FanPost

Celtics Preseason mix good and bad but mostly positive

The Celtics are a team that most non Celtics fans are discounting this year. Many national media types are not high on the Celtics and think they are like a 6-8 seed and that very well could happen, but I see a path where the Celtics can be back in the Eastern Conference Finals. What are the improvements in the team that can lift them up from a 500 team to a 50+ win team.

1) Higher Energy

Brad Stevens, despite being a very good coach with a ton of success with the Celtics punching the ticket to the Eastern conference finals multiple times with just good talent, not great, did not have a good season last year. He lost the team and they stopped playing hard and a team that was always a top defensive team slipped to a below average defensive team. In the preseason, you saw the team energized again.

2) The improvement of the recent draft picks

- Langford has exceeded expectations by a mile. When you watch him shoot, he is so fluid and ready and his release is quick and clean so I think this splurge in shooting the ball better may be the real thing. He also is athletic with length. He got playoff minutes against the Nets totally based on that and he could be a guy that can defend multiple positions. I still rank Nesmith higher despite Langford having more upside because he has been doing it more often and his effort is constant, but that is starting to become a close call

- Pritchard reminds me of a Steve Nash in his early years when Nash was fighting for minutes. He keeps his dribble and gets in and out of trouble just like Nash and always seems to come out flying like roses. His playmaking is so underrated as I see wide open 3 point shots coming from Pritchard's creativity and instincts. Nesmith's rise has a little bit to do with Pritchard creating and finding him. Than you see a NBA 3 point shooting range near the very best in the entire league. He is a constant threat from everywhere which creates so much space for Tatum and Brown. I predict Pritchard pushing a 50/40/90 someday in the NBA. The 40 percent from 3 is key.

- Nesmith is also a great 3 point shooter who plays so hard. He has had some big games in summer league and preseason and can maybe be another great floor spacer.

3) Back up point guard goes from a weakness to a strength

I don't know who anybody wants to call the starter and who is the bench, but I don't think it matters much. It is just trying to figure out rotations that work best together.

While the Celtics don't have an elite point guard, these 3 (Smart, Schroder, Pritchard) are all very good. Gone are the major minutes from Wannamaker and Teague where the team was held captive in those rotations. These 3 all bring something to the table, Smart - great defense, Schroder - ability to get to the paint and Russell Westbrook speed, and Pritchard Steve Nash craftiness with creating offense for his teammates and the shooting range of Curry and Young.

4) Tatum and Brown embracing passing and moving the ball.

While Tatum is a great isolation player, I think he needs to pick his spots and make a conscious effort to get others involved like Larry Bird did back in his day. The other players feeling better about being in the flow of the game will make them better in other areas. Ball movement and player movement teams in recent years have been very successful - see Spurs and Warriors, so that style can be very effective. This isn't to say when Tatum is in the zone that he doesn't completely take over the game which he should but he has to figure it out and feel the need in each game.

5) More transition baskets

Schroder and Horford will create better tempo. Thompson and Wannamaker/Teague created a snail pace. Better tempo will mean more easy transition scores.

6) Big Al - the Glue is back and as good as ever.

Whether his old body can maintain this remains to be seen, but Big Al is clearly the 3rd best player on this team. What he did in those first 2 preseason games was so evident that the Celtics missed him. Under no circumstances should the Celtics consider trading him at this point, especially since Timelord took a leave of absence this summer apparently and in the preseason. Big Al does it all, but his screen setting, and passing and 3 point threat is huge on this team. He looked good on defense in the preseason and could move his feet well enough to handle guards on switches as well as contesting shots in help and getting rebounds in traffic. The upgrade from Thompson to Horford is night and day difference.

Downside

1) Defense despite the higher energy is still falling short. I realize the NBA players in today's game are at a different level with shot making, but the Celtics seem to give up 3's too easily. I don't think this strategy of switching everything all the time will work versus being situational. In the season, when teams can't prepare as much, the Celtics could squeak by, but it will be exposed in the playoffs for sure. I think the Celtics have 4 of the 15 players that may be able to do this. Tatum, Brown, Smart, Langford (maybe Horford)

2) X's O's on offense - hard to tell on this yet, but Stevens did do a good job of grabbing a handful of buckets at key times in games which so far, the Celtics offense sees a little out of sync. It did get better as the preseason went on though.

3) Richardson's shooting. I know he may be a better defender, but I don't know if you can have enough shooting in today's NBA. I personally would play Nesmith and Langford over him if he cannot be a threat to make shots.

4) Timelord - This is the biggest disappointment of the entire preseason. He looks like a player that ate potato chips all summer and he went from a 25 year old to 35 year old in 3 months. He completely lost his hops and explosiveness and now is back to the historical nagging injuries. This is another reason the Celtics have to ride Big Al for the next 2 seasons or get somebody else as Timelord is a wildcard. If he can be at the top of his game, he can be so impactful as the Celtics could go from a 7 or 8 season to like a 3 or 4 seed with just the difference of having the Timelord at the peak of his success last year vs the dismal physically unprepared Timelord of the preseason. I am hoping that maybe in a month or so, he can return to the player he was last year that moved the needle. Late in the season, the Celtics were so much better based on 2 players playing more minutes and that was Timelord and Pritchard. In games, they played more, the Celtics won a high percentage of those games. Getting the Timelord back from last season is so key, but my thoughts are that the best case is that he is a month away from the inactivity of the offseason to shake off.

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