Monday, December 7, 2015


     We are a fourth of the way through the season and the Celtics currently stand at 11-9, projecting out a 45-37 record. This would make for progress over last year.

     Early, they have already made strides which show an upward trend. They have picked up their defense, holding opponents to 98 points per game, 3+ points better than last year. They have also improved offensively both in points per game and their offensive rating. Even in their pace of play they have improved. However, these improvements are marginal.

     The biggest concern I have over the first twenty games is their inconsistency. They are the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde. The statistics confirm this, in their 11 wins and 9 losses, averaging double digits whether they win or lose.

     They're identity should be defense all the time. Although, when the C's get a lead, they tend to relax on the defensive side of the ball and get careless on the offensive side of the ball. I have bad news folks, these guys are not talented enough to take possessions off. What makes them who they are is the sum of their parts.

    The Celtics are not an isolation team. They need to move the ball and move it often. They need to play fundamental basketball for forty-eight minutes. Turnovers have been a huge issue in losses. The reason for their wins is in most part, suffocating defense and draining the three.

     Right now, their play is good enough for 10th place in the Eastern Conference which gets them a seat at the lottery. At the same time, they're one game out of first place in the Atlantic.

     I need to see more of Jekyll and less of Hyde.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November: Looking Ahead

     November is a tough month for the Celtics. They have already played the Spurs, Pacers and Wizards, winning 1 of 3. However, many would argue they should have beaten the Pacers who were playing in the 2nd of a back to back. However, that is in the past. We're looking ahead right?

    They play the following teams in November:

     11/10 @ Milwaukee
     11/11 vs. Pacers
     11/13 vs. Hawks
     11/15 @ Thunder
     11/16 @ Rockets
     11/18 vs. Mavericks
     11/20 vs. Nets
     11/22 @ Nets
     11/24 @ Hawks
     11/25 vs. 76ers
     11/27 vs. Wizards
     11/29 @ Magic
     11/30 @ Heat

     Ten of 11 teams they face in November were in the playoffs last year. Albeit one of them was the Nets who are off to a horrid start. They play 16 games in 30 Days, three back to backs and 12 of those 16 teams have a better than .500 record.

     I had tweeted last week that I would be happy with going .500 in November. Being objective, I think this is a positive outlook. Five of the remaining 13 games should be wins: Mavs, Nets Home and Home, the 76ers and Magic. I believe they could win the Wizards, Pacers and Milwaukee and Heat games. This would give them 9 wins in November. I would take that. What say you?

     However, I will be watching incredibly close to the Plus/Minus of our starters. In our first five games we were:

     76ers: -28 C's: +8 = Win
     Raptors: +32 C's: -40 = Loss
     Spurs: +1 C's: -11 = Loss
     Pacers: +23 C's 16 = Loss
     Wizards: -1 C's +25 = Win

      Coincidence? I think Not!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Where's the Love?

     Jared Sullinger, 21st overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft to the Celtics. Much hullabaloo was made about this pick, the Celtics included. Doc Rivers was quoted that before flagged medically for a back issue, he would have been in the Top 5. They saw great promise in this PF out of Ohio State. They were willing to take the risk vs. reward.

     In the 2012-2013 season, after appearing in forty-five games in his rookie campaign, was side lined for the year when he underwent back surgery to repair a lumbar disk. This however, was something of a known inevitability. He made a complete recovery.

    In his second season, 2013-2014, he played in 74 of 82 games, starting forty-four, increasing his per game statistics in rebounding, assists, blocks, points, free throw and 3pt field goal percentage.

    Last year, in his third season, he played in 58 of 82 games, starting in forty-nine of them. His statistics either remained consistent or improved across the board until he fell victim to a broken foot in February of 2015. Shortly thereafter, articles surfaced that Jared was facing a heavy burden, notably his weight. Danny Ainge, President of Basketball Operations openly criticized Jared for his lack of conditioning. The status was he would be out for the remainder of the season and they wanted Jared to commit to a conditioning schedule coming into this season.

     However, the Celtics behind a remarkable 24-16 second half run, made the playoffs. And who did they play during these playoffs? He played all 4 games averaging 20 minutes, and a 21.6 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) which rates the players per minute production which was 6 points higher than the league average of 15.

