Who could be most improved Celtics?
Who could be most improved Celtics?
By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
BOSTON – The Celtics are no different than most NBA teams that are rebuilding.
They want the process to be painless and quick.
Of course, landing a major free agent or swinging a blockbuster trade certainly has the potential to put a team looking to improve on the fast track towards success.
But more often than not, improved play is home grown via the drafted players who improve as they gain experience.
The Celtics have eight players they drafted who are on the current roster, all of whom come with different strengths, skills and roles for this upcoming season.
Of those eight, five are returning players (Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger and James Young) who are certainly looking to play an even more integral role this season.
To do so requires improvement on many levels.
Here we take a look at three returning players who come into training camp poised to be noticeably better than they were last season:
Draft history: 2014: First round, sixth overall
The second-year guard was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team, but the progress of Smart will go far in determining how good the Celtics will be. He is expected to start at the point this season and will likely be charged with running the offense more than he did last season. It’s too soon to know if his first-season struggles manning the point were due to him just being a rookie, or whether that’s just going to be an area of weakness to his game akin to Avery Bradley, who plays better – much better – when he’s off the ball. A stat to keep an eye on in relation to Smart is his assists ratio (number of assists per 100 possessions), which last season was 25.0. While it’s not realistic for it to be as high as former Celtic Rajon Rondo (44.9) before he was traded to Dallas, a goal of Smart this season should be to finish with an assists ratio better than the numbers put up a year ago by Evan Turner (30.9), who will likely see his role as the team’s top playmaker diminish some in order for Smart to get more experience in this particular phase of play.
Draft history: 2013 (by Dallas, traded to Boston on draft night): First round, 13th overall.
There were games this summer with Team Canada in which Kelly Olynyk was totally dominant, others when he seemingly disappeared. That is the Olynyk that Celtics fans both love and loathe at the same time. In terms of skills, there’s a lot to like about Olynyk. He’s a 7-foot big man with range, can put the ball on the floor and hit the mid-range shot and plays a very unselfish brand of basketball – almost to a fault. Olynyk’s improvement has to come from the neck-up. Simply put, he has to look to be more of an impact player offensively which benefits him as well as his team.
Draft history: 2014: First round, 17th overall.
You could sense every time he was on the floor as a rookie last season, folks wanted him to shoot. And it seemed that pressure may have gotten to the then-teenager who shot a woeful 25.8 percent on 3s last season. I have no doubt that Young will shoot the ball better than that this season. And in doing so, he gives himself a chance to not just silence his increasing number of critics. But he also takes an important step towards establishing himself in the NBA, which is something every young player – especially one with a history of injuries that reared its ugly head again this summer when he went down with a hip injury - wants. Young has to transform both his game and his body. He made noticeable strides along those lines when he showed up for summer league having added 20, muscle-packed pounds to his once-lithe frame. But that still wasn’t enough to keep him on the floor and free of injury. Young is at the top of this list because where he is at now as a player and where he can go based on his potential, is greater than any of the Celtics’ draft picks. Still, it remains to be seen just how close the 6-foot-6 shooting guard will get to living up to the hype and expectations many had for him coming out of Kentucky.