Celtics

SI's Top 100 list highlights the Celtics depth

SI's Top 100 list highlights the Celtics depth

 

 

The Sports Illustrated’s list of the Top 100 players in the NBA is a great discussion starter for those of us who are anxiously awaiting the start of the regular season.

Phoenix guard Devin Booker, one of the best pure scorers in the game, coming in (only) at No. 50?

Toronto backup Fred VanVleet (No. 94) ranked ahead of Dirk Nowitzki (No. 96)?

While there’s plenty of debate about where players are stacked on the list, the one thing that is clear.

The NBA is in great shape talent-wise for many years to come, with several players just a few years into their careers on the list.

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And one of the teams with lots of on-the-rise-talent is the Boston Celtics, who have six players on the Top-100 list (and they really should have had a seventh with Marcus Smart).

But none of the six Celtics will be in the top-10, with the highest ranked player being Al Horford (No. 16) who came in one spot ahead of teammate Kyrie Irving (No. 17).

The only team that will have that many players when the list is completely revealed, is Golden State which currently has four players on the list.

SI’s Top 10 has yet to be revealed, but it’s a given that both Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will be there. Others likely in the top 10 include Houston’s James Harden and Chris Paul; Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James; Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo; Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid; Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook; New Orleans’ Anthony Davis; and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.

The idea that the Warriors would have so many players on the list, is no surprise.

They’re the two-time defending NBA champions, having taken home the Larry O’Brien trophy in three of the last four seasons with the same core primarily intact aside from the addition of Durant two years ago.

He helps.

Golden State is the standard by which all teams in the NBA are measured against, the blueprint for what every team is trying to build.

And as you look across the NBA landscape, no one right now has done a better job of building themselves in the mirror image of the Warriors than the Celtics.

Boston has added elite scoring power with trading for Irving and signing Gordon Hayward who despite missing all but five minutes of last season, came in at No. 25 on the list. Boston has the game’s ultimate glue-guy in Horford. There’s young depth on the rise such as Jayson Tatum (No. 39), Jaylen Brown (No. 47) and Terry Rozier (No. 82) who all cracked the Top 100 list.

It is that kind of elite, well-respected depth that gives Boston and its fans every reason to be optimistic that they can get to the NBA Finals and hold their own against the basketball juggernaut known as the Golden State Warriors.

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Jayson Tatum explains what playing for Team USA is like

Jayson Tatum explains what playing for Team USA is like

The Boston Celtics are getting a chance to see some of their younger players and new talent develop ahead of the 2019-20 NBA season. The 2019 FIBA World Cup is taking place in Australia starting in September, and the Celtics are well-represented on the team.

One of the players that will be playing for the squad is Jayson Tatum. The 21-year-old is a budding star and is relishing the opportunity he has to play for Team USA and coach Gregg Popovich. He also explained how playing for Team USA was a bit different than playing in the NBA.

"Just playing with USA, you got to play in a different way," Tatum said per MassLive.com's John Karalis. "You have to sacrifice, because you are playing with 11 great other players. So, we all got to sacrifice something for the bigger goal at hand."

This could end up being a positive for Tatum. The Celtics' playing style last season sometimes became too isolated and moved away from the ball-movement system that had worked so well for Brad Stevens in the past. Tatum is a great scorer, but he possesses very good passing skills as well. So, perhaps working with Team USA will accelerate his development in that area.

Tatum also expressed excitement about getting to work alongside a few of his Celtics teammates with Team USA. He was hopeful that the quartet would have some time to learn to play together ahead of the NBA season.

"It’s pretty cool. There is four of us on this team," Tatum said per Karalis. "Four of us get to embark on this journey together and build some real good chemistry for the season. Especially with Kemba, adding him to the Celtics, so should be fun."

Overall, it seems that the Team USA experience is positively impacting Tatum. That could end up being huge for the Celtics as they look for their third-year player to truly emerge as a star alongside Kemba Walker.

Where do Tatum, Brown rank on this year's '20 under 25'?>>>

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Aron Baynes: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are 'thirsty to go out and improve their game'

Aron Baynes: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are 'thirsty to go out and improve their game'

Aron Baynes is no longer on the Boston Celtics, but the Australian center is still a big fan of some of his former teammates.

Ahead of Australia's exhibition series with Team USA in the lead up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Baynes spoke about the potential of his ex-teammates, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Brown, 22, and Tatum, 21, are viewed as big parts of the Celtics' future, and Baynes indicated that both were on the right path to becoming top-tier players in the NBA.

"Those younger guys [Tatum and Brown] are thirsty to go out and improve their game and there's no better place than the summer time playing international ball against some of the best players in the world," Baynes said per ESPN's Niall Seewang. "Those guys are still in their rookie contracts and they're looking to prove themselves over the next couple of years and they definitely have all the tools to do it."

In particular, Baynes was complimentary of Tatum's skill set and said that he was ready for superstardom. Baynes pointed to Tatum's rare combination of offensive ability and desire to play defense as the primary reason for that.

"He's so talented," Baynes said per Seewang. "Even from the first day I played with him when he was a rookie in his first preseason, you could see how talented he was offensively and he also wants to work on the defensive end which isn't common in the NBA. Some guys live on that offensive talent but he wants to develop his all-round game."

Seeing Tatum continue to develop would certainly be nice. He didn't quite live up to the lofty expectations set for him ahead of his second season, yet he still averaged 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, all improvements over his rookie season. If he can continue to make strides during the 2019-20 campaign and improve upon his league-average shooting percentage, he should have a chance to be a star. And that's one of the major reasons the Celtics were reluctant to include him in any trade packages this offseason.

Either way, it's nice to see Tatum and Brown earning some praise from a former teammate. Despite all of the chemistry issues the Celtics had last year, the team seems to be on the right track with their new core, and Tatum and Brown could be a big part of their retooled roster.

As for Baynes, he will be a member of the Phoenix Suns this year after the Celtics traded him on draft night. Baynes, 32, averaged 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Celtics last year while serving as a solid weapon on the defensive side of the ball.

Where do Tatum, Brown rank on this year's '20 under 25'?>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.