Celtics

Keeping up with the ex-Celtics: How former players are faring on new teams

Keeping up with the ex-Celtics: How former players are faring on new teams

Want a sense of how much talent was on the Boston Celtics' 2018-19 roster?

The Celtics lost five significant contributors from that squad this offseason, all of whom are averaging 14 points per game or more for their new squads.

The guys still left in Boston? They're off to a casual 15-5 start, tied for second in the Eastern Conference as of Thursday.

But what about those guys who skipped town?

At the unofficial quarter mark of the 2019-20 season, we decided now is a good time to check in on the five major contributors from last season's Celtics who left in the offseason -- Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes -- to see how they're adapting to their new homes.

As you'll find, the marks for some players are more complete than others.

Kyrie Irving, Guard, Brooklyn Nets

2019-20 stats (11 games played)
33.8 minutes, 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game; 44.4 field goal percentage, 34.1 3-point percentage

Grade: Incomplete
Irving dazzled offensively out of the gate, dropping 50 points in his Nets debut and averaging 28.5 points through his first 11 games. He's missed Brooklyn's last 10 games with a shoulder injury, though, and watched the Nets go 7-3 in that span without him clogging up the offense. Sound familiar?

Do the Celtics miss him?
The short answer: No. The long answer: Hell no.

 

Al Horford, Forward, Philadelphia 76ers

2019-20 stats (19 games played)
31.4 minutes, 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.1 steals per game; 48.3 field goal percentage, 37.3 3-point percentage

Grade: B
Horford's stats won't blow you away, and there have been growing pains with him and Joel Embiid sharing a frontcourt. But just like he did in Boston, the 33-year-old is giving Philly solid production across the board and is big reason why the Sixers are 15-6.

Do the Celtics miss him?
You bet. Boston's biggest weakness is its frontcourt defense, an area Horford excelled in last season. Among this group of ex-Celtics, Horford is the guy who Brad Stevens and Co. miss the most.

 

Terry Rozier, Guard, Charlotte Hornets

2019-20 stats (23 games played)
32.5 minutes, 17.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game; 43.5 field goal percentage, 40.3 3-point percentage

Grade: B+
Rozier got the keys to the car he wanted, and he's driving it well so far: He's scoring six more points per game than his previous career high and while shooting at a career-high rate. The Hornets aren't going anywhere, but it's good to see Rozier getting buckets -- and getting paid.

Do the Celtics miss him?
Kinda. Brad Wanamaker and Carsen Edwards are downgrades from Rozier as backup point guards, but "Scary Terry" wasn't going to stay in Boston to play behind Kemba Walker anyway. Barring a Walker injury, the C's will be fine here.

 

Marcus Morris, Forward, New York Knicks

2019-20 stats (19 games played)
33.1 minutes, 18.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.6 steals per game; 42.4 field goal percentage, 52.4 3-point percentage

Grade: B+
See Rozier, Terry. Morris is scoring at a career-best rate thanks to a ridiculous 52.4 3-point percentage. He's also not doing much else for a team jockeying for a lottery position in the Eastern Conference.

Do the Celtics miss him?
Nope. Morris hit a lot of clutch shots for Boston last season, but he also took a lot of shots, and his absence has allowed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to flourish with more offensive opportunities.

Aron Baynes, Forward, Phoenix Suns

2019-20 stats (13 games played)
24.0 minutes, 14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 0.7 blocks per game; 56.3 field goal percentage, 43.9 3-point percentage

Grade: Incomplete
Baynes might be flirting with B+/A- minus territory had he not suffered a calf injury that sidelined him in seven of Phoenix's last eight games. "All of Australia" had taken his 3-point shooting to another level in the first month of the season to help fuel the Suns' strong start.

Do the Celtics miss him?
Yup. Enes Kanter has been serviceable offensively, but the C's likely will be shopping for big men of Baynes' mold around the NBA trade deadline as they look to bolster their frontcourt.

 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: 'No traction' on Andre Drummond trade as deadline nears

NBA Rumors: 'No traction' on Andre Drummond trade as deadline nears

If the Detroit Pistons really want to trade Andre Drummond, they'll need to step on the gas pedal.

Teams have "kicked the tires" on a potential Drummond trade but there has been "no traction" on any deal ahead of Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reported Friday.

The Boston Celtics reportedly are among the teams interested in the 26-year-old big man, who leads the NBA in rebounds per game (15.7) and ranks eighth in blocks (1.8).

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Drummond would give Boston an answer to Eastern Conference giants like Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Milwaukee's Brook and Robin Lopez while bolstering a thin frontcourt currently holding its own with Enes Kanter and an overachieving Daniel Theis.

As Mannix points out, though, Drummond's $27 million cap hit could be a deal-breaker for many teams, including the Celtics. The C's would have to move Gordon Hayward or Marcus Smart and at least one other player to make salaries match, but the team seems reluctant to part with any members of their core.

If Boston still wants an upgrade, it may find better luck with Davis Bertans; Mannix reports there's a "feeling around the league" that the Washington Wizards "almost have to shop" the 27-year-old big man, who is averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range amid a breakout season.

