After a year of turmoil, the Celtics entered the 2019-20 season with low expectations. In an Eastern Conference with dominant MVP in Yiannis Antekunduba and a 76ers team with a championship or bust mentality, Boston is no longer considered a candidate.
But the Celtics did not take a step back after losing to Lord Rivings and Al Horford from this offseason. In fact, they are about to be better off without them, and the Bucks and Sixers need to realize that this is not a two-horse race.
With a 17-7 record on Wednesday night’s game against the Mavericks, Boston is right behind Milwaukee and Philadelphia to the east. While there are some concerns – namely the frontcourt’s inability to leave with Horford – the Celtics are returning to Brad Stevens basketball.
How have the Celtics gone from the second round of flames to a legitimate threat to the East so quickly? There are some reasons for their quick recovery.
The Celtics changed culture.
It sounds ridiculous to talk about a team of 49 wins, but last year’s team was a disaster. Boston comes from a series of 2018 Eastern Conference Finals where the Celtics have taken LeBron James and the Cavs to seven games. Jayson Tatum looked full for an All-Star season, and Irving and Gordon Hayward returned from injuries. The skill level was probably the closest thing to the mighty Warriors, but the chemistry was terrible.
How many changes can it take a year.
Kemba Walker may not have Irving’s early talent, but adapting to the closet is a huge improvement. The cries for minutes and shooting choices are no longer there. Coaches and teammates are not forced to walk on egg shells and wonder if their point guard will randomly ask about the meaning of government before a movie meeting. The joy is behind.
Walker, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart playing together for Team USA in the summer helped launch this chemistry and were translated into the regular season.
“It feels good, just to build our companionship now early, before the season starts,” Smart told Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston in August. stretch for the season, we already have an idea of what everyone wants to do and a feel for everyone. “
The Celtics are happier this time around and appear in the winners column.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are back on track.
After struggling with their roles for much of last season, Brown and Tatum have re-won their swagger.
Tatum received the message about his shooting choice and cut off controversial midfielder Kobe Bryant. He gets 6.9 3 points per game (over 3.9) while attempting 4.0 free throws per game (over 2.9), resulting in a remarkable increase in points (15.7 to 20.9).
Brown seems to be the player who has benefited more from a stable job. He is averaging a career high in points (19.3), rebounds (6.9) and assists (2.2). Brown has recovered his side out (50.0 percent from the field, 37.4 percent from the 3-point range) playing solid defense on the wing.
Brown and Tatum’s development is important not only for the current season, but also for the future success of the franchise. They are taking huge steps in the right direction.
Gordon Hayward could be a player.
When fully healthy, Hayward is an All-Star, capable of running on or off the ball persistently and switching to multiple positions defensively. Before losing a month with a broken hand, Hayward averaged 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting a 55.5% from the field and 43.3% from the arc.
The Celtics’ five-man dynamic unit – Walker, Smart, Hayward, Brown and Tatum – has been capped by injuries this season. What happens when Stevens can launch this team simultaneously with bullets and defenders in every position?
Boston still has a long way to go. The Celtics’ lack of size is obvious, especially when it comes to a matchup with Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid – Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter and Robert Williams are not going to scare anyone. Team president Danny Eins will find the big market for a big man before the February 6 deadline.
Despite the color gap, the Celtics are solid in the mix. This was not the case when the President’s predictions were made.
Don’t plan these late May trips to Milwaukee and Philly just yet. The East has another horse in the race.