Here's another entry in our series of key questions facing the Celtics this season. We'll ask one per day heading into camp, which kicks off with Media Day Sept. 24.
BOSTON – With a roster full of established players, there’s little mystery surrounding the Celtics who we didn’t know about or see last season.
Still, there’s a very good chance that the Celtics will field a team that has at least one or two players emerge in a way very few expected.
- MORE C's QUESTIONS:
- What are the stats to track this season?
- How will Hayward's return impact Brown?
Terry Rozier emerged as a big-time talent based on how well he filled in for an injured Kyrie Irving in the playoffs last season
And Jaylen Brown stepped his game up in his second NBA season in just about every category of significance, giving Boston a strong scoring presence (his 14.5 points per game were second on the team) as well as above-average defense.
Who will emerge this year?
- MORE CELTICS - Report: Suns eyeing Rozier in a potential trade?
Here’s a look at four Celtics who seem on the cusp of having breakthrough seasons:
It’s crazy to think an All-Star at 28 on the verge of a breakout season but roll with me on this one. Having just played five minutes last season due to a season-ending injury, Hayward will go through something of an adjustment period early on. But if that time re-acclimating himself to the NBA is short, Hayward may not waste much time in reminding us all as to why the Celtics made signing him in the summer of 2017, their No. 1 priority. And he will get his shot to flourish without the pressure that comes with players having to carry their team immediately upon returning.
Similar to Hayward, Tatum – the No. 3 pick in 2017 who finished third in rookie of the year voting – doesn’t have significant room for growth due to him having a monster rookie season that seemed to get better in time. Still, here are a number of areas where Tatum can get better. More than anything else, Tatum has to get stronger. No one expects him to come to camp with a body full of muscles. But his success and eventual evolution into an All-Star talent will hinge tightly upon his ability to get stronger and thus become even more of an impact player at both ends of the floor.
His rookie season was cut short due to a torn meniscus and the timing couldn’t have been much worst. He was putting together some of his best basketball. In the six games he played in prior to the injury, Theis averaged 8.0 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 19-for-28 (67.9 percent). For the season, he averaged 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the field. Because of his active game around the basket, he’s going to simply "effort" his way into being a factor offensively. Couple that with what he brings to the floor defensively and on the glass, and you have the makings of a player with the potential to impact the game in a significant manner.
As a second-round pick in 2017, very little was expected from Ojeleye as a rookie. And yet there he was, a starter for the Celtics in their postseason series against the Milwaukee Bucks. The 6-6 Ojeyele will revert to coming off the bench this season in a role that’s still to-be-determined. But the one thing the Celtics know already is that he’ll be ready to play whenever his number’s called, whether starting or coming off the bench.