What to make of the Celtics amid their midseason tailspin

What to make of the Celtics amid their midseason tailspin

MILWAUKEE — The Boston Celtics will arrive at the midway point of the 2019-20 season this weekend trying to pull themselves out of a tailspin that’s seen them drop five of their last seven games, including a pair of Eastern Conference showdowns with chief rivals Philadelphia and Milwaukee a week apart.

The Celtics have vacillated somewhere between enjoyable overachiever capable of pushing the East’s best to a maddening squad with fatal flaws that might prevent it from truly emerging in the conference. Sometimes they look like both in the same night.

Like on Thursday in Milwaukee when Boston dug itself a 27-point hole as the NBA-leading Bucks hit an absurd barrage of first-half 3-pointers. Just when it seemed fair to suggest that Boston’s early season success might have been the product on feasting on inferior competition, a Jaylen Brown-less Boston squad jumped on Kemba Walker’s back and nearly roared all the way back.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

As coach Brad Stevens likes to remind his team, you’re never as good as you think you are, you’re never as bad as you think you are, and you’re never far from either. The Celtics’ inability to field a fully healthy roster has clouded their overall potential and we’re left making bold proclamations off small samples of good and bad play.

Are the Celtics true contenders? Maybe, but the past couple weeks hasn’t helped their case. Boston is now 7-8 against teams over .500 and only two of those wins came on the road (both when an opponent was missing a key player). They whiffed with a chance to pounce on an Embiid-less Philly last week and then couldn’t capitalize on Giannis-less minutes after getting within single digits in the second half on Thursday night.

Do the Celtics need to make a move? Maybe, but it’d be a lot easier to judge if we could ever see all their puzzle pieces together. Boston’s bench play has been woeful at times and, for all the consternation about their lack of pure size, it sure feels like shooting is what they should be targeting. And yet it’s fair to wonder, if Brown plays on Thursday, and Marcus Smart shifts to his typical bench role, then maybe the bench production doesn’t look as meager.

Ultimately, bench pieces aren’t going to tip this thing one way or another. The Celtics are going to go as far as their five best players can carry them, as Stevens made clear after Thursday’s loss.

"We’re going to ride our best five, as we’ve talked about quite a bit, and then we just need everybody else to play a role around them,” said Stevens. "But we need those five to be awfully good.”

On this night, Walker was exceptional. On the same night that Kyrie Irving delivered one of his patented rants about roster flaws in Brooklyn, Walker challenged himself to be better after a disheartening loss to the Pistons. He responded with a 40-point, 11-rebound outburst in Milwaukee. As Stevens abridged, "Only reason we had a chance.”

The coach added, “It's not [Walker’s] responsibility to be responsible for everybody else’s energy but I’m glad that he accepts it. I’m glad that he wants that. He certainly brought it tonight. He was awfully special tonight.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Gordon Hayward, who has been on a bit of a roller coaster since returning from nerve pain in his foot on Christmas Day. Hayward missed nine of the 10 shots he took — including eight 3-pointers — while finishing with 7 points over 32:15.

“I thought we had some good looks, especially personally, I had some good looks. But we just didn’t make them,” said Hayward. “Have to be better next time.”

But that only accentuates Boston’s rather thin margin for error against the elite (and maybe the not-so elite, too). The team had been undefeated this season when playing without Brown but they really missed him on Thursday. The Celtics don’t have the sort of top-end talent that can win a game individually (though Walker sure as hell tried on Thursday).

A February 6 trade deadline looms. It’s hard to imagine the Celtics making a big-splash move but adding a bench piece — if for no other reason than the run of injuries this team continues to endure — remains something the team must consider. Maybe that’s using picks to help fetch a shooter, or maybe it’s just thumbing through the scrap heap for someone who can be a more steady eighth or ninth man. The youngsters on this team have had their moments but they’re also being asked to do a lot at young ages.

It was telling, though, Thursday when Boston cut its deficit to 8 and Antetokounmpo headed to the bench with just under five minutes to play in the third quarter. Boston should have capitalized but its sub lineups floundered and Milwaukee pushed its lead back up to 20 before Antetokounmpo returned at the end of the quarter. A second Boston run came up just short at the end of the game.

Stevens glowed about how the second half looked more like “Celtics basketball.” Smart insisted the team wouldn’t overreact to this rough patch.

"It’s the NBA. You can’t get discouraged off that,” said Smart. "We’ve played two back-to-back nights and stuff like that. You can’t let that discourage you. That’s part of it. We’re at the 40-game mark. It happens.”

Maybe he’s right. Still, watching this team on a daily basis, we yearn for a glimpse of this team when whole. But who knows if it’ll ever happen. Robert Williams could be a nice jolt for the center rotation if he’s able to come back after the All-Star break but that’s unlikely to alter the path of this team much.

No, the success of this team more likely hinges on Smart, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, and Walker.

“I think we’re still pretty good,” said Hayward. "I don’t think the team is down or anything like that. I think we realize we’ve got work to do and we get right back to it.”

The quest to figure out exactly what these Celtics are continues. They’re not as good as we though they were, they’re not as bad as some will make it seem now. But they’re never quite far from either.