When you fail to shoot the ball well in the 4th quarter of an NBA game you’re typically going to lose that game. That’s exactly what happened Monday night at the United Center as the Bulls (11-9) lost a tough one to the Portland Trail Blazers (12-10) by a score of 112-110. After a back-and-forth affair that featured a game of numerous runs ended with the Blazer duo of Evan Turner and Damian Lillard making more plays down the stretch to hold of D Wade and Jimmy Butler to send the Bulls to their third loss in four games.
You hate to lose a game where your two best players play like just that, but that’s what happened against the Blazers as Wade and Butler both had tremendous efforts that were wasted. Wade scored 34, going 11/13 from the charity stripe while Butler put in 26 (his 14th straight over 20) and was perfect on eight attempts from the free throw line.
Both players were great at creating their own shot and making something out of nothing on a night where the Bulls offense was inconsistent to say the least. Unfortunately the duo got little help from the rest of their team as no other starter scored more than eight.
Another bright spot in this game was the Bulls ability to get to the free throw line as alluded to earlier. The Bulls got there 38 times, compared to the Blazers 18, and made 33 of them for an outstanding 86.8% on the night. Usually when you shoot 20 more free throws at home than you opponent and make more than 80% of them you’re in good shape, while that wasn’t the case tonight Bulls fans should hope this trend continues.
However, as in most losses, there was more bad than good in this one. Let’s start with Rajon Rondo being asked to sit this game out for disciplinary reasons. While Rondo has been the subject of much criticism recently, his absence showed just how thin they are at the point guard position. Jerian Grant got absolutely demolished by Lillard on multiple occasions and Isaia Canaan wasn’t much better in relief.
Canaan’s play down the stretch was concerning to say the least. Canaan wasn’t valuing each possession as he should have, giving away a couple bad turnovers and forcing up bad shots early in the shot clock in the fourth quarter. While Canaan isn’t used to playing in big time situations, he has to know better than to give away valuable possessions in a tight game. It probably would have been best to let Wade or Butler bring the ball up the last five minutes or so but hindsight is always 20/20.
The defense struggled again giving up more than 100 points for the sixth time in their last eight games. The Bulls struggled to cool the hot hand, whether it was Lillard or Turner at any given point, which allowed both players to go on continuous streaks at important times of the game. Take for example, a few series in a row in the fourth where Mirotic got switched on to Turner and resulted in baskets for him each time. That’s unacceptable play out of this team at this point in the season. Additionally, there were times throughout the game where the Bulls seemed to forget the most important defensive rule, stop the ball in transition. The Blazers got too many open shots too easily because the dribbler was never stopped once he crossed half court. This was part of the reason they put up 65 in the first half and continued on to put up monster numbers throughout the game.
As previously mentioned, some Trailblazers had some very solid games. Damian Lillard, per usual, had 30 points, seven dimes, and four boards while CJ McCollum had 24 points and five assists on 10/19 shooting. When they’re on, this is one of the prolific scoring duos in the league and they showed it tonight scoring in all different types of ways. The Blazers as a team shot a remarkable 48.4% which enabled them to overcome the free throw discrepancy and take home a big road win.
Up Next: The Bulls head to the Motor City on no rest to take on the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night.
The Bulls have undoubtedly been disappointing this year, no matter what angle you take – I’m excluding any silver lining: giving up big leads (e.g., Monday, a 16-point lead against the Suns); offensive struggles (26th in offensive efficiency); failing to implement a New Age offense consisting of high volume shooting of threes and paint twos; lacking any sort of offensive cohesion or ability to maintain any semblance of momentum.
