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.