     Fast forward to this preseason where he was the 6th big man on the depth chart, on the outside, looking in, to get playing time. Boston media recently brought up the C's not signing Sully to an extension and he replied that he will just continue to prove the doubters wrong which he said even included family members.
     Five games into the season he is 1st among the Celtics Big man in minutes, rebounds, assists, blocks, Field goal percentage and shots made behind the arc.

     So, I say, "Where is the Love for the Big man?"

     He has incredibly soft hands, unbelievable rebounding instincts, great body control and seems to be a genuinely nice guy. I personally think the Celtics push on the weight issue because they envision him being a cornerstone to their future. And although he is on a torrid pace right now and may level off a bit, he is definitely trending upward and on pace to have his best season as a pro yet. This will bode well for the C's chances making the playoffs.

     Here is to Sully having a career year, staying healthy, going deep into the playoffs and remaining a Celtic for a long time.

     In the meantime, give Sully some Love. He's earned it. And enjoy watching him prove all the doubters wrong.


Saturday, November 7, 2015


      This C's team hasn't gotten much air time anywhere, even locally. Why? No Drama. I mean how do you talk about a team that has no unrealistic expectations set and many National outlets have praised Coach Stevens in their polls. Their top player rated in the NBA is their 6th man, Isaiah Thomas. Most believe they will make a modest improvement from last year. (I have them winning 50 games.)There are no egregious acts by the players, team or owner that media loves to hook their teeth into. There seems to be a bunch of good character guys putting their team first. So, what do we talk about? Isaiah being a starter? No. Danny explained why they feel he works best off the bench on Toucher & Rich radio show and I agree.

       Back in the preseason, someone asked Abby Chin Since there was no Rondo #headbandwatch what the replacement was? She responded the #kohairwatch (Kelly Olynyk Hair Watch.) That resonated with me and I have been fixated ever since, hence this blog post: #KOHairWatch.

       Olynyk has played four of the five games. The only one he missed was serving his one game suspension for apparently (I say apparently because I didn't think it was intentional) injuring Kevin Love last year in the first round of the playoffs. Conveniently, he has alternated each game with one of two hairstyles: The man Bun and The Hair Band. So, now and going forward, I will give you an update on Kelly's play as it pertains to the hair style that he chooses pregame.

       Over four games he has been solid averaging a +8 while on the floor, 10pts. 4.5 boards, 1 Block, 1.5 steals and 1.5 TO over 17 minutes of playing time off the bench. However, while wearing the Hair Band, he has been en fuego. He has shot .500 from the field, .375 from beyond the arc, a ridiculous +35 on the floor, while pulling down 14 boards, and logging 5 steals.

       It will be interesting if he wears his hair in a ponytail as per his alternating theme. However, the Hair Band may be the right play.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Plus-minus (+-)

     Basketball has a curious plus-minus stat which basically states: Plus-minus measures the point differential for the team when the player is on the court, which is the difference in the points scored for and the points scored against.

      In the first game, against the 76ers the Celtics starters were a +8, against the Raptors, they were a -40 and against the Spurs, the starters were a collective -11. The +8 is skewed against the 76ers because Marcus Smart was a +22 by himself, so that means the other 4 starters were a collective -14. The only team we defeated was, you guessed it, the 76ers who had a plus-minus of  -28 among their starters.

     This makes one ponder whether or not Stevens should tinker with the Starting five. Maybe Olynyk or Johnson could start in favor of Zeller at the 5. Maybe Turner or Jonas could start at the 3 for Crowder? I have blogged before how I believe Turner could be more valuable among the starters. I believe him and Thomas in the same back court doesn't do much for the C's. Also, Isaiah Thomas plays some horrendous D. Maybe having another solid defender like Crowder on the floor at the same time could make up for Isaiah's glaring deficiency on D. It puts a lot of responsibility on Amir to play his guy and Isaiah's.

     Last year, Turner played a lot of point forward out of necessity and I think he should do it again. I am not saying to be the defacto point guard. However, he could bring it up, alternating with Smart to give some different looks and allowing him to create shots which he does well.