Tonight was unfortunately no different. The Celtics beat the Bulls 105-100, dropping Chicago to 11-8. They let a close game turn into a ten point deficit midway through the fourth quarter with a series of deflating defensive mental lapses, low energy, and a scoring drought. Here are some BULLets:
Jimmy Butler continues to be the lone Bull playing tough basketball, appearing to fight for somethinganything (honorable mention to Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson). His outstanding performance was overshadowed by a lackluster team effort, as he finished with a career high 36 points on 50% shooting, coupled with seven rebounds, and going 12/14 from the line. Butler has nearly a third of the Bulls’ free throw attempts for the season, which might be just as indicative of Butler’s aggression as it is the rest of the team’s lack thereof, as the Bulls are 25th in the league in free throw attempts per game. This was also Jimmy’s 27th straight game with a steal, tying his career high – the longest such streak since Pippen’s 42 in 1994.
Tony Snell continued to struggle, posting a whopping zero points on 0-5 shooting and three turnovers. Despite ranking a very respectable second in the league in three point field goal percentage, Tony seems to think that’s all he’s supposed to do, and looks lost anywhere else. This. So much this:
It's almost like someone told Tony Snell "You're a 3 and D" guy and it programmed him to ONLY do those things.
If Snell and Niko were the storm clouds over the game, then Taj and Jo, my honorable mentions of the night, would be the silver lining I said I wasn’t going to talk about. Taj started for Mirotic tonight, alongside Pau, and gave good activity and better post moves with eight points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. Noah is getting closer to his old energetic self, with five points, six assists, and five rebounds, also in 20 minutes. His -18 is alarming, but watching the game has me thinking this had a lot more to do with floor pairings than his individual effort
Doug McDermott continues to shoot lights out, punishing defenders for going underneath screens. On the season, he’s fourth overall in three point field goal percentage, and tonight he shot 3/4 from beyond the arc, with 11 points and a neutral +/-. He’s also got some nifty (albeit, unconventional-looking) moves around the basket, and is becoming less and less awful on defense every game (although the refs are still calling quite a few borderline fouls on him).
Things I would like to see…
More of: Noah/Niko or Noah/Doug dribble hand-offs as long as opponents inexplicably go under screens – Niko connected twice with this little two-man game
Less of: Derrick Rose shooting anything other than a layup (and even then, it’s not great)
… has Derrick Rose become Rondo and Rondo become Rose?
IS THIS LIKE ONE OF THOSE BODY SWITCH MOVIES?!
The Bulls sorely miss the cutting prowess of Mike Dunleavy (out 4-6 more weeks) and should benefit greatly from his return. Hoiberg’s offense relies so heavily on a read-and-react scheme that leans on guys like Dunleavy creating weaving action. As a result, without him, the Bulls fall into old habits of playing isolation ball and allowing the defense to ICE the ball handler (Rose, especially, seems to willingly allow this disadvantage). It was indicated that the Bulls are using some of Thibs’ old plays to help the players become more comfortable by gradually transitioning to the new offense. If the Bulls want to turn things around, they’ll need to buy in to Hoiball – it just hasn’t happened yet.
Boston improves to 13-9 with a defense that’s sneaky good. They combine this with excellent bench production – the Celts have the fourth-highest scoring bench in the league and had eight of nine rotation players tonight in double figures. You know things are going right for the Celtics when Evan Turner is doing near-360 degree dunks on fast breaks.
Coming up: the Bulls try to take on the Clippers Thursday night on TNT; the Celtics on Friday will attempt to topple the NBA Champion, and still undefeated, Golden State Warriors.
The Boston Celtics are far from a focal point of conversation these days as the NBA season inches closer the playoffs, yet it’s hardly been a disappointment. You’d be hard pressed to find a single Celtics fan who really believed this team would have any realistic shot at being a playoff team. Trading Rondo and Jeff Green were inevitable moves that most C’s fans (myself included) thought were going to improve chances of “tanking” the season in an effort to acquire a coveted lottery pick and a potential franchise player. However, the reality is that this continues to seem like a less likely outcome as the season progresses. Let’s not forget the season ending surgery for the promising Jared Sullinger. There have been moments this season where fans thought that this team would implode and rapidly trend towards being forgettable, yet Brad Stevens has managed to keep the ship afloat with what seems to be a continually revolving roster of players. Don’t get me wrong, this team is by no means spectacular in any fashion, but Stevens is showing that the popularized “tanking” notion is not the fail proof method for rebuilding franchises. He’s creating a culture that allows players to thrive, and his players are responding.
