Five questions for Celtics heading into the season
Five questions for Celtics heading into training camp
BOSTON – The best part about Boston Celtics media day is that when it arrives, you know the start of the season isn’t too far behind.
Today players will do the rounds with various media members both local and nationally, with the first official practice Tuesday morning.
As is the case with many training camps, there’s a certain amount of uncertainty regarding roles, playing time, etc. that will be ironed out in the coming days.
Depending on how much clarity is gained, those issues may very well go from training camp concerns to season-long issues.
Here’s a look at five questions heading into training camp that should be at the top of the Celtics’ need-to-learn list.
5. How much will Jaylen Brown play this season?
If there’s one criticism that seems to be out there when it comes to Brad Stevens, it’s that he doesn’t play his rookies enough.
The only first-year player under Stevens who saw solid, rotation-like minutes was Marcus Smart who prior to Brown, was the only lottery pick Stevens has coached.
That said, don’t be surprised if Brown’s minutes are in the low-to-mid teens this season.
And it will have little to do with him being a rookie, and everything to do with him bringing very clear and undeniable skills to the floor that the Celtics need more of in their regular rotation.
At 6-7, it’s well established that Brown comes into the NBA as one of the best athletes from his draft class.
Because of his length and athleticism, he has the tools to contribute in a couple of different ways which is why his talent – not his status as a rookie – will get him on the floor this season.
4. Who will fill the void left by Evan Turner?
For those who have not followed the Boston Celtics the past couple of seasons, it’s hard to reason why Celtics fans have made such a big deal about Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.
Brad Stevens has shown a high level of faith in all his players, but none more than Turner down the stretch in close games.
Finding players to duplicate or exceed Turner’s contributions statistically won’t be difficult.
Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are the most likely replacements.
But being able to make the right read to trigger a 10-2 run to close out a game, or hitting an elbow-jumper that makes it a one-possession game after a lead gets squandered . . . those are the plays that made Turner such a fixture in Stevens’ end-of-game lineups.
And those plays more than anything else, will serve as the greatest challenge for Stevens when it comes to replacing Turner.
3. Can Isaiah Thomas duplicate or exceed his play from a year ago?
Isaiah Thomas was voted into last year’s all-star game by the coaches, and chances are high that he’ll have to take that same route if he is to repeat this season.
So in figuring out whether he can be a repeat All-Star, getting into the psyche of NBA head coaches is a good place to start.
Coaches have their own criteria for choosing All-Stars, some relying heavily on numbers, others on the team’s success while most use some sort of combination of the two.
That said, Thomas has to deliver similar numbers statistically (22 points, six assists) but also win more games.
Boston had barely got into the playoffs the previous season, but Thomas’ strong play during the first half of the season had Boston within range of getting home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
This season, Boston has to get off to an even better start if he is to have a shot at getting back to the All-Star game.
By the time the votes are tallied, the Celtics have to have one of the top-three records in the East if the 5-foot-9 playmaker is to have a strong shot at being named an All-Star.
2. Who will be the 15th man this year?
The numbers tell the story. Sixteen players have guaranteed contracts, one more than the NBA allows you to have going into the start of the season.
Barring a trade, who will occupy that last spot for Boston?
The players whose future seems to be on the most unstable ground right now among those with fully guaranteed deals, are R.J. Hunter and James Young.
Hunter is heading into his second NBA season while Young will be entering his third year as a pro when training camp starts.
Young seems the more likely of the two that Boston will part ways with if they can’t find a team to trade him to.
Although he’s just 21 years old, Young has not been able to play at a level the Celtics were looking for from him at this point. He has shown progress in all phases of his game, but not enough growth has been shown to where the Celtics can realistically see him in their regular rotation.
In addition, Boston seemed to address his position with a short-term solution by signing former Celtics draft pick Gerald Green to a veteran’s minimum contract during the off season.
But even if the Celtics cut Young loose, that by no means should give Hunter reason to relax that he’s in good shape.
Boston also signed second round pick Ben Bentil to a partially guaranteed contract. The 6-8 forward who led the Big East in scoring last season at Providence College, could play his way into a roster spot ahead of Hunter with a strong showing combined with a less-than-stellar stretch of play in camp by Hunter.
1.What impact will Al Horford have on this team?
Horford has found both individual and team success at just about every level of play. And for those who don’t look at his time in Atlanta as successful, then you don’t know Atlanta Hawks basketball.
Consider this: Horford has been to the playoffs every season he has been in the NBA. Take a look at his draft class and you will find not one player - NOT ONE PLAYER – can make that claim.
Having that kind of track record relative to his draft class speaks volumes as to what he has meant not only to the team he played for, but also in the bigger picture as it relates to the rest of the players who came into the league when he did.
Boston will win more games with Horford.
There’s little doubt about that happening.
But true success for Horford and the Celtics will be what happens in the postseason.
Boston has not advanced past the first round since 2012.
They come into this season with heightened expectations to not only win more games but make a significant leap forward and get out of the first round.
Of all the free agents available this summer, Horford was the most ideal addition to get this franchise over that first round hump.
In his nine seasons as an NBA player, the Hawks have been in the postseason every year. In that time, Horford has advanced to the second round or further five times. And one of those four, first-round-and-out series came about when Horford was out with a chest injury.
So in other words, the dude has made a living at not just getting to the postseason but actually doing enough in the playoffs to move on to the second round.
There will certainly be some ups and downs that both Horford and the Celtics will endure this season. But when all is said and done, adding him is a major plus for the Celtics who envision this season as being one that will get them a step closer to their ultimate goal which is to bring him Banner 18.