If you asked me in October I would’ve bet my life on the fact that the Boston Celtics would have a better record than 10-10 through the first 20 games of the season.
I’d have put my life on the line, that’s how confident I was in this 2018-19 Celtics squad at the beginning of the season. Well luckily I didn’t make that bet, because I would be as dead as the Boston offense to start their 18th banner campaign.
What’s wrong with this sputtering squad?
Well, many things. The first issue is that they can’t seem to figure out their individual roles. All season where the production comes from has been inconsistent, and no one besides Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris have been overly productive offensively whatsoever.
There’s such an abundance of talent on this Boston team, that a lot of times they look confused or lost out on the court trying to figure out how they fit into the offense. The Celtics have 8 solid players that could be starting for most NBA teams, that is why their lack of success so far has been extremely surprising.
Ball movement is essential in the game of basketball if you want to be successful. A static offense is usually a bad offense, and that is what the Celtics have. They’re bad offensively, there’s no two ways around that point.
They’re averaging a dismal 106.3 points per game, which ranks 23rd out of 30 teams in the NBA. I contribute this to the overwhelming amount of isolation offense they’ve been playing. Kyrie and Tatum especially like to go one on one, which is fine especially for players that talented, but great offensive units are predicated off of moving the ball quickly to find the open man.
Also they’re playing at much too slow of a pace. With the athletes the Celtics have they should be getting out in transition, and making plays happen at a much higher rate than they are. They’re averaging 99 possessions a game which is 21st in the league, and can be attributed to their iso-ball that bleeds the shot clock on most possessions.
Defensively the Celtics have been great so far. That’s what they’re known for, and where they really do their damage. Opponents score 104 points per game on this Celtics team which ranks fourth in the league, and per 100 possessions their defensive rating is 103.9 which ranks second.
With the way the Celtics offense has been playing, if they had only an average defense they could have one of the worst records in the NBA. The defense is making them look respectable right now, but in all reality it’s hiding what has been a bad team a quarter through the season.
I look to Brad Stevens to right the ship and make the changes necessary to make this team successful. He’s consistently done it in the past, although his lack of influence on offensive production this season has been surprisingly noticeable.
Every game, it seems like the same issues kill them.
The Celtics start extremely slow, get themselves into a hole, and then they don’t possess the offensive firepower to make any sort of comeback.
Boston has been relying too much on the three ball to try to win games. They need to attack the hoop, and try to get to the free-throw line. Shooting a high rate of threes is very popular in today’s NBA, but it’s also important to keep the pressure on the defense by going to the rack strong. They’re shooting 35 threes a game at 34%, that’s not very good and should be addressed immediately.
Once they can gel as a team and start to swing the ball around they shouldn’t have an issue averaging 115 points a night. That should be the least they score with the unbelievable wing talent on this team.
A wing talent who has not lived up to the hype is obviously Gordon Hayward. I hate to say it, but through 20 games it seems obvious that he’s not the player that he used to be. He looks slow, unathletic, unconfident, and overall just a shell of the star player he had become in Utah (10 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists). I’m extremely concerned that the Cs will be spending $30 million a year for the next three years to a player that seems to be damaged goods. Sure, he needs time and I understand that, but I’m observing what my eyes see. What I see isn’t great.
Jayson Tatum is an amazing young talent, and will be for years to come. Unfortunately his progression has halted so far this season as he’s shooting a much lower percentage than last year (44%), and plays too selfishly at times (2 assists). Once Tatum can learn take smarter shots, and pass he will be a perennial All-Star. All this will come with time and experience for the youngster.
Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris, and Kyrie have been bright spots for the Celtics so far this year. Baynes and Morris have been producing at a surprisingly good rate. While Kyrie not averaging massive numbers (21.7 points, 6.2 assists) is coming back from injury very well, and is clearly the top dog on the team.
All this being said I’m not overly concerned about the Celtics. We tend to overreact to small sample sizes, especially when it comes to sports in New England.
It’s not easy for a team that has hardly played together to figure out their roles, and although this is taking an elongated period of time I believe Boston will get into a groove sooner rather than later.
Brad Stevens is a genius coach, and he is surrounded with unbelievable talent. Boston fans should be annoyed with the bad start, but they should remember the Celtics are experimenting and trying to figure things out. I wouldn’t bet against this team and still think they’re the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference even if they’re sitting in seventh place as of today. This is still a 55 plus win team.
Like they say, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”, and I see a strong finish coming from the Celtics. They’re tough, and they’re skilled a rare combo to find in the modern NBA. Don’t count the Celtics out, an 18th banner is still in their sights. But I wouldn’t bet my life on it.
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