There have been quite a few pleasant surprises for Celtics fans this season to help restore some of the faith that was lost in Danny Ainge. I think the most fascinating development has been the emergence of Evan Turner. When you look at this current roster, Isaiah Thomas certainly may be the most talented player, but Turner has been the leader. Stevens’ best move this season has been moving Turner to the point. He has really thrived as a facilitator and is running an offense that currently ranks sixth best in assist ratio AND is tied for seventh lowest in turnover ratio in the league. Turner has quietly had two triple doubles this season as well as twenty-three (!) games of at least 10 points/five rebounds/five assists. His scoring is not very consistent but he is a capable enough ball handler for Stevens to place trust in him to run the offense. And why not?
This Celtics roster right now is entirely comprised of players that can score at least ten points on a given night. Besides Tyler Zeller, they can all shoot the three. Why is this important? Floor spacing. That’s one of the more underlooked aspects when planning defensive schemes against this Celtics team. They have no single player that will be the primary focus of a defensive game plan which actually makes them intriguingly problematic for their opponents.
One of the more promising things that Celtics fans can look forward to is Brad Stevens’ willingness to commit to team basketball, as noted in a recent NESN article. Stevens has been able to get the most value out of his players this season while building great team chemistry. In addition to the aforementioned Evan Turner, the recently acquired Isaiah Thomas has thrived as well. Thomas is a unique player as he can score as good as anyone but is likely not a true starter at point guard due to his size. The truth is, he is a perfect security blanket as a backup combo guard for any playoff contender.
Although it’s been a relatively small sample size, Thomas is averaging 21.4 points per game while averaging under 28 minutes a game in Boston. He is scoring at a higher average currently with this Celtics team than he did when he had his best scoring year with the Kings, when he averaged over 20 points per game. He’s also playing seven less minutes per game with the Celtics as a player coming off the bench than as a starter with the Kings. Thomas has proven his ability to score the basketball and is certainly someone that teams account for in the scouting report. However, he plays in a free flowing offense where players share the ball to get the best shot. This has been the main reason that his scoring efficiency is the highest of his career.
The Celtics will wrap up the season with the hopes of snatching the eighth and final playoff spot in the East where they could potentially be in a tough matchup with a Hawks team that has been remarkably good all year. While the Celtics would be far more likely to get swept than win the series, that would certainly be a matchup of interest to hardcore fans as both teams play very similar styles of basketball. Regardless of how the season ends for this young Celtics team, it is certainly reassuring to see Brad Stevens’ continued focus on playing the right way and the team’s ensuing improvements. If you call yourself a Celtics fan, you are thrilled to have Stevens at the helm for the foreseeable future given everyone’s expectations for them and what they have shown this season. This team plays to win, not to tank. As a Boston sports fan, you really have to admire the fight against the odds. It is the attitude carried by the city and its fans who are used to seeing their teams thrive. Brad Stevens is a winner, and this team will be too if they continue to show this progression.
This article is dedicated to myself for giving my heart and soul to the Sixers even though I’ll be getting nothing in return for a couple years. Also, to the recently released Sixer Chris Johnson, because we all know he never had a shot…pour one out for the homie.
Flashback to Draft Night 2013
The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off an abysmal and disappointing season which ended in the firing of head coach/broadcaster extraordinaire Doug Collins and the release of President and acting GM Rod Thorn. We legit had Thorn running this team in the front office and Doug Collins slowly dissipating any chemistry left on the floor. What’s even more absurd is that as a fan, this duo was actually creating a sense of optimism for the franchise the previous two years. Seems silly right?
Oh yeah, one more thing. We had that whole Andrew Bynum trade really not work out in our favor. We dealt our franchise player (if you can call Andre Iguodala one) as well as the walking double-double Nikola Vucevic. I absolutely was in love with Vucevic when he was a Sixer, such a rare type of talent at the center position, and Doug Collins didn’t even put his ass on the floor during the playoffs. Sorry, just letting out some frustration. I think throughout this article you’ll notice I will do that. As a Sixers fan releasing pent up negative energy in a healthy way is step one in the twelve steps to admitting you’re a Sixers fan.
