Celtics

2020 NBA restart: Celtics enter Orlando with historically potent offense

2020 NBA restart: Celtics enter Orlando with historically potent offense

It's almost time to get down to business.

The Boston Celtics are traveling to Orlando on Wednesday to enter the NBA "bubble" and gear up for the restarted 2019-20 season, which they'll resume July 31 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Celtics are the current No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and are expected to be a serious NBA championship contender.

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What makes the C's so dangerous, you ask? After a four-month layoff, it's worth a refresher. And the answer all starts with their offense.

Consider this stat: Boston heads to Orlando averaging 113 points per game, which would be its highest scoring average in 33 years, since the 1987-88 campaign.

In fact, only 15 Celtics teams in the franchise's 74-year history have scored 113 points or more per game.

But more impressive than the Celtics' scoring output is their scoring depth. The C's are the only team in the NBA with three players averaging more than 20 points per game: Jayson Tatum, (23.6 per game) Kemba Walker (21.2 per game) and Jaylen Brown (20.4 per game).

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Tatum be a title team's best player? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The last time Boston had three 20-point scorers was 53 years ago, when Sam Jones, John Havlicek and Bailey Howell powered the 1966-67 Celtics. Add Gordon Hayward and his 17.4 points per game, and the Celtics have four elite offensive weapons.

That may explain why the C's lead the NBA in second-half offensive rating (116.2) and rank second in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring (28.6) behind only the Milwaukee Bucks.

Of course, offense alone doesn't win championships. But the Celtics are also well-equipped on the defensive end. In fact, they're one of only three teams in the NBA's top five in both offensive and defensive rating.

The other two? The NBA title hopeful Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.

All bets are off in the NBA bubble, as success may be determined by which teams stay healthy and best adapt to an unprecedented situation.

But the Celtics were hitting their stride when the NBA paused its season in March, and if they can pick up where they left off, they could be one of the last "bubble" teams standing.

Will Celtics land Grizzlies' 2020 first-round draft pick? Scenarios explained

Will Celtics land Grizzlies' 2020 first-round draft pick? Scenarios explained

Do the Boston Celtics really want to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night?

Here's why that's a question worth asking: The Celtics own the rights to the Grizzlies' first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, unless Memphis' pick lands in the top six. If the Grizzlies earn a top-six pick, they'll send an unprotected 2021 first-round pick to Boston instead.

Basically, whether the Celtics land Memphis' pick in 2020 comes down to whether the Grizzlies make the playoffs.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

IF MEMPHIS MAKES THE PLAYOFFS
It doesn't enter the draft lottery, guaranteeing its picks is outside the top 14. Boston gets the Grizzlies' 2020 pick.

IF MEMPHIS MISSES THE PLAYOFFS
... It's a little more complicated.

Here are the current Western Conference standings, with the Grizzlies clinging on to the final playoff spot with three games remaining.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (33-38)
9. Portland Trail Blazers (33-39) 0.5 games back
10. San Antonio Spurs (31-38) 1 GB
11. Phoenix Suns (31-39) 1.5 GB

The final Western Conference playoff spot is decided by a play-in series between the No. 8 and No. 9 seed, and Memphis is among four teams still in contention for that spot.

If the Grizzlies finish eighth or ninth and lose the play-in series, they'll enter the draft lottery at No. 14 and have a 2.4 percent chance of moving up to a top-five pick, which would delay the pick going to Boston until 2021.

If they miss the play-in game and finish as the No. 10 seed, their odds of landing a top-five pick increase to 5.7 percent. And if they tank all the way to No. 11, those odds bump to 6.1 percent.

Put another way: The Celtics, at worst, have a 93.9 percent chance of getting Memphis' draft pick this year.

In all likelihood, then, Boston will have three first-round selections in the 2020 NBA Draft:

-- Grizzlies' pick (top-6 protected)
-- Celtics' own pick
-- Milwaukee Bucks' pick (top-7 protected)

Earning the Grizzlies' pick this year probably is the best-case scenario for the Celtics. Ja Morant leads a talented young Memphis squad that should be better in 2020-21, which would mean a worse pick for the C's in the 2021 draft.

So, back to the original question: Do the Celtics really want to beat the Grizzlies? In short, yes: It's all but guaranteed the C's get Memphis' pick this year, so the lower the Grizzlies are in the standings, the better for Boston.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Banner 18 in the bubble? Celtics' title chances getting stronger | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Celtics Talk Podcast: Jaylen Brown continues to be MVP of the bubble for C's

Celtics Talk Podcast: Jaylen Brown continues to be MVP of the bubble for C's

Jaylen Brown has improved every facet of his game in Year 4 of his promising NBA career.

The Boston Celtics forward is averaging career highs in every major statistical category, and he's done a stellar job playing the Robin to Jayson Tatum's Batman throughout the 2019-20 season.

So far in the Orlando bubble, though, it's Brown who has taken over as Boston's Most Valuable Player.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Brown has been on fire through six games in the bubble, averaging 21.7 points, 7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 assists through six games. On a brand new edition of the Celtics Talk Podcast, A. Sherrod Blakely emphatically explains to Kyle Draper why Brown is indisputably Boston's best player at this point in time.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Banner 18 in the bubble? Celtics' title chances getting stronger as postseason nears | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"In this moment, right now. Jaylen Brown is the best two-way player on this team right now. Right this minute," said Blakely. "And I'll go a step further, Jaylen Brown is the best player on this team period right now based on what he's doing in the bubble. Now, when we get to the playoffs do I expect him to be their best player? No. I expect him to be in the top three. I expect Tatum or Kemba to elevate and be that guy."

Blakely also praised Brown for continuing to be a leader off the court while dominating on it. After Sunday's overtime win vs. the Orlando Magic, the 23-year-old spoke at length about the issues of police brutality and mental health.

"Jaylen Brown is killing it, man. I mean he has been just an absolute beast," Blakely said. "And the thing that I love about Jaylen is that not only is he being a beast on the court and helping his team win, but all the social issues that he was championing before he got in the bubble that he said he would continue to have those conversations and use his platform to elevate those discussions, he's kept his word along those lines."

Also discussed on the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast: How will Stevens handle playoff rotation? Has Robert Williams earned playing time over Enes Kanter? Who is the Celtics' ideal first-round opponent? And is Gordon Hayward the C's X-factor for the playoffs?

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast on your favorite podcast app or watch it on YouTube below.