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Levels of concern for the Boston Celtics

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Be worried...to a point.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

“‘Cause I told you my level of concern
But you walked by like you never heard
And you could bring down my level of concern
Just need you to tell me we’re alright, tell me we’re okay” - Twenty One Pilots

I have this song running through my head lately because I can tell that a lot of people are really, really...really concerned about this team lately. And maybe we should be. This is at least my third attempt to write a “what is this team really?” article and that probably means the team is inconsistent at best.

The west coast trip was not great but we had some good wins. Kemba is playing not great, but Tatum and Brown are. Nesmith isn’t playing, but Pritchard is one of the best rookies. The defense is not great... period. We would like this team to be great. So what’s the deal? Is it time to panic or what?

Toronto Raptors Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Kemba Walker - Level of Concern 5 out of 10

If Twitter is to be believed (note: it is not), the number one topic on Celtics fans’ minds is Kemba Walker. Panic isn’t just reserved for the disco. People are ready to burn the whole house down like AJR.

I guess I’m generally in the “relax, everything will be fine” camp. But I’m concerned about Kemba. His game is predicated on his speed and quickness and his knee wasn’t right in the bubble. He was supposed to be rested and reasonably healthy but who knows at this point? Even when the shots are falling from outside he’s going to get targeted on defense and there’s only so much he can do on that end even at full speed. Is this going to be the deal with him for the rest of his career in Boston?

Let’s be clear here. Part of the reaction here is tied to the Gordon Hayward Experience in Boston. It seemed like it took forever for him to be himself again and just when he got going again he’d get hurt again. Will that happen with Kemba? That’s the fear, but every situation is unique.

I will say that Kemba was never going to be a “max guy” for the duration of this contract. He was signed in large part to be the leader and character guy that we needed at that time. He was a bridge to the Tatum/Brown years. Good news is that Tatum and Brown arrived early. Bad news is that Kemba may fade away quicker than we hoped. Maybe he’ll be a good support piece or bench option as soon as next year, but that’s not an optimal use of that cash.

There’s no D in Boston Celtics - Level of Concern 8 out of 10

The Celtics are 14th in the league in defensive rating. That’s not acceptable. Someone smarter than me is going to have to explain why this is happening, too. From a personnel perspective, we subtracted Hayward, Wanamaker, and Kanter. I think the first two are underrated defenders but on paper, the drop off shouldn’t be THAT bad. I keep waiting for Tristan Thompson to round into form. It would help if this team had more consistency in the lineup and more time to practice, but at some point in the season the excuses run out and you have to get better. Brad Stevens coached teams generally get better by the end of the year. Let’s hope that plays out this year because it hasn’t started out great defensively.

Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Supporting Cast - Level of Concern 6 out of 10

Right now, this team is being carried by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That’s a great start, but they are going to burn out if they have to do all the heavy lifting all year. Kemba needs to play better. Smart needs to come back healthy again. Thompson needs to play better.

There are 9 players on this team aged 25 or under. It shouldn’t shock anyone that they are inconsistent. There’s a TPE-sized hole on this team that needs to be filled by the deadline. I’ve been an advocate for years for trading more picks in order to get veteran pieces to help this team. So I’m all for trading some of the “kids” and future picks for some win-now pieces. Preferably a win now piece that will stick around for a few years.

I do think Ainge will make a move this year, but I don’t know at all what kind of move it will be and how much of an impact it will make.

Is...is this team good? Level of Concern 4 out of 10

I think this team COULD be great. This year, the East is completely up for grabs so it would be awesome if they could figure things out and make another run. Right now, it might be shaping up to be another year of good-not-quite-great. But hey, there’s still time to turn things around. And if not, we still have a foundation of Tatum and Brown to build around. A lot of teams are very envious of that.