To sum this digression up: Andrew Bynum while with the Sixers played 0 games and averaged 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 blocks per game. In comes the dark and mysterious figure that is general manager Sam Hinkie. To be honest, I knew very little about Hinkie when he was hired as GM. I knew he came from the Rockets organization and he was very into analytics. He also wasn’t Rod Thorn so Hinkie had that going for him. I was on board.
So back to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Typically an NBA franchise that has recently fired their head coach hires a new one before an important event like the draft. But obviously the Sixers are no typical franchise with Hinkie at the helm. Sam Hinkie legitimately didn’t care who the future coach would be; this draft was all his. Now obviously the Sixers ownership is involved, but they have basically given Hinkie the only keys to the castle. He makes every decision and the only one that he answers to is god; and even god is like “dude, whatever you gotta do to make this Sixers team competitive is alright with me…”
The Sixers roster before the draft featured a bunch guys with mediocre skills. It was non-descript to say the least. But we had one silver lining and that was 23 year old All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. He seemed like a legit building block and a guy Hinkie would be able to put pieces around and go forward wi…..and he’s gone! While everyone was salivating at the prospect of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel playing alongside each other in New Orleans and blocking around 35 shots a game, Hinkie was behind closed doors dealing for the injured Kentucky product (Noel) as well as a future first round pick.
There was a lot of discrepancy in the reporting of this deal during draft night. While all of the facts were being sorted out, the Sixers were on the clock and had selected Syracuse point guard and future rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, aka MCW, aka “the Sultan of Steals”, aka “the Prime Minister of Passing” (none of these other nicknames have stuck like MCW unfortunately). After the selection of MCW this basically confirmed that Jrue Holiday was on the move. I had trouble wrestling with this new direction Hinkie was steering us in. But the team was going nowhere and had zero shot of winning anything with just Jrue Holiday, and while the concept of bottoming out and possibly getting Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker was appealing, it was a long way away from next year’s draft.
By the end of the night I was on board and fully immersed in what I refer to as “Hinkieball”. It’s like “moneyball” except completely different and not involving baseball. Hinkie had completely changed the course of the franchise for the better in about 15 minutes. 15 minutes! That’s a fourth of an episode of Homeland! Hinkie moved Jrue Holiday for what would have been the #1 overall pick if healthy (Noel) and a top three protected first rounder next year from the Pelicans in addition to completely overhauling the cap situation. At the end of the 2013-14 season they had an astounding $36 million available. Teams would kill for a cap situation this good. Literally, Mitch Kupchak would go out on a murdering spree in LA right now to give the Lakers just half as good a cap situation as Hinkie has gotten for the Sixers.
So finally the 2013-14 season is upon us. Sixers fans are ready for the tanking extravaganza to begin. We have our several boxes of tissues to wipe away tears that we were to experience in the upcoming months. We also have our slop buckets to collect all the vomit induced from the sickening feeling of watching Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes take a combined 50 shots a game. I actually want you to keep reading so I’m not going to go into actual detail about the Sixers 2013-14 season.
Here are the highlights:
We beat Miami in the season opener and MCW locked up the rookie of the year award on day one of the season. (Editor’s note: also this. Fuck this.)
Sam Hinkie acquired every second round pick in the next three NBA drafts at the trade deadline.
…..and that’s about it.
Also just for a good laugh here are some actual guys who appeared in a Sixers uniform last season.
Those five guys could play against you and some friends in pickup ball at the local JCC and you’d probably only lose by a couple buckets.
