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Mailbag answers: Celtics basketball, unicorns, and Schroeder’s Cat

Answering a variety of great questions about Celtics basketball

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Thank you all for the excellent mailbag questions! Let’s jump right in.


Future big 3: Would the Celts be better with a big three of Beal, Brown and Tatum or Brown, Tatum, Valanciunas plus cash saved and why? My problem with Beal is situation of having two high scoring guards along with Tatum who is not yet a power forward

I’ll turn it back around to you and ask if Valančiūnas is fundamentally better than an Al Horford and Robert Williams rotation? But I think I know where you are going with this question. Why not build a dynamic duo with Tatum and Brown and bring in a big man who’s not necessarily an automatic All Star but a notch below that? Maybe I’m dreaming but I think there’s still hope that Williams develops into that.

Or perhaps put another way, I think there’s a chance that we can build a contender with 2 stars an the right mix of sub-stars around them. Here’s the rub though. Everything would have to hit perfectly. Even if you made it work and won a title, it would be hard to replicate the next year.

Getting a 3rd star can be costly and limit your spending in other areas but it also raises both your floor and ceiling. Three stars just gives you so many weapons and looks and limits the opponent’s ability to ever catch a break.

I think it is fundamentally easier to fill in around 3 stars with limited resources than it is to mix and match the perfect compliments to a 2 star lineup. But that’s just me.

Down Under Celtic 76

Question: Why is it always doom and gloom for the majority of Celtics fans?

Posted From Mackay, North Queensland, Australia.

I don’t think it is the majority of Celtics fans. There’s a very vocal minority that makes it seem like “everyone” is a pessimist. Call it a defense mechanism based on previous heartbreaks if you like. I don’t know, but to each his own. Everyone can fan the way they want to fan as far as I care (as long as it is respectful to others).

But if you pay attention to polls where the silent majority are more likely to click a button than they are to leave a comment, you’ll see pretty regularly people are generally optimistic about the team. Otherwise I might have never gotten more than a handful of fans to read this blog when we started many moons ago.


Who needs to make the jump the most for this team to be a success?

Is it Brown catching up with Tatum and them both averaging 27? Is it Nesmith averaging 14? Langford finding his shot and a improvement in PnR ability? Is it Dennis earning 6th man of the year? Smart becoming a 8 assist facilitator with 37% 3pt? Tatum winning a scoring title? Al stealing the starting center job? Rob Will averaging 12 points 12 boards 4 ast and 2.8 blks? Pritchard shooting 46% from three? Richardson with a three point reprisal?

All of that sounds great, but the most important variable is always the most important players. If this team is going to be a title contender, then Jayson Tatum has to improve yet again to being in the MVP discussion. Almost as important is Jaylen Brown continuing to develop and add to his All Star resume.

There’s a little chicken and egg here though. Ime and Brad have to put them in position to win. The team has to share the ball and lock down on defense to win games which puts the stars in position to succeed and garner the recognition necessary. But still, I think it is mostly on Tatum and Brown to deliver.


Question: Is the Big Man dead and gone forever?

I have watched the NBA religiously since the 80s and realize the game has changed so much and wonder oftentimes if it’s a good thing.

The NBA 3pt FGA last season was almost 35 per game.

Up from:

2011: 18

2001: 13.7

1991: 7.1

My personal opinion is that it stinks. Watching a 3-pt shooting contest is not terribly exciting to me. I find myself watching older NBA games and pining for the old “inside-out” game that focused on spacing, ball movement, etc.

So three questions:

1. Am I just old and out of touch and the NBA is as exciting as ever?

2. Does/SHOULD the NBA do anything about the increasing 3pt FGA?

3. Is the traditional big man gone forever from the NBA? Have we seen the last of skilled post moves?

I’ve been watching since the 80’s as well and I understand the direction you are coming from with this. I’ll say that the game is obviously different, but that doesn’t mean it is worse. I find today’s game exciting for completely different reasons than I did in the 80’s and 90’s.

The league has moved the three point line forward and back in the past in order to tinker with the spacing and encourage exciting play. I feel like we’ve got a happy medium with where the line is at now though. Aside from dramatic changes I’m not sure what the league cold do otherwise and I’m not sure it is worth it.

What I’ll say is that nothing is forever. Now that everyone is doing drive-and-kick, you will soon enough see the next offensive genius come up with a new wrinkle that will seem like a gimmick at first and then slowly creep into everyone’s playbook. Maybe as the world is avoiding the mid-range game because of math, someone will see that as an opportunity to exploit.

As for big men, I don’t know if back to the basket low-post moves are coming back any more than Kareem’s sky hook did. Those may be done and gone, but that doesn’t mean big men will be any less important. They just play different now. The “unicorn” big man is now so common that it is more rare to find a Kanter than it is to find a Porzingis.

With all that said, I do miss Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon (both of whom could totally dominate in this era because they were efficient in the post.

European NBA fan

Which Eastern Conference teams have become overrated in the off season?

I myself have at least three big question marks:

1. I see a nice depth in Indiana, but a low ceiling.

2. It’s probably easy to underrate Chicago, but I don’t think they have the depth for a full season.

3. I’m conflicted about the Knicks. They’ve added Kemba and Fournier, but do they actually fit with Thibs’ playing style?

Indiana is a weird one. I could see them getting better just because they added Rick Carlisle. Then again, they seem like they are on year 3 of needing to figure out their roster balance issues.

