C’s Question of the Day: Who will be Celtics' MVP?
Who will be the Celtics' MVP
From now until the start of Celtics camp, we’ll be asking a Question of the Day about the upcoming season. Today: Who will be the Celtics’ MVP?
BOSTON – For most of Brad Stevens’ reign as the Celtics coach, his teams have been examples of what a team looks like when its collective parts exceeds the individual talent.
But even with that as a foundation, there’s usually one or two players who emerge with tremendous value for the team’s success.
A year ago that player was Isaiah Thomas, the team’s lone All-Star who set a number of individual career highs.
Being the most valuable Celtic this season will be a much tighter race in part because of at least one new addition.
When talking about the most valuable Celtic, here are the players who should immediately come to mind.
The longest tenured Celtic, Bradley has been an absolute rock for this franchise. Defensively he draws the toughest assignments most nights which is what you expect from an All-NBA Defensive First team performer.
He has never been a featured player in Boston’s offense, but he continues to improve in just about every facet of his game in terms of scoring, which is why he has been among the team’s top point producers the past couple of seasons.
Bradley is a soft-spoken veteran who is much better at leading by example than with his words. And that is why he’s such a great leader for this team, a player whose value is acknowledged and appreciated by his teammates as well as foes.
In fact, one of the big reasons he was selected as a first-team defender this season was because of the unsolicited testimonials he received from Portland’s C.J. McCollum – the Most Improved Player award winner last season – as well as McCollum’s backcourt mate and two-time all-star, Damian Lillard.
Following Boston’s 116-109 loss to Portland in April, Lillard revealed some details of a conversation he had with Bradley.
“I told him he was the best perimeter defender in the league," Lillard said. ”Because he is."
Crowder is a great example of what can happen when hunger meets opportunity. The 6-foot-6 forward saw limited action prior to Boston acquiring him via trade from Dallas on December 18, 2014.
Since then, Crowder has emerged as a core player for the Celtics who rely on his talent, versatility and leadership in order to be successful.
Because of his size and strength, Crowder can defend taller players as an undersized power forward, match up with traditional small forwards and, if there’s a switch defensively, there aren’t a lot of guards that can blow by him, either.
He has become one of the Celtics’ most versatile players because of the many roles he is capable of filling.
But for him to increase his value even more than it is now, he has to become a better shooter.
Crowder shot 44.2 percent from the field last season, but that number should increase this season with Crowder likely to benefit from a more open perimeter looks.
He was getting into a nice flow offensively at the end of last season prior to a high ankle sprain injury that seemed to limit his effectiveness throughout Boston’s first-round playoff series against Atlanta, in which they were eliminated in six games.
But he comes into camp in good health, which will go far in him asserting himself as one of the team’s more valuable performers this season.
The fact that Al Horford can stretch the floor offensively, get buckets in the paint and defend at an extremely high level, those qualities alone make him a player whose value is evident.
Still, Horford brings that much-needed intangible of leadership wherever he has played.
In college, he was instrumental in helping lead Florida to back-to-back NCAA titles. And with the Atlanta Hawks, they evolved into a perennial playoff team in his nine seasons there.
Boston is a team on the rise, and the addition of Horford speaks volumes about how different the Celtics are at this point in their growth than they were just a couple years ago.
As easy as it would be to point to Horford tallying x-amount of points and x-amount of rebounds, blocks and assists as a way to gauge his value, none of that will matter.
He’s going to be judged by how well this team fares in the playoffs; specifically, getting out of the first round.
At this point, that’s the true measure of success for the Celtics and when it comes to Horford, clear justification that signing him to a four-year, $113 million max contract was money well spent.
For a team that’s still ironing out exactly what its identity will be going forward, Thomas has emerged as the face of the franchise.
It’s almost like he began lobbying to add talent the minute he arrived via trade from Phoenix.
And that, maybe more than anything else, is why he is this team’s most valuable player.
Aside from being a very good player, Thomas recognized early on that he alone couldn’t carry this team to the heights that they are seeking, which is to bring home Banner 18.
So he made calls, shot off a few texts to really good players who might be on the move, and those efforts helped position the Celtics to make the short list of the top two summer free agents, Al Horford and Kevin Durant.
Boston landed Horford and was on Durant’s short list, which, as we learned in time, was no short feat.
In fact, Boston was the only team to get serious consideration by both players.
Of course, Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ front-office deserve some of the credit for that.
But this is a player’s league.
And the best players want to play with whom they feel are really good players.
When it comes to the Celtics, that’s a reflection on Thomas who earned his first All-Star nod this past season.
Known as a score-first (and second, and third, and …) player, Thomas showed tremendous growth in his own game this season.
In addition to averaging a career high 22.2 points per game, he also dished out 6.2 assists which was 0.1 shy of tying his career high.
Thomas put up big numbers scoring, got his teammates involved and maybe most significant, the Celtics won more games than they did the previous season.
And Thomas did so by playing in all 82 regular season games, an impressive accomplishment considering how many times the 5-9 guard gets knocked to the ground while driving to the basket.
Thomas’ durability along with finding ways to generate points via shot-making or passing, are just some of the many reasons Thomas will go into this season as the Celtics’ MVP.