Finally, last season was the most awkward I have ever felt about the game of basketball in my life and I wouldn’t wish that kind of suffering upon any of my enemies. It was just weird watching a bunch of not-quite fringe NBA players play bad basketball and hoping that they lose night in and night out. It’s hard to sit there and root for your team to lose, but that was truly the only way to get better. It was also the first time as a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan where losing was not only tolerated but encouraged. It’s crazy to think that this little middle-aged white guy from Houston had completely mesmerized a city that is known to have no patience and is absolutely heartless when it comes to their sports teams’ successes or failures. (Obligatory cliché “snowballs at Santa Claus” joke). But for real, we threw batteries at J.D. Drew for saying he didn’t want to play here. We’re the craziest fan base in the whole world and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.
Anyway we won 19 games last season and finished with the second best odds at landing the #1 pick in June in addition to the Pelicans pick, which ended up being #10 overall. This was going swimmingly for Hinkie and the front office. Sixers fans could finally see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. We ended up landing the third pick, which locked us in at getting Wiggins, Parker, or Embiid. All three of those guys would excite the fan base and reinvigorate the team. Then the Joel Embiid injury threw the whole top of the draft for a loop. Was there a real possibility that the Sixers would take a flyer on an injured big man and sit him for the entire season? I truly couldn’t fathom going through another year like the last.
So obviously and without hesitation, Sam Hinkie took Joel Embiid and put a dagger through the heart of every Sixers fan. To add insult to injury, he traded for Dario Saric and stashed him away overseas, thus twisting the dagger that he had already thrust inside us. What everyone wanted to believe was a one year rebuilding plan ended up being a multiyear process. After hundreds of expletives hurled by me at friends, family, religious statues, and TV media personalities, I finally began to cope with what was going on with my beloved Sixers franchise. In one year Sam Hinkie had gathered a pretty impressive stock. Four top twelve picks (MCW, Noel, Embiid, Saric), approximately $35-40 million in cap flexibility, and the likelihood of gathering another top three pick in 2015. He also acquired Joel Embiid’s Twitter handle, which has been All-Star caliber. The dude hits up Kim Kardashian and Rihanna on Twitter just because. As far as I’m concerned, Joel is the man and we all wish him a speedy recovery.
This brings us into the present and the 2014-15 Sixers squad. It’s definitely been easier to mentally prepare for this current season then it was for last. I’m used to seeing just terrible basketball run across my TV screen, but now it’s being brought to an all-time low. Last year, miraculously we won 19 games. This was largely due to having a combination of Turner, Hawes, Thad Young, and MCW. After Turner and Hawes were dealt at the deadline the team began to plummet down the standings. Not because they were great players, but because instead of acceptable NBA players taking 15-20 shots each a game; those shots were replaced by the likes of Casper Ware and Byron Mullens. This year, the Sixers have no decent veterans who can average 12-15 points a game. This is the reason they are without a win 10 games into the season.
This was the Sixers 2014 opening night starting lineup:
PG Tony Wroten
SG Chris Johnson
SF Hollis Thompson
PF Nerlens Noel
C Henry Sims
Seriously, this is no misprint. These guys can all call themselves NBA starters. I mentioned above that Chris Johnson was let go, and this is no accident, he really is a dreadful player. Johnson was brought into training camp one week before the season started. The Sixers roster is so pitiful this year, that Brett Brown legit had no other options at the two guard spot but to start a guy who just joined the team a week ago.
This whole scenario is so so sad. The Sixers are not guilty of tanking, as much as obliterating any chance possibly winning basketball games. The Sixers are comprised of MCW, Nerlens, and the longest list of D-list celebrity NCAA players who you may or may not remember when they were on a team that was a 12 seed in the tournament. However, second round pick K.J. McDaniels has been a true bright spot for the team and could actually be an integral part of this Sixers team in the future. Early reports on Nerlens Noel are good as well. He obviously needs to develop his body and gain weight and muscle, but his defensive skills are evident and he and Embiid in the frontcourt are not going to be a friendly sight for opponents in the future.
