Three X-factors heading into Celtics camp
Three X-factors heading into Celtics camp
BOSTON – When it comes to teams exceeding expectations in the NBA, somewhere along the journey there is a player or two on their roster whose performance goes above and beyond what most anticipated.
We like to call those guys X-factors.
When you look at the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, they had a roster full of X-factor players which included NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.
Two of the feel-good stories in the Eastern Conference last season involved Atlanta and Milwaukee, both of which far exceeded the expectations of many.
For the Hawks, there was DeMarre Carroll who parlayed his X-factor status last season into a huge payday with the Toronto Raptors (four years, $58 million). And the Bucks ponied up big dollars to keep one of their best scorers last season, Khris Middleton, in the fold for the foreseeable future with a five-year, $70 million deal.
The Celtics have a roster loaded with young, promising talent that most agree have yet to see their best days in the NBA. They also have a few veterans who could be difference-makers this season as well.
If Boston’s lucky, they’ll have at least a couple of high impact X-factor players this season.
The process for that to come to fruition begins next week when the Celtics kick off the 2015-2016 season with the team’s first practice.
Nothing will be decided on that day when it comes to X-factors or the roster as a whole, obviously.
But it is a start for what the Celtics are hoping will be a team that can build off of the positives gained from the strong finish to last season that catapulted them into the playoffs.
Here are three players to watch on the eve of training camp who may be the X-factors Boston needs in order to exceed the success of last season:
It’s safe to say that his rookie season was a disappointment for all involved. But that won’t diminish the potential he has to help the Celtics this season. At 6-foot-6, Young has great size for an NBA shooting guard. And with a wingspan in excess of 7-feet, the potential is there for him to be an above-average defender, too. But Young has to do what he does best – making shots – with more consistency than he showed last season. He appeared in 31 games last season with a 3.4 points per game average. If it’s your GPA, cool. Points per game average? Not so much. More concerning was the fact that he is billed as a really good shooter, but his numbers as a rookie (25.8 percent on 3s would suggest otherwise). To his credit, Young has been working on his all-around game to be a more consistent shooter and not rely so much on jumpers in order to score. He has added some weight to his frame which should allow him to be more effective scoring off the dribble by attacking and finishing at the rim. And remember, he just turned 20 years old so it’s not like the kid doesn’t have a lot to learn. Hopefully sitting as much as he did last season will be all the teaching he needs to get his focus right and become the kind of player that so many envisioned he would be in this league.
Just a couple years removed from being an All-Star, Lee is a player that the Celtics are hoping can regain the form he showed in the past. He has good size, strength and proven track record of success. The 10-year veteran has career numbers of 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 53.3 percent from the field. But how much does he really have left in the tank? Considering his role was dramatically reduced during Golden State’s run towards an NBA title, Lee’s ability to still impact games should not be an issue. The key for him is getting on the floor and showing some of the skills that have made him a two-time all-star. Otherwise, he’ll find himself in a situation similar to what he was in with Golden State, but there won’t be a championship ring at the end of this journey.
Of all of Boston’s young players (those 24 or younger), Sullinger is the one player who most could envision playing at an All-Star level this season. The 23-year-old has the motivation that comes with being in a contract year. All the talk about him needing to lose weight and improve his conditioning will certainly provide added incentive as well. But what’s often forgotten is that the girth that he plays with, is one of the reasons he has been so effective for so many years. If he loses too much weight, who knows how that will impact his ability to create space for himself or hold his own on the post offensively and defensively. If his conditioning has significantly improved and he plays up to his potential which make him a 20-point, 10-rebound kind of player, watch out!