     Something has to give because as we are right now, our starters living on the wrong side of +- is going to have us end up on the wrong side of the Win-Loss column.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Preseason Takeaway: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

     Although the Celtics posted a 6-1 record over seven games in the preseason, I take it with a grain of salt. All teams, including the Celtics play long rotations as to mix and match players and see who complements who in regards to skill set, chemistry and what not. However, a few things became apparent. (I will use the last three games as my reference: 10/19 Nets, 10/22 Knicks and 10/23 76ers)

     The Good:

  • Defense: The Celtics have clearly become a better defensive team amassing 9, 7 and 11 steals and 3, 5 and 9 blocks respectively against the Nets, Knicks and 76ers. Their starting back court of Smart, Bradley and Crowder look to give offenses fits. The three are active with their hands on defense. The #AmirEffect has given them a presence in the paint. 
  • Health: Knock on wood! The C's got through the preseason healthy. Yes, they encountered a bug over in Europe that lingered through the trip to New York but no physical injuries that sidelined anyone indefinitely. 
  • Next Man Up: There were different players in double figures in each of the three games I mentioned. This is good as it means no one is looking for their shots and serving up the hot hand.
  • Rookies: The rooks played well throughout this post season. They seemed comfortable. Will any of them have the same first year impact as Marcus Smart? That remains to be seen.

     The Bad:

  • Situational:  I am glad that the C's played well enough that situational plays didn't really factor in; such as the two-minute game of possession or last shot in-bounds plays. Speaking  of which, it was brought up again how players marvel at Brad's off the cuff play calling and diagrams in time-outs. However, with the new faces, it would be nice to see them in real game situations.
  • (Giving up Leads: Last year, the C's were historically bad at blowing 10+ point leads. (You might remember the Golden State game last year.) I know that was against the eventual champions but I am a firm believer if you want to be one of the elite teams, once you have a team on its heels, you need to finish them and not give them any hope. They had some good runs but tended to get away from what gave them those leads and let their opponents back in the game.

     The Ugly: 

  • Turnovers:  The Celtics gave up 23 TO's in the game against the Nets. That's not going to win games, especially when your playing a team's starters which we didn't in that game. No excuse. We need to protect the ball better, period. 
  • Jared Sullinger Coast to Coast Plays:  It seemed once a game, Jared would go coast to coast. I like Jared and I know there is some pressure for him to perform but going coast to coast is not what this team needs from him. Nor does it look pretty. 
     This team has a lot of potential, their depth being integral to their success.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


     This is the number Vegas has on the Celtics team for wins. Do you go over or under? Last year the Celtics won 40 games. So, basically Vegas is saying that the C's are merely only two and a half games better? 

     I strongly take the over and here is why: Player Improvement, Depth.

     Marcus Smart has improved over his rookie campaign. In addition to his stellar defense, he has worked hard on penetrating to the basket and creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. This will ideally open up space for his three with teams having to respect his penetration skills.

     Kelly Olynyk has added as well to his arsenal. As much as we may cringe with his knee jerk ball fake on the perimeter, for the most part, it works. However, his new "Dirk" fade away from 15-18 feet has added an extra element to his game and not many people have the length to bother that shot.

     Avery Bradley has worked on his corner 3. This makes him a tough defend as: Do you play close to deny the trey? Or does he burn you with his patented back door cut.

    Isaiah Thomas has added the floater to his game. His quickness already tends to break ankles but now he has a pull up floater to frustrate and combat the big men coming to step in front allowing this to open up his assist numbers dropping to the big guys that the defenders left to prevent the floater.

    Anyone who has watched the preseason cannot deny the depth the Celtics have. They plug n' play players without the glaring drop off most teams endure. Finally, they play hard and run often. Being a young team could definitely help the C's push the tempo, paying dividends in the fourth quarter on back to backs.

     These above items along with the additions of Lee (an underrated passer for a big man) and Johnson (who will provide that rim protection they have been lacking) are clearly good enough for the additional 2.5 wins. 

     I have the C's winning 10 more than last year, ending the season at 50-32. What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Crowder or Turner to start at the 3?

     This years Celtic Preseason with so many new faces leaves one to wonder aloud the Opening Night starting five.

      I have seen written Marcus Smart slated at the Point Guard, Avery Bradley at the Shooting Guard, David Lee at the Power Forward and Tyler Zeller at Center. However, I haven't heard or seen anywhere slated the starter at Small Forward. ESPN's Celtics 2016 Depth Chart has Jae Crodwer as the starter and Evan Turner as the backup to the 3. Even Coach Stevens has alluded,  "There might be two options at one spot that we'll have to figure out as they compete against each other in practice." as read in a Fox Sports column. Could that one spot be the 3? Who will it be?