But why be on board with Sam Hinkie and the direction the franchise is going? Is it because we have no other choice and that believing in something is better than not believing at all? I think that’s true for the most part, but I also do personally believe in this plan. Having beyond awful basketball for the next two to three years is a fair sacrifice so that the Sixers are able to prosper for the next ten years after. I also believe in Brett Brown as a head coach. He’s coaching a bunch of college level guys and trying to get them to play together and improve on a night-to-night basis. His record as a coach is not even close to a direct correlation for the caliber of coach he will become when there is finally a real NBA team in front of him. Right now it’s really no fun being a Sixers fan. But if I had the chance to go back to draft night 2013 and stop Sam Hinkie from trading Jrue Holiday and dismantling the franchise I love so dearly; 100 out of 100 times I’m letting him dial up the Pelicans and make that deal.
Keep calm and Hinkie on my fellow Sixer fans, greener pastures are coming.
Life is tough for a Celtics fan right now. Seeing one of the most storied franchises in the league gather a whopping 25 wins in addition to finishing last in the completely irrelevant Atlantic Division was simply a cherry on the farewell cake that saw three Hall of Famers and a head coach bolt for other teams.
While a championship run certainly won’t be in the cards for the foreseeable future, the Celts still have managed to make enough unique moves during the offseason to pique the interest of us avid NBA fans who remain loyal to the cause.
Here is the beautiful thing about the NBA today: being terrible gives you a chance of getting a player that can turn the franchise around, wherever he may be found in the draft. One player in the draft can have a drastic impact on a team (ex: LeBron, Durant, Curry, Aldridge, etc.) almost instantly. This is something that is not common in other professional sports leagues, notably the MLB. Sure, you have the Kwame Browns and Darko Milicics of the draft, but you also have plenty of diamonds in the rough, as draft history has continually showed us in years past.
The hope of drafting a potential franchise superstar is always on the forefront of fans minds whenever they see their team tank a season. That certainly was the case for me. Was I hoping that the Celtics would be in the sweepstakes for Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? Of course. It would be idiotic to not want to take a risk on a player of that caliber who has so much potential to be great in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Celtics last season, they were bad, but they weren’t the worst. I can live with that though, seeing as the C’s still had the 6th and 17th overall draft picks. I thought they did a pretty good job acquiring talent with their selections of Marcus Smart (Oklahoma St.) and James Young (Kentucky), both who possess above average athleticism and have fairly strong offensive capabilities respectively. I will touch on each of these two players a little later on in this piece.
So what are left with here looking at this young Celtics team? From where I stand, I see a group of players that lack the leadership of a superstar player that they so desperately need. That’s not to say that the Celts don’t have valuable pieces, because they certainly do. However, the fact that they do not have a top 20 player who plays at an elite level night in and night out will impede any hopes of getting into the playoffs or having success in the playoffs this year. Enough negativity though. I want to dive into this team of young misfits and address how some of the personnel changes they made this offseason will impact the team moving forward.
First things first, I absolutely loved the hiring of Brad Stevens. This guy worked with a team that really only had one All-Star caliber NBA player in Gordon Hayward during his tenure at Butler. He was able to evoke a style of hard-nosed and team oriented basketball, something that is not seen too frequently in the NBA. The guy is a winner and he knows how to manage conflicting player attitudes. His energy and focus are very transparent from the sidelines and you can see the demeanor of his players both on and off the court. Hiring Stevens was a very strategic long term move by the Boston Celtics in my opinion. Stevens is not a coach that they plan on canning after a year or two after sustaining a few bad seasons. Danny Ainge is fully aware of his current roster as well as the team needs and talent gaps. I really do embrace his logic of growing Stevens with the team from the ground up to really develop a fundamental basketball system that players can all buy into once the right pieces come into place over the next few seasons.
I briefly discussed how I truly appreciate the direction that the coaching staff and team management is going towards in the future. What about the players though? The Celts may not have acquired Kevin Love or Melo in the offseason, but they did make some moves that are worthy of further observation and analysis. The two major offseason moves I liked the most were the acquisitions of Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller. Starting with Turner, he came to the C’s after being underutilized as a role player for the Pacers as they tried to make a deep playoff push last season. The one thing I like about his game is the fact that he can do a little bit of everything. He is not necessarily top notch in any offensive or defensive category, but he certainly is able to contribute in many different areas. His addition to the roster will certainly alleviate a lot of the scoring burden that was primarily placed on Jeff Green last season. It also gives the Celtics another wing player that is actually meant to be a wing player based on physical size and strength, which will help defensively in terms of matching up against opposing teams 2 and 3 spots.