I don’t know how Chicago is going to fit together but they’ve certainly upgraded their talent.

The Knicks seemed to play a little above themselves last year and could come back down to Earth this year. Then again, they did need some scoring punch last year and maybe that’s what Kemba and Fournier can bring to the table while relying on others to provide the defense. Still not super high on them either.

The problem with the East is that there’s two super contenders and then just a grab bag of teams in the 3-8 range and the Celtics are in that mix (along with the Hawks, Heat, Raptors, Hornets, and whatever version of the Sixers ends up being).


Hospital Celtics

For as much as this term has been used in the past 4-5 years, why is so little written about the Celtics’ medical staff? Who are these folks, what do they do, and how can they have a better impact on the team?

Well, about 4 years ago the Celtics overhauled their medical and performance team. Generally you want to see how things go over a number of years before making more changes.

I’m personally not qualified to question the skill or expertise of someone in the medical community. But I will point out that players’ health has so many factors that it would be hard to “blame” the medical staff for what has occurred over the last few years. Injuries can happen to anyone at any time. COVID impacted every team last year and may have impacted the Celtics more due to the players’ actions or just bad luck. Hard to say.

Basically I’m not going to point fingers at the medical staff unless someone can show me statistically that the Celtics have a higher rate of injuries that are a direct result of the medical staff’s decisions (poor conditioning? lack of proper preventative measures?). And even then I’d wonder aloud if it had more to do with the condensed schedules than the staff’s performance.


Should the Celtics trade Schroeder at the deadline even if they are playing extremely well? (top 4 seed)

Odds are you lose him for nothing next year, do you bring back value this year even if it risks disrupting a team playing really well together?

Please weave in Schroeder’s Cat in the answer somehow

Great question. From a pure asset perspective, we are very likely to lose him for nothing in the offseason so it would indeed make sense to move him before the deadline for some kind of value.

With that said, there’s absolutely value in putting the right pieces around Tatum and Brown, even if those pieces expire at the end of a particular year. After all, the Celtics didn’t give up anything but his salary to get Schröder.

So the answer is both yes and no. The cat is both alive and dead.

D.G. G.


I still like to think of 5 positions (PG, SG, SF, PF, C), and in the past, I thought that Tatum and Brown should be the 3 and 2 (even though I always thought of Jaylen as a 3). Now that Tatum seems much stronger, I’m reassessing and thinking that 4 and 3 are their best spots. Your opinion?

I was thinking about this the other day. In effect on offense it doesn’t really matter as they are the ones creating the mismatches. Tatum is too skilled to be guarded by a slow footed big and is increasingly getting good at overpowering smaller wings.

So the focus on what their positions really are tends to matter more on defense. We know that Brown can guard 2’s and 3’s and even in some cases guard up to 4’s. Can Tatum consistently guard 4’s? If there were more traditional bruiser bigs I might be more worried about the wear and tear on his body. But as we’ve discussed, there are a lot more stretch 4’s and big wings than there are legitimate big lineups out there these days.

Ultimately the true value in both Jaylen and Jayson is their versatility. If another team deploys a double big lineup, we can counter with bigs of our own and let Tatum and Brown carve them up with quickness. If other team’s go small, Tatum and Brown can force the issue in the paint and make them pay that way.


What non-Tatum Celtics player has the highest chance of an individual award this season?

If you count All NBA and All Defense then I would say Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart both have a chance on those teams if only because there’s more than one slot. For a single individual award, I’d probably go with 6th Man for Schröder.


Who will be the 6 biggest contributors

After (what I assume) is our top 4 of Jason, Jaylen, Smart and Al? In order of contribution/importance?

There’s a chance that Robert Williams contributes more than Al Horford (or even Smart for that matter). After that I’d order them like this: Schröder, Richardson, Pritchard, Nesmith, and Grant Williams. Hoping we get more from Romeo but I’ve got to see more to feel confident in that.

Richardson could exceed expectations if he can shoot better. The young guys could always take a leap. But as of right now that’s how I see them.


History question...what is Celtic basketball?

Brad and others are always talking about Celtic basketball, but what does that really mean? My understanding of Celtics history is that Red used to beat the pants off of other teams because the Celtics focused on team basketball instead of individual stars. Celtics players weren’t going to be league leaders in statistics, they were just going to focus on winning. (I have a memory that Red traded a guy who led the league in scoring for Robert Parish because of what he added to winning, not his stats.) Now there is so much focus in the NBA on stars (like a certain scoring leader in Washington.) My question — can focusing on team basketball (instead of stars) still work in today’s NBA? What is Celtic basketball and can the Celtics still win a championship playing this style?

Another great question. I’ll preface this by saying that I grew up in the 80’s so I wasn’t blessed with seeing the early years of Celtics Basketball develop.

What I do know of this franchise’s history is that a lot went into what developed. I don’t think Red would have turned down a chance at getting Wilt Chamberlain, but he certainly found a winning formula with Bill Russell. He also practically invented fast break basketball.

This is sort of like looking back at what made the Beatles so great. They were great, but they were also pioneers and everything in music that came after them echoes what they introduced to the world. Same with the Celtics. Team defense, fast breaks 6th man, and an unrelenting determination to win. Some of that mystique was born of success that builds on itself, but Red was a man ahead of his time and the team was blessed because of it.


This team’s ceiling and floor this season?

Another great question and one that I’ve already been thinking about for another article. So you’ll just have to wait and read that later.

Thanks again everyone! Great questions. Hope my answers were up to the task.

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