Celtics

Jalen Rose reveals why he predicts Celtics will win Eastern Conference

Jalen Rose reveals why he predicts Celtics will win Eastern Conference

The hype is starting to build around the Boston Celtics.

Less than 24 hours after the NBA announced a 22-team season return plan that will take place in Florida beginning in July, a prominent NBA analyst has predicted the C’s will get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

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ESPN’s Jalen Rose was on Thursday’s edition of “NBA Countdown” and had some positive comments on the Celtics and why he thinks they’ll win the Eastern Conference.

“In a neutral situation, the way the season is about to be shotgun started again, I’m taking the Celtics in the East,” Rose said. “I’m taking the Celtics in the East, because one of the great things about the Bucks – of course, their game does travel – but their home court was a huge advantage for them, a major advantage. If we’re playing pickup ball, and the Celtics and Bucks players are in the gym, I’m going to pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the next four or five picks are going to be Celtics. That’s my choice to come out of the East.

The Bucks have played well pretty much everywhere this season and lead the East with a 53-12 record, but Rose is right, they are definitely better at home. Milwaukee owns the second-best home record in the East at 28-3. The Celtics own the third-best road record in the conference at 20-12.

But Rose doesn’t just like the Celtics because they can win on a neutral court. He also pointed to Boston’s roster construction and style of play as reasons why it could surprise people in this unusual playoff setting.

“I’m loving teams like the Celtics and the Rockets,” Rose said. “Small ball, spread it out and take advantage of the big guys that can’t score against little guys. That’s really what it’s gonna be. It’s gonna be like AAU out there. These dudes have been off for months, so if dudes like Russell Westbrook and James Harden can get hot – he’s averaging 40 and then Russ? Boston’s winning the East. The more I think about this — God, strike me down. I hadn’t said this out of my mouth or even thought about it one time until we had this conversation, until right now. Boston’s winning the East, and don’t sleep on Houston in the West, but they’re not better than the Lakers or the Clippers.”

The Celtics are well-equipped to win the Eastern Conference. They are the only team in the conference with three players averaging 20-plus points per game. Jayson Tatum leads the team with 23.6 points per night, and before the shutdown he was taking his game to a superstar level. Kemba Walker is another go-to scorer, and the long layoff has given his knee ample time to build strength. Jaylen Brown also was having a breakout season, and Gordon Hayward was playing at an All-Star level for long stretches. Boston’s bench also is quite deep, with head coach Brad Stevens often giving minutes to nine or 10 guys each game.

Boston also has shown an ability to win against elite teams. The C’s have beaten the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, 76ers, Raptors, Nuggets and several other top teams at least once in 2019-20.

One of the most exciting things about this NBA season has been its unpredictability. We have five or six teams, and maybe more, with a legit chance of getting to the NBA Finals, and we rarely see that in today’s era. It’s going to make for a wild playoffs, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if one or two teams make a surprisingly deep run and pull off a few upsets.

NBA Awards finalists: Kemba Walker believes ex-Hornets teammate got snubbed

NBA Awards finalists: Kemba Walker believes ex-Hornets teammate got snubbed

Kemba Walker still has plenty of love for his former Charlotte Hornets teammates -- especially when he feels they're being disrespected.

The NBA revealed its individual award finalists for the 2019-20 season Saturday, among them the three candidates for Most Improved Player: Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.

If you ask Walker, though, that list should have included Hornets guard Devonte Graham. The Boston Celtics guard tagged Graham in the comment section of the NBA's Instagram post along with a "puzzled look" emoji.

Walker wasn't alone: Charlotte's P.J. Washington, Dwyane Bacon and Miles Bridges all replied with similar comments -- as did Graham himself on his own Instagram story.

"So disrespectful but it is what it is," Graham wrote Saturday afternooon.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Sunday 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.

Kemba and Co. may have a case: Graham exploded for 18.2 points and 7.5 assists per game this season after averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists per game while backing up Walker as a rookie in 2018-19.

Then again, you also could make a case for two of Walker's current teammates in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who both are enjoying career seasons for the Celtics.

Walker was very close with last season's young Hornets squad, though, so his support of Graham isn't surprising.

The C's will be shut out of this year's NBA Awards ceremony, as no Celtics players were named finalists for any award (despite Marcus Smart's early campaign for Defensive Player of the Year).

Here's the full list of finalists for each award:

Most Valuable Player
• Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
• James Harden, Houston Rockets
• LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Rookie of the Year
• Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
• Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat
• Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Defensive Player of the Year
• Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
• Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
• Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Sixth Man Award
• Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers 
• Dennis Schröder, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Lou Williams, LA Clippers

Most Improved Player
• Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
• Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks 
• Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Coach of the Year
• Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
• Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors

Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Jaylen Brown didn't make the All-Star team this year, and you likely won't find him on a 2020 All-NBA squad.

But if you ask Kendrick Perkins, the voters should re-evaluate their choices.

After Brown dropped 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and played impressive defense against Raptors star Pascal Siakam in the Boston Celtics' 122-100 dismantling of Toronto on Friday night, Perkins went on NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics Postgame Live" to drop a spicy take.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Sunday 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.

"Jaylen Brown, to me, is the best all-around shooting guard in the league," Perkins said. "Pure point blank."

Brown is enjoying a career season, averaging 20.6 points on 48.8 percent shooting with 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while continuing to play elite defense. The 23-year-old has been particularly hot of late, scoring 20 or more points in nine of Boston's last 10 games.

But is Perkins saying Brown is the best shooting guard in the NBA -- better than All-Stars like Bradley Beal and Devin Booker, not to mention MVP finalist James Harden?

Here's Perk's explanation:

He don't search for shots. He's not a high-volume scorer. But when you look up at the end of the night, he's got his 20 points on over 50 percent shooting. And he locks up the best guy every single night. You can't find that. And his playmaking is underrated. He's got a very high (basketball) IQ.

There are better scorers at the position -- including Harden, the NBA's most prolific scorer -- but you could argue Brown has become one of the league's strongest two-way shooting guards.

And Perkins very much would like to make that argument.

Perkins might take heat for declaring Brown the cream of the shooting guard crop, but his bold take shouldn't distract from the fact that the fourth-year wing is becoming an elite NBA player before our eyes.