Another player that I expect to make an immediate impact for the Celtics this season is Tyler Zeller. I truly believe that he is one of the more underrated players in the whole league. He is a legit seven footer with a well developed offensive skill set in addition to being an excellent rebounder. His presence will certainly be noted on the defensive end as he will serve as the primary rim protector for the Celtics this season. His addition to the roster also allows for players like Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger to match up against more traditional power forward size players rather than having to guard players that are simply just bigger and stronger. I digress. Going back to Zeller, he should also help balance out the scoring attack for the Celtics this upcoming season. He provides another easy scoring outlet for Rondo to dump the ball off to for easy dunks when attacking the basket.
Both Zeller and Turner will help the Celtics out in terms of scoring distribution as well as their overall team defense. Both are well above average NBA talents that will improve a depleted Celtics roster from last season. More importantly, they are valuable trading pieces to have if and when the C’s are trying to make a big move in the future. However, for now I am content with having both of these guys on the roster for this season because of the fact that they will be more involved in the offense. They will be asked to carry more of the scoring burden than they have had to on their previous teams. Maybe this will serve as the perfect opportunity for both of these players to break out and have career years.
Looking back at the players the Celtics have gotten through the last few drafts, I really can’t complain too much. They have a young nucleus of drafted players that includes Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and James Young. Sullinger has shown signs of incredible productivity on the boards as well as proficiency from beyond the arc and around the rim. I fully expect him to elevate his play to a higher level this season. Olynyk had a few bright moments last year but I still think he has room to improve. I see him as one of the backup centers (with Vitor Faverani) to Tyler Zeller who will earn his time based on his ability to score and rebound in the sparing minutes that he will receive this season.
Obviously it is a little early to make an accurate projection for Smart and Young, but I will give one anyways based off of practice reports and the current structure of the roster. I am a big fan of Smart. I think he has a rare combination of size, strength, and athleticism that makes him a tough guard to cover. At 6’4″ Smart can be considered either a 1 or 2 guard when he is on the floor. Although it is a little far fetched, I can understand the early comparisons that he drew to Dwyane Wade while he was still playing college ball. I think he will get some good opportunities to showcase his abilities with the absence of Rondo for the beginning portion of the season due to surgery on his hand. I am interested to see how Smart fits into the Celtics gameplan going forward. Another player who is very intriguing to me is James Young. If you don’t remember this guy, just think back to some of the electric plays he had for the John Calipari during the NCAA tournament. From his thunderous dunks to draining wing threes, this guy really impressed viewers with the multitude of offensive skills he has in his arsenal. He also has a very long wingspan and is left handed which can make him a defender’s nightmare when trying to cover him. He needs to bulk up a bit so he can be more physical when facing other 2 and 3 positions in the league, but it is difficult not to be optimistic about this kid’s future. He is a very capable ball handler and seems to mesh well into different offensive sets, even an elite offense like that of the Kentucky Wildcats. He may take some time to really thrive in the NBA, but he is definitely someone to keep an eye out for going forward into the season.
In closing I would just like to throw out a few notes about the Celtics going into this season. Rondo will not be playing for at least the first week of the season seeing as he is still recovering from hand surgery. Avery Bradley will most likely be asked to shoulder the point guard duties for a while in his absence with Phil Pressey handling some of those duties off the bench. Jeff Green has a temporary setback with a strained left calf but the coaching staff does not see that being serious enough to prevent him from being ready for the season opener. Although there are some scattered injuries and inexperienced players, Brad Stevens will have these guys ready to compete as soon as the regular season starts. They may not be tremendously successful this season, but there is no doubt that it will be entertaining to watch the new blend of young players integrated into the Celtics rotation as well as the players from last year who continue to progress.