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How good are the Boston Celtics at the quarter mark of the regular season?

Let’s review the last eighteen games.

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

Here we are eighteen games. Let’s see...72 divided by 18 is...25% of the way through the season! That’s time enough for the outliers to get evened out and for the effect of small sample sizes to be diminished. There’s still plenty of time left in the season for things to change, but we have a pretty good idea of what this team looks like in the early part of this season. So it is officially time for me to make my post-18 game assessments.

The Stars

What more can we say about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at this point? They just keep getting better and better. Both should be All-Stars and thus far I’d make a strong case to put both on the All-NBA team. We’re lucky to have them so early in their careers locked up for several more years.

Kemba Walker is much more of a mixed bag. The worry for much of the season was the severity of his injury and what long standing effects it might have on his production for this team.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The good news is that he’s back on the court on the earlier side of projections and the team is taking the slow and careful approach by keeping him out of the 2nd night of back-to-backs and limiting his minutes. The bad news is that he hasn’t always looked like the old Kemba and he’s unlikely to tell us if he’s feeling ill effects of the injury until well after the fact.

This is where we really see the effect of losing Gordon Hayward. While the Jays have filled in the gap admirably with more production, the team is more reliant upon them more than ever.

The New Guys

The offseason acquisitions of Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague were supposed to provide veteran leadership and depth. Thus far, the results have been...uninspiring.

Thompson was supposed to be the defensive minded big that can switch all over the court and gobble up rebounds. The more modern version of Enes Kanter if you will. Sadly, he’s been largely ineffective on defense (at least compared to expectations for him) and his offense hasn’t been anything to write home about either. Some of that was the result of a failed experiment with the double-big lineup playing Theis and Thompson together. It seemed like those lineups left both bigs searching for the right role. There’s still time for Thompson to find his niche in Boston and I’m holding out hope that he’ll figure things out.

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

I’m less optimistic about Teague, in large part due to the struggles he’s had the last few years. He’s inconsistent at best and at times has looked like he’s been through the “cottons/regular”cycle one too many times. He does provide depth at point guard, but he’s also been rather soundly lapped by rookie Payton Pritchard. If he’s playing minutes in the playoffs, it will mean he’s either gotten over whatever early season yips he’s having now, or something bad happened with the guys ahead of him.

The New Kids

This is where I gush about Payton Pritchard...again. The rookie just knows how to ball. The fearlessness, the ball handling, the passing, the aggressive driving, and of course, the long range shooting are all a joy to watch. He’s already playing like a five-year vet. About the only thing holding him back at the moment is a knee injury that should keep him out of the lineup for a just little while longer.

Aaron Nesmith is facing a steeper learning curve, in particular on defense, but we’ve seen progress from him on that front in recent days. The game is starting to slow down for him and thus the shots are starting to fall as well. If he can provide floor spacing while being not-totally-lost on defense, he could give this team an element that they sorely need.

Everyone Else

  • Timelord has provided some very encouraging minutes. You can see why Brad Stevens was doing everything he can to free up minutes at center for him to play.
  • Semi Ojeleye somehow leapfrogged Grant Williams in the rotation.
  • Daniel Theis is a good center, not so good power forward.
  • The Javonte Green feel-good-story continues to feel good.
  • Carsen Edwards has surprisingly shown more signs of life as the team has had to use him out of necessity.
  • Tacko Fall has shown flashes of being more mobile than in the past.
  • Tremont Waters has gone missing.
  • Romeo Langford is TBD and injured and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can bring later this year.

TPE and the Trade Deadline

This team has holes but it has a lot of opportunity given the advanced progress that Tatum and especially Brown have made. With those two cornerstones ready to rock, it would behoove Danny Ainge to roll with some moves that put them in position to rock ‘n roll now.

The team could use some more depth at the wing, but Green has been fine, Nesmith has gotten better, and Langford is on the way. The team might look for more depth at guard with Kemba on load management, Marcus banged up, and Teague looking shaky at best. I don’t know if there’s a need to add another center unless you are consolidating.

To me that leaves the power forward spot as the biggest need. Semi has been solid, I still have hope for Grant Williams, and Stevens still wants to experiment with double bigs. But a legit big man that can rotate out to cover the perimeter and generate some points himself would be an upgrade I could get behind (which is why I’ve been monitoring Aaron Gordon all year).

If not that, then I could see the Celtics focusing on shooting (regardless of position) and defense at or around the deadline. Keep in mind they can split up the TPE to use some of it during the season and the rest in the offseason.

Big Picture

All told, we’re in good position in my opinion. At 10-8 the record could be better (and could easily be worse). That’s good for 5th in the conference (3 games out of 1st) despite long absences from Tatum and Walker. Seems like this team is on an upward trajectory, but the defense will determine how high they can fly.

What say you? How are you feeling 18 games in?

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