Three Celtics who are potential All-Stars in 2015
Three Celtics who are potential All-Stars in 2015
BOSTON – Since Brad Stevens became the Boston Celtics’ head coach in 2013, 20 different teams in that span have qualified for the playoffs, a grouping that includes the Celtics from last season.
But of those 20 teams, just three (Boston, Charlotte and Milwaukee) failed to produce at least one all-star in that time. The Hornets are close with ex-Celtic Al Jefferson who has been a perennial on-the-bubble all-star in the East for years. Milwaukee has multiple all-star hopefuls such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker.
And then there’s the Celtics whose success last season was more about the sum of their collective roster than any individual player.
Still, for the Celtics to take that next step and become a team capable of getting out of the first round, they need someone to emerge as an all-star this season.
Whoever that is will in all likelihood be doing it as a first-time all-star.
So who will it be?
Here we take a look at three players who are ripe to not just have a breakout season but also deliver an all-star caliber performance this season.
While he will certainly get a chance to play major minutes and become a major player for the Celtics, his rise to all-star status this quickly is highly unlikely. For starters, he will be challenged being the best player on the Celtics roster let alone one of the best in the Eastern Conference. And when you look at the East as a whole, the area where they appear to be as strong as we’ve seen in years is in the backcourt. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Washington’s 1-2 punch of John Wall and Bradley Beal, Toronto’s backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan not to mention veterans such as Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson and Miami’s Dwyane Wade, will be difficult to surpass this quickly.
But a similar argument was laid out against Portland’s Damon Lillard whose ascension to all-star status has been sooner than anyone would have anticipated.
For Smart, he’ll have to not only bolster his scoring and assist numbers, but also prove to be a more consistent perimeter shooter and maybe most important, play a vital role in Boston improving upon last season’s 40-win total.
The signs of Crowder emerging as a player in the East became quite apparent in the latter stages of last season when he worked his way into a prominent role with the Celtics.
Crowder’s versatility is what really makes him a player that fans love and opponents loathe. And it is that same jack-of-all-trades brand of basketball that gives him a shot – a slim shot but a shot nonetheless – to playing his way into being a potential all-star.
Because of his versatility, Crowder will likely see an uptick in his 24.2 minutes per game with the Celtics last season. In that time, he has to do a better job of knocking down shots. Last season he shot a career-low 28.2 percent on 3s in Boston.
Despite the low shooting percentage, there were clearly situations offensively that Crowder was more efficient at shooting than others. Getting looks early in the shot clock seemed to bring out the best in Crowder. With two seconds or less elapsed on the shot clock, Crowder shot 59.4 percent from the field and had an effective field goal percentage of 62.5. With 18-22 seconds on the shot clock, he connected on 53.2 percent of his shots with an eFG% of 57.4.
Crowder’s ability to shoot like that over longer stretches of time along with continuing to play strong defense would make the Celtics a much more formidable foe and potentially thrust Crowder into the all-star conversation.
Sullinger probably has the best shot at being an all-star among all of the Celtics players this season. He is in a contract year which regardless of what he says, will to some degree serve as motivation. He has a unique set of skills that stands out from any of his teammates. He can score around the basket like David Lee, but Lee doesn’t have the 3-point range that Sullinger possesses. And while Kelly Olynyk is a better 3-point shooter, he’s not nearly as effectively – offensively or defensively – as Sullinger around the basket. Amir Johnson is a highly efficient big man at both ends of the floor, and would make a great complimentary player to Sullinger’s inside-outside game.
But you know who will probably help Sullinger the most when it comes to getting some all-star buzz?
Remember, Sullinger is just 23 years old and already has three years of NBA experience under his belt. Despite not being the first, second or third option in any of his first three seasons, Sullinger has still managed to average a respectable 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game.
His improved conditioning should allow him to stay on the floor for longer stretches and thus, improve upon the numbers he has posted in the past.
And he’s in the Eastern Conference which is loaded with aging (but still talented) big men.
Of the six power forwards/centers named to the 2015 Eastern Conference all-star squad, all but one (Atlanta’s Al Horford who is 29 years old) is at least 30 years old.
It’s a given that in the near future probably starting this year, some of those veteran bigs like Pau Gasol or Paul Millsap or even Miami’s Chris Bosh will see their game taper off some which opens the door for fresh blood like Sullinger to come in and establish themselves as elite players in the East.