Celtics

C-ing Is Believing: Looking past the visual flaws of Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball

C-ing Is Believing: Looking past the visual flaws of Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball

Being selected with the first pick in the NBA draft comes with a set of expectations. Not only are you supposed to lead your new team to more wins and postseason glory, but you’re also expected to be the face of the franchise; a visual representation of the city and team. 

INSTEAD OF FULTZ, WHAT IF CELTICS DRAFT . . .

ALSO

 

This could be an issue for two of the top prospects in this year’s draft class, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, as they don’t necessarily “look the part” of a franchise changer. 

MARKELLE FULTZ
Standing at 6-4 with a 6-9 wingspan, Markelle Fultz has the measurements and tools of an NBA All-Star point guard. Production wasn’t an issue this season either, as he averaged the most points per game (23.2) for a freshman since Michael Beasley in 2007-08.

So what’s the hang-up? Well, his face, to be honest. Fultz’s neutral expression often looks lackadaisical or disinterested (to be clear, this is not a criticism of his character. By all accounts Fultz is a humble, hard-working kid who wants to win NBA championships). His listless facial expression is easily misinterpreted when combined with his style of play.

Although he will dunk in your eye, Fultz is more of a sneaky athlete than an explosive one. His ability to change speeds and manipulate his defender is what makes him such an intriguing prospect. Rather than rock the rim with an angry thunder dunk like Russell Westbrook or pre-injury Derrick Rose, he rocks you to sleep with a devastating hesitation or a smooth, half-spin pull-up like the one below.

So if/when Fultz puts on a Celtics uniform next season, remember this: Just because he makes it look easy, doesn’t mean he’s not trying.

LONZO BALL
A lot of what Lonzo Ball does on the court is aesthetically pleasing. His passing in transition, off-ball cuts and alley-oop finishes are made for the highlight reel. His jump shot; however, is the opposite.

Watching Ball shoot the basketball is the visual equivalent of listening to his dad speak…it’s outrageous and offensive but I can’t help myself. His mechanics remind me more of my 5-year-old daughter’s (although he at least looks at the hoop when shooting) than a future NBA All-Star.

While the optics of his shot make it hard to envision him succeeding at the next level, Ball’s absurd efficiency should quell those concerns. His 66.8 percent effective field goal percentage was sixth in the nation last season, and that includes an impressive 41.2 percent from distance. Bottom line: this kid can shoot.

So, remember Celtics fans, if the Green come away with Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball on Thursday, don’t let your eyes deceive you. As is the case with the 5-9 Isaiah Thomas and awkward but surprisingly effective driver Kelly Olynyk, productive NBA players come in all shapes and sizes. Facial expressions and funky shot mechanics don’t matter if you’re winning basketball games.

 

Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

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NBC Sports Boston Photo

Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

Austin Ainge talks with A. Sherrod Blakely about the confidence the Celtics have heading into the 2018 season, and we discuss what team we think Jimmy Butler will end up on. 

(2:00) Does Jimmy Butler wanting out of Minnesota make him look bad? (6:00) What team does Jimmy Butler end up with?

(11:00) Breaking down ESPN top 100 NBA players list, did they rank the Celtics correctly? (15:00) Would you rather have Jimmy Butler or Gordon Hayward?

(17:00) A. Sherrod Blakely talks with Celtics Director of Player Personnel Austin Ainge.

(17:30) How does Austin think Kyrie irving and Gordon Hayward will fit back in on the Celtics?

(25:00) How important was getting Marcus Smart back with the Celtics? 

(28:00) What are the Celtics thoughts on the 2019 draft?

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What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

BOSTON – Winning in the NBA is about more than just having better players or an awesome coach. There are factors that come into play, like scheduling, unexpected injuries by an opponent, or even a leaky roof.

All those factors fall under the category of intangibles, which for most of the top teams, aids them in their quest towards success.

The Celtics have a roster that on paper ranks among the NBA’s best. Still, for them to sustain the kind of success they're pursuing all season, they’ll need some other things to work out. 

So, what are some of those intangibles?

COACHING CONTINUITY

Former Celtics player, assistant coach and fan favorite Walter McCarty left the team last season to become head coach of his hometown’s college team, the University of Evansville. The rest of the coaching crew remains intact this season. Having that familiarity on the sidelines is a bigger deal than most people might think. Head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t have to worry about egos or how folks will mesh together among his staff. They’ve been around each other long enough to know how to work well, and effectively, with one another. Team harmony among coaching staff can only help foster a similar culture inside the locker room.

STABLE FRONT OFFICE

This too is one of the more overlooked aspects of the Celtics success, a franchise that on the basketball side of things has been run by Danny Ainge since 2003. His right-hand man, Mike Zarren, has done an exceptional job of maintaining the team’s salary cap flexibility and remains one of the more highly regarded NBA execs out there. The stability of those positions takes away some of the uncertainty that agents and players might have about the franchise and, more specifically, how they will be treated if they become Celtics.

NEW PRACTICE FACILITY

The team’s new facility in Brighton, The Auerbach Center, won’t win them a single game. But there’s something about having a building that’s yours and yours alone, which is different than what they had in Waltham, Mass, in where their practice court was inside the Boston Sports Club. It breeds a greater sense of pride and ownership, two character traits you can’t have enough of in the NBA.  

NO LEBRON JAMES

They will still see him twice a year, but that’s so much better than four times a year plus the playoffs. Of course, Boston will still have to show up and handle their business against the teams in the East, and the NBA for that matter. But to know that their journey towards competing for an NBA title won’t have to involve dealing with James – his Cleveland team have eliminated Boston in the postseason three of the past four years – is a good thing for Green Teamers.

FAN BASE

Win or lose, blowout win or beatdown loss, Celtics fans support this team in a way that has no end in sight. Crowds don’t take shots (on the court ones, at least). They don’t grab rebounds, either. But they can motivate and inspire players in ways that no amount of X’s and O’s can top. We have seen this team tap into that energy from time to time. And while it appears on paper they won’t need to as much this year, knowing that their fans have that to offer is reassuring to a team that so many fans – not just their own, either – expect to make a deep postseason journey that takes them back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012.

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