games they like the best, Williams and Walker used the opportunity to get to know one another more. Williams was very grateful that Walker opened up his doors to him as Williams didn’t want to stay with family in fear of getting them sick.
“Honestly, it was amazing,” Williams said. “It was great to be able to hang out with him and get to know him better, as well as be able to workout and progress on the basketball floor. What I learned about him was we’re very similar. It’s kind of funny in terms of lifestyle and what we enjoy. We actually very much bonded and got to know each other a little bit better.”
Bonus Link: Three things the Boston Celtics have going for them heading into the bubble - Daniel Lubofsky
An unclear situation with Kemba Walker’s health.
The Celtics need to find the perfect crossroads between resting his knee, ramping up activity so he’s ready in stride once the playoffs begin, and making sure he doesn’t do further damage to cause a setback. The result could be, once seeding for the Celtics gets locked into that #3 spot or in less consequential games for movement up or down the standings, we see less Kemba.
Lack of size.
Four potential issues for the Boston Celtics come playoff time - Daniel Lubofsky
A lack of size on the frontline has been a point of concern for the Celtics all season long. No member of their rotation stands taller than 6’10, aiding the allowance of the 12th-most offensive rebounds and free-throw attempts per game. Few teams possess the overwhelming size to cause legitimate problems around the paint, but they do exist, particularly at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Losing Gordon Hayward at some point during the playoffs.
Hayward said he’ll be leaving the Celtics when Robyn goes into labor. He said “That’s a pretty easy decision. I’ve been there for the birth of all of my children.” Hayward went on to say his plan will be to return to the team after the birth, but that he’ll have to go through quarantine protocols when he returns. Hayward said “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
As usual, stay tuned for much more on CelticsBlog.com leading up to the re-start (and right on through the playoffs and beyond).