Celtics

30 Celtics Questions in 30 Days: Who'll be the most improved player?

30 Celtics Questions in 30 Days: Who'll be the most improved player?

BOSTON – There’s a certain amount of comfort one can take from having all the core pieces back from a team that went as deep into the playoffs as the Celtics did last season.

And while that success has left very little room for improvement team-wise, the same can not be said for the individual players.

Boston has a talented roster of players who are eager to showcase how much their game has expanded since last season.

But who will stand out from the rest?

Here’s a look at five Celtics who are likely to be among the team’s most improved players:

SEMI OJELEYE


The 6-foot-6 forward was used primarily as a defender who would chill in a corner and launch 3’s. While being a 3-and-D guy will still be a big part of who Ojeleye is, he showed signs in summer league that his game would be a little more diverse this season. Specifically, Ojeleye will look to attack defenders off the dribble more which makes a lot of sense. While he doesn’t have great height, he more than makes up for that with exceptional lateral quickness to keep players in front of him, as well as a strong upper body which makes him a tough guy to back down in the paint, something a lot of NBA players learned the hard way last season.

JAYLEN BROWN


He made huge strides from Year 1 to Year 2, and you can bank on more of the same as he heads into his third season. People forget that Brown’s 14.5 points per game average a year ago was second on the team to Kyrie Irving. Generating more offense will be tougher for Brown this season with the return of Gordon Hayward to the lineup. However, Brown’s potential to be an elite, lock-down defender is immense. He already has above-average athleticism. Combine that with his length, improved strength and a firm understanding of what Brad Stevens is looking for from the group, it adds up to a player who will be noticeably improved.

ARON BAYNES


With Baynes, you know you’re getting a really good defender and solid rebounder. But as the Celtics got deeper into the season, Baynes began to do things that were, well, things that Baynes wasn’t supposed to do, like knock down 3-pointers. It was as if for a few fleeting moments in the postseason, Baynes became this prolific shot maker from 3-point range. The 3 definitely won’t become a significant staple to Baynes’ game. But as we saw in the playoffs, the 6-foot-11 bruising center ain’t afraid to let it fly, either.

JAYSON TATUM


I know, I know. He finished third in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting, was arguably the best player for Boston in the Eastern Conference finals and has been so, so much better than most thought he would be so quickly. And that’s the scary part about Tatum. As talented a player as he has proven to be, it’s clear that he has bought all in to the notion that he has to get better. It’s unlikely Tatum is going to add significant weight, but the 6-8 wing has a chance to get stronger. He has shown the ability to dominate games as a scorer, but it’ll be tricky for him doing so with Irving and Hayward, as well as Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart, who all have shown that they too can get it going down the stretch in games. Still, that’ll work itself out, for sure. The more pressing concern, is whether Tatum will have a second-year surge or endure a second-year slump?

JABARI BIRD

He was Boston’s best player in Summer League, so it only made sense to reward the give former G-League standout a multi-year contract. However, the incident Friday night in Brighton, Mass., which has led to him facing multiple charges including assault and battery, strangulation and kidnapping, has put his basketball future in jeopardy. 

The Enes Kanter Show: Awesome story about Kevin Garnett's Celtics arrival

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

The Enes Kanter Show: Awesome story about Kevin Garnett's Celtics arrival

Everyone has a great Kevin Garnett story. And Enes Kanter's pretty much sums up how intensely committed KG was to winning.

The Boston Celtics forward recently ran into Garnett in Boston at the regional premiere of "Uncut Gems," a new movie Garnett stars in with Adam Sandler.

According to Kanter, Celtics lead owner Wyc Grousbeck also was at the premiere and told Kanter of the first time Garnett walked into TD Garden after being traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Celtics in the summer of 2007.

Here's Kanter with NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg on the latest episode of "The Enes Kanter Show:"

(Grousbeck) told me a story. He said, "When KG came to the Celtics, he stopped and looked at every (championship) banner for 30 minutes. For 30 minutes. And he studied (them). ... Before he came (to Boston), we had 16 banners. So, that's 30 minutes for every banner. And it's like, 'How do you spend that much (time)?' 

As Forsberg pointed out, that's essentially eight hours of Garnett staring at the TD Garden rafters and soaking in the franchise's rich history.

That may have been some hyperbole on Grousbeck's part, but if anyone would be that maniacally focused on success, it's the uber-competitive Garnett.

"Anybody else, I would be like, 'That's an exaggerated tale,' " Forsberg said, "but I can actually believe that with KG."

Garnett's commitment to winning paid off instantly, as the Celtics raised banner No. 17 to the rafters in his first season with the team in 2007-08.

Kanter and Forsberg also discussed what makes Garnett such a great trash talker, how his current minutes situation differs from his time with the New York Knicks, what the Celtics' chemistry is like on this team and much more.

Hear more from Kanter and Forsberg on Episode 5 of "The Enes Kanter Show," which drops every Wednesday on YouTube and the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: How will ex-Celtics' big man Al Horford be received in return to Boston with 76ers?

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NBC Sports Boston Illlustration

Celtics Talk Podcast: How will ex-Celtics' big man Al Horford be received in return to Boston with 76ers?

Al Horford makes his return to TD Garden Thursday night in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform. How will the former Celtics big man be received now that's he joined one of Boston's key rivals in the East?

That's just one of the many storylines ahead of Philly's first game in Boston and the first meeting for the teams since the Sixers easily defeated the Celtics back on opening night in late October. 

Kyle Draper and Chris Forsberg talk about it in the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast. 

"It should be all love," said Draper, "but let's keep it real: The way Horford went about it, some people aren't happy about it. It sounds like him and the Sixers had some kind agreement before you're allowed to actually talk. I get the sense that they [the Celtics] were caught off guard a little bit."

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE:

Earlier in the podcast, Forsberg is joined by Sixers reporter Serena Winters from NBC Sports Philly to talk about all things 76ers, including Ben Simmons, Horford's veteran influence on the team and where Boston and Philadelphia are now as compared to the opener. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.