Which Celtics could be a superstar this season?
Who's the superstar?
By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON – When training camp opens for the Boston Celtics later this week, head coach Brad Stevens remains the closest thing this roster has to a superstar – and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
It serves as a reminder that the Celtics’ efforts during the offseason to significantly bolster their roster were a bit off the mark.
Despite having significant salary cap space and a slew of trade “sweeteners” (i.e. draft picks), Boston closed out the summer shopping season with the addition of former All-Star David Lee and Amir Johnson - good players but by no means do they all of a sudden transform Boston into title contenders or even put them in the top half of the Eastern Conference.
So if the Celtics weren’t able to land an already established superstar, they have to raise one up themselves from within their current roster.
Here we take a look at the three most likely players to indeed morph into superstars this season for a Boston team whose goals include improving upon last season’s four-and-out sweep in the first round of the playoffs to Cleveland.
Smart’s draft class was the one in which the Celtics were eager to land a difference-making, franchise-altering player. Acquiring that kind of talent with the sixth overall pick, regardless of the draft class is not easy. And while it remains to be seen if Smart is the kind of player you can build around, there’s little doubt he has the potential to be a major building block for a highly successful team. He came into the league with an NBA-ready game defensively and the right mindset to be a leader. During his rookie season he showed signs of being a better shooter than his college numbers suggested, but still has room to grow in that area. Improvement is also needed in running an NBA team. He seems a bit of a long shot to evolve into a superstar this season, but there’s no doubt Smart is on the right path.
If you believe the pictures on social media of Jared Sullinger, the 23-year-old has really whipped his body into shape this summer. You can have the pictures. I’m more concerned with – and I’m sure Sullinger and the Celtics feel the same way – how the weight loss manifests into gains on the court. The issue with Sullinger has been his weight’s impact on his conditioning which has been a factor in him not playing more minutes. But here’s the challenge this year. He may be fit to play more minutes and still see his playing time hover around the 25-30 minute per game mark because of the increased frontcourt depth. But in terms of upside, there’s not another returning big man on this roster with as much upside potential as Sullinger who already has a skill – scoring around the rim – that has translated well to the NBA. And while there are many who cringe at the thought of him launching more 3s, the 6-foot-9 forward has actually improved his 3-point shooting each season he has been in the NBA which provides some hope and confidence that he can be a stretch big who can also score around the basket, too.
Does a superstar have to be a starter? In most cases, the answer to that question would be yes. But then again, standard rules don’t always apply to Isaiah Thomas. Regardless of whether you start Thomas or he comes off the bench, he is an exciting player to watch because of his fearless, attacking brand of basketball despite being listed at 5-foot-9. Like Sullinger, Thomas will also be challenged to play major minutes because of the depth Boston has in the backcourt which includes returning starters Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. But the one thing we do know about Thomas: he is going to play and more often than not, he is going to play well. And for all the questions that are raised about his defense, Thomas’ lack of height has not proven to be a huge detriment at that end of the floor for him or the Celtics. If that continues to be the case throughout training camp, it would not be all that surprising if Thomas winds up as a starter for a Celtics team that could use his scoring, his toughness and of course, a player with legit superstar-like talent.