     I think it should be Evan Turner.

     I explained in another blogpost that I see Jae on the second team. Part of the reason for that is I expect the second team for the Celtics to be High-Energy and High-Octane. I see that motor apparent in Crowders' game. I also believe Jae compliments Isaiah's game. I tend to think Evan is more methodical, graceful and relies more on his skill set. Also, one of Turner's strengths is creating a shot and getting to the basket. This would take away from Thomas's effectiveness if the duo were paired in the backcourt.

    Last year, Evan proved to be a valuable and versatile player playing point when needed. This would allow Marcus to share time bringing the ball up but also at times to play off the ball and allow him to maybe conserve some energy for the defensive end.

     People may argue that Salary often dictates who should start. Crowder will make 6 Million in the first year of a five year/$35,000,000 guaranteed contract and Turner the Mid Level Exception at 3.4 Million. However, do people remember that Evan Turner was the #2 overall pick in the 2010 draft behind John Wall? A team doesn't use a #2 overall pick on a bench guy.

     Comparing the two, the results were amazingly similar. So for that I went digging into two advanced stats:

  • PER (Player Efficiency Rating- A Measure of per minute production) is virtually identical.
  • WS (Win Shares - An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player) goes to Evan but not by much.
     Bottom Line: Although similar in many categories, I believe Turner's style and skill set is more complimentary to the other starters.


Why Isaiah Thomas Should come off the Bench.

     There has been much discussion dating back to last February when Danny brought Isaiah Thomas to Boston in a trade with the Phoenix Suns, but as recently as this September in a article, on whether Isaiah should start or come off the bench. As I believed back then, and still do now; He helps the team more coming off the bench.
     I am not denying that he was the spark plug behind the Celtic's resurgence in the second half of last year. His energy and up-tempo approach were instrumental. He helped give the team an identity and help Coach Brad Stevens solidify a lineup.

     However, Marcus Smart has solidified the Starting PG role and Avery Bradley has secured the SG spot. He's too small to play the other three. Thomas needs to have the ball to make things happen. He's not one to create plays off the ball and he's not a solid defender, two things his aforementioned teammates do well.

      I see him leading the second team with Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk. This would make for one high-energy, high-octane second unit. Kelly, Jonas and Jae all can spread the floor, giving Isaiah plenty of space to slash to the basket which he excels at, dish to the perimeter or drop off to Amir. Without Isaiah leading the second team they wouldn't be as dynamic.

      I hope he realizes that his true intrinsic value lies with him being the sixth man, an award that last year rightfully belonged to him but went to Lou Williams.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

David Lee: A Steal

  Danny Ainge is still reaping dividends from the Pierce and Garnett deal two years later. The latest dividend coming in the way of David Lee. How you may ask? Well, let's revisit a brief path to this steal I believe Danny engineered.

  Back in June of 2013, Danny broke up the 2nd generation of the Big Three completely by trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets for three first round draft picks: 2014, 2016 and 2018 respectively and a number of expiring contracts, one of which included Gerald Wallace's 10+ Million a year albatross of contract over three years.

  This past summer, Danny traded Gerald Wallace (and Chris Babb) to the Defending Champion Golden State Warriors for David Lee, which after an injury spell last year, felt was replaceable by the emerging Draymond Green.

  Gerald was at most a strategically played phenomenal inbound passer and more or less a cheerleader for the Boston Celtics last year. David, albeit a second teamer last year played in 4 of the 6 Finals games.Gerald played less than a third of the minutes David did last year. Clearly the Celtics got an upgrade both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball and where they needed it most: at rebounding.

  However, I did a little more digging on David Lee at Basketball  and found a surprising comparison to no other than Dwight Howard of the now Houston Rockets. They are extremely close in virtually every category. To do my best to compare apples to apples, I chose the 08-09 and 09-10 year where they both played the center position for their respective teams:

  I don't believe many people feel Lee is in the same category as Howard but numbers don't lie. Howard makes 22.3M this year where Lee looks to make 15.5M  in a contract year with something to prove and in a prime position to cash in on the increased salary cap to come with the new TV deal.

  David Lee has looked good in his first two preseason games in Italy, amassing a double-double in the second. This could be another steal for Trader Danny.