Welcome to 3 fun things (very much a working title), where I capture three things from the week of hoops that caught my eye. It’s also where I shamelessly rip off Zach Lowe’s 10 Things I Like and Don’t Like but do a much worse job of it with 30% of the effort. But unlike Zach, I’m free to read so refunds will not be accepted. Let’s jump in.
Stat of the week: $3,567,817
Starting things off on an exciting bang by discussing the nuances of the salary cap! This number is extremely important because of what it represents.
That number is how far over the daunting, despicable, deplorable second tax apron the Celtics are. Many words have been written, discussed, and tweeted (X’d?) about the Celtics’ apparent dodging of the second tax apron after they let Grant Williams walk out that door. We’ve all heard verbal castigations about Wyc & Co.’s inability or refusal to go deep into the luxury tax. There are very real reasons why a team and ownership group wouldn’t want to go over that second apron. Not only are the tax penalties more severe (and get worse as the years go by), but it also limits the tools in the GM’s toolbox for improving the roster. Wave goodbye to the MLE, taking on money in a trade (like we just did with Jrue and KP), and buy-out guys.
But you know what, who cares? We got Jrue Holiday and he’s absolutely worth going over the second apron for — a championship piece added to championship level talent. He’s the perfect fit and replacement for Marcus Smart. Wyc often said he would spend deep into the tax if it was for a title contender. Fans and analysts alike were skeptical, but Wyc finally put his money where his mouth is.
X’s and ooooooh’s: Jrue’s pick-and-roll game
Maybe the most exciting part of Holiday’s game is how versatile he is on both ends (although I’m equally as excited that we won’t have to face him anymore). Other than foul drawing, he’s above average at just about everything on the offensive end. Importantly, Jrue is a pick and roll operator that the Celtics haven’t really had since Kemba. Tatum is a good pick-and-roll ball handler, as is White and to a lesser extent Jaylen, but Jrue is just a more natural lead guard. He attacks in just about every way possible with his plus playmaking and scoring. Unlike the guard he was traded for, he regularly hits the rolling big on the way to the rim.
He understands spacing on the pick-and-pop, dragging help far away from the popping big opening up a clean look.
And, while he doesn’t score at elite levels of efficiency, he can do so in just about every way you can imagine other than dunking from the three-point line. Difficult step-back against a late trailing guard? Check.
Freezing the dropping big with a slight hesitation and finishing over length? CHECKKKKK.
Simple pull-up three in the face of a big after a switch? Oh, you better believe that’s a check.
Easy pull-up middy against a deep drop? Somebody toss me a check.
Now run all of those back and instead of Brook Lopez, Grayson Allen, Wes Matthews, and that Greek bum, he’s running them with Kristaps Porzingis, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Derrick White. Terrifying stuff for everyone but Celtics fans. Can the season start already?
Non-basketball stuff of the week: Media Day vibes
I know Media Day is largely the high tide of good vibes, but something feels just a little different this season. The combination of Jaylen’s and Jayson’s mature, positive, and driven quotes coupled with Jordan Walsh skipping around like Goldilocks, makes me thing there’s a special air about this team — a quiet, determined confidence of a group of players that know the difficult task at hand, all of whom are looking forward to the challenge.
Jordan Walsh just skipped out of the media room after his press conference.— Jack Simone (@JackSimoneNBA) October 2, 2023
Always a vibe. pic.twitter.com/RqfLxzlrSO
You know who looks the most excited of them all? Brad Stevens. I mean look at this smile while he’s chatting with Jrue Holiday (and yes, this entire section is just an excuse to embed this gif and video).
Brad is all smiles at practice (and also maybe disappears?) pic.twitter.com/b0tRmkZjP5— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) October 4, 2023
Absolutely delightful. Brad has done very well, and nobody knows that better than him. Onwards to Banner 18, and I’ll see you next week (hopefully).