clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Real or not real? Reviewing early Celtics trends

Small sample sizes don’t always tell the whole truth.

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

We’re nine games into the NBA season and that puts us halfway through my self-imposed 18-game rule (modified from my usual 20 game rule for the shortened season). Seems like as good a time as any to check in on some early developments.

For fun I’m going to try to answer the simple question that Peeta asked Katniss: “real or not real?”

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown look like All-NBA players

This seems real. Both are ready to be stars, they are being relied upon more than ever, and the sky is the limit for both of them.

Most of us saw this coming for Jayson Tatum, or at least a path for him to get there after his meteoric rise last season. Jaylen Brown has been the real story though. He hasn’t just upped his usage, he’s added to his bag as well.

Both are averaging over 26 points per game with PERs of over 23 and shooting over 40% from 3. Both are passing well and contributing on the boards as well. They are also taking on the leadership of the team, both on and off the court.

Now if only we could get them some more help.

Aaron Nesmith is a bust

Not real, I hope. Or at least way too soon to tell. I’m worried about his defense, but lots of first year players struggle with the learning curve, in particular on defense. I’m not worried at all with his shot and his skillset is something this team needs.

Let’s give him time and wait and see how he develops over the course of the year. If he can’t pick up the defensive rotations by the All Star break and doesn’t hustle his butt off on both ends, that’s when I’ll be upset.

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Payton Pritchard is the best player Ainge has drafted in the last 3 drafts

At the moment, this might be true.

Payton Pritchard stands out in part because he’s so poised, which you might expect from a four-year senior. He’s older than Jayson Tatum.

I love the way he keeps his dribble alive (showcasing his dribbling skills), makes the right passes, and attacks the defense either with a drive or a fearless jump shot. He even scrambles on defense and dives for loose balls enough to make Marcus Smart proud. This kid seems for real and it is an injection of talent that this team sorely needed.

Way too soon to tell on any of the others really. Robert Williams has become a legit rotation player who shows flashes of his potential. Grant Williams should become a solid pro but has been inconsistent thus far. Tremont Waters is a project with some upside potential. Yam Madar is a stash project.

Ironically, there are two other players that Ainge has (technically) drafted in the last 3 years. The guys he traded away in Matisse Thybulle and Desmond Bane. Both have shown nice flashes thus far but still too early to tell on any of these guys.

The two-big lineup is an absolute disaster and should be abandoned

Probably real, but I’m willing to let Brad tinker and experiment in the regular season.

This lineup is starting to remind me of the “Best 5 lineup” from last season. It makes sense in theory, but on the court it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason. It has a similar theory behind it. Get the best players on our team out there together and let talent win. Again, in theory, Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson are some of the more switchable and adaptable bigs in the league. Why not kill other teams with size?

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors Photo by Scott Audette/NBAE via Getty Images

It just hasn’t worked very well yet. Brad Stevens himself put it succinctly: “It has probably been too inconsistent to draw a conclusion, but maybe that is the conclusion.”

I will say that we still have a small sample size to go on and Thompson didn’t even have the luxury of a short preseason to get up to speed. With so many games packed in, there’s not even time for much practice time.

The first half of the regular season is a coach’s opportunity to experiment with different combinations, get game film of how things fit together, and make evaluations of what works and what doesn’t. I’m comfortable letting him getting creative for a while as long as the losses don’t pile up too quickly.

The Celtics team defense is terrible

Real so far. Boston has a defensive rating of 111.5 (according to NBA Stats) which is good for 21st in the league. Granted, getting roasted by the Nets probably skews some of those numbers in this small sample size, but the Celtics have given up 30-point quarters a lot this season, and to some less than stellar offensive clubs.

Again, blame the lack of practice time, blame the short offseason, blame the odd lineups (necessitated in part by key injuries and free agent departures). Still, the team lost Al Horford and Aron Baynes and still managed to hit the ground running on defense last year. This is a concern and I hope it gets better before too long.

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Semi Ojeleye has taken a leap (finally)

I did not see this coming and I’m a little skeptical, so let’s just say that the jury is still out. With that said, so far he’s been a bonus for the team. He’s shooting over 40%, driving to the hoop with a new Euro-step move, and playing his usual solid-not-spectacular defense. Sometimes that’s all you need from your 4. In particular when Grant Williams has been a little up and down thus far. I’m happy to see Semi find success on the court thus far. Hopefully he can keep it up.

This team needs another shot creator

Very real in my opinion. The Celtics have an offensive rating of 112.8 which is good for 8th in the league. That’s great and all, but it seems like they are being carried on the backs of Tatum and Brown.

As much as I love Pritchard, I don’t know how I feel about him being our 4th best creator (behind Marcus Smart). Jeff Teague was brought in to add this dimension and he’s been alright, but nothing extraordinary for the most part.

There are effective offensive players on this team, but all the bigs rely heavily on someone else creating opportunities for them. There’s no real answer for the wings off the bench either.

This is really where we miss having a weapon like Gordon Hayward on the team. I don’t think we have to replace him with equal value, but it would be nice to have some scoring options off the bench. Hey, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but we do have a Traded Player Exception we could use. Someone should write about that.

This team will be just fine

Real (I hope). Let’s enjoy the ride!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Celtics Blog Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog