1. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are wonderful talents. They were both deserving All-Stars. They are players you can build around, as they fit the ideals of the modern wing player almost perfectly. But…
Why do Tatum and Brown often go through the motions for a half or sometimes three quarters? Are they worn out? That would be a fair assumption.
Do they trust that their talent will just take over and win the game in the fourth? That’s happened plenty to be sure. But… and this may sound crazy, what if you didn’t have to dominate the fourth quarter because you played really well earlier in the game?
Tatum and Brown are both too special to not come out of the gates and put Boston in a better place earlier in games.
2. What happened to the defense? The Celtics are 21st in the NBA in Defensive Rating at 113.2. That’s bad enough, but the underlying stats are even worse. The three-point defense, a staple under Brad Stevens, has dropped way off. Boston is normally in the top-10, if not top-5 and this year they are 14th. They are also middle of the pack in three-point attempts allowed. Being bad in volume and percentage is a losing combination.
The team is also average at forcing turnovers and below average at defending the rim. And the defensive rebound rate is sitting smack in the middle at 15th. Oh, and the Celtics foul a lot compared to their pace and field goal attempts allowed.
It’s a lot of the same personnel as last season. Gordon Hayward was always a better defender than he was given credit for, but losing him can’t be that big of a blow. In addition, last year’s group had to work around Enes Kanter and his deficiencies. This one is truly a mystery.
3. Remember how everyone remembers Sinbad being in a genie movie, despite it never happening? Do we all have this same collective false remembrance with Aaron Nesmith? Did the Celtics actually draft Aaron Nesmith? Is Aaron Nesmith even a real person?
4. Related to the above: If this is a development year, why are players who aren’t a part of the future still playing so much? Why give so many minutes to Jeff Teague and Semi Ojeleye and the occasional 25-minute night for Javonte Green? Those minutes should be going to Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith and, assuming he ever plays again, Romeo Langford.
5. Related to the above again: If this isn’t a development year, why are players who aren’t a part of the future still on this roster? If the idea is to win, the Celtics have to go get better players. The current group, especially off the bench, isn’t getting it done.
6. This is probably related to, and the partial cause of, #2: What happened to Marcus Smart’s defense? This isn’t about the last few games. He’s clearly working his way back. But Smart wasn’t good defensively before he got hurt either. He’s looked a step slow all year. Maybe the short recovery period wasn’t enough for a player who ended last season banged up?
The Celtics need more from Smart if they are going to be a good team. And that starts on the defensive end of the floor.
7. Does Kemba Walker sitting out back-to-backs really throw the team off this much? That’s a popular theory floating around. Just when it looks like the team is finding a rhythm, Walker is out and they have to reincorporate him all over again. Could that really be a thing?
The guess here is that it isn’t really a thing. And if it is, it shouldn’t be. The Raptors won a championship by sitting Kawhi Leonard on a regular basis. The Spurs made Finals runs by managing multiple players through rest days. It’s a reality of life in the NBA now. If this is really throwing the Celtics off that much, that’s a Boston problem, not a real problem.
8. Jayson Tatum needs to get to the free throw line more. 4.8 attempts per game is ok, but it’s on the low side for someone who is one of the game’s best scorers. There are layers to why Tatum doesn’t draw more free throws. One of those layers is that he doesn’t get a lot of calls, for…well…reasons.
Let’s peel that onion a bit more, shall we? Tatum tends to go up soft. He takes contact, but he doesn’t force it or seek it out. Officials throughout the history of the game have tended to avoid rewarding soft play.
Next, Tatum is always looking to score when he drives. The guys who draw a ton of free throws drive to draw free throws. Tatum is driving to score. The purist fan loves Tatum’s approach. The efficiency fan loves the other approach.
Lastly, Tatum has done himself no favors with the officials. Since his rookie year, he has regularly thrown up his arms and looked to the sky/video board for a call, while uttering some words in the direction of the officials. Tatum almost never plays through without complaining about a no-call. This one has also started to hurt Tatum and Boston defensively, as he takes himself out of the play to complain.
9. How is this team 20-20? This space predicted the Celtics would start slow. It was said and written that “It would be no surprise if Boston started around 10-10, as they may ease into the season without Kemba Walker available”.
Yes, it’s recognized that 20-20 is just 10-10 repeated, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. There is simply too much talent on this roster, even with depth issues, to be a .500 team. Tatum and Brown alone should be enough to have lifted the team past that marker.
10. Buyers or sellers? In theory, everything says Boston should be buyers. Tatum, Brown, Walker, Smart and others should be getting buoyed by additions to make a deep playoff run.
Reality says maybe Boston should sell. 20-20 isn’t good. Floating around the Play-In Tournament isn’t good. Why would you bolster that sort of team?
Here’s the thing though: What do the Celtics even have to sell? Tristan Thompson could help a good team that needs a big. Same with Daniel Theis. Theis is also on an expiring deal, and if the belief is that he’ll be too expensive to retain, Danny Ainge might as well move him vs losing him for nothing.
The rest? Either not tradable or the value isn’t there. Tatum and Brown aren’t tradable, unless a superstar comes back. Walker isn’t tradable because of his contract and questions about his long-term health. Smart means too much to the city and franchise to just move him. The young guys still have some potential, but Boston would be selling low on anyone but Robert Williams and maybe Payton Pritchard right now. Everyone else has little to no trade value.
What are you confused about? Or, what on this list doesn’t confuse you and you have an answer to? Let us know where you’re at. On the bright side, you may have some answers. On the not-so-bright side, misery loves company.