Brad Stevens has certainly received his fair share of praise in his four seasons as the Boston Celtics coach. That’s right, four seasons. It seems like just yesterday that the Celtics hired Stevens to replace Doc Rivers during what was expected to be a down time for the Celtics franchise. Down time? Stevens had other ideas. The Celtics have made strong improvements in all four seasons. Danny Ainge and Stevens have helped rebuild the franchise to not just a respectable level, but they’re now arguably a top five team in the NBA. As it stands today, the Celtics are tied with the Toronto Raptors for second place in the Eastern Conference with a 29-18 record. Both teams trail the Cleveland Cavaliers by just three games. The Celtics have a realistic chance to be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals this year and Brad Stevens is the biggest reason why.
If the Celtics are second in the Eastern Conference as of February 5th, Brad Stevens will coach in the NBA All Star Game. Tyronn Lue is not eligible. The Celtics are playing the Pistons, Raptors, Lakers, and Clippers at home during this stretch. These are all winnable games and the game against the Raptors on Wednesday Night could determine if Stevens will be the Eastern Conference Head Coach. Think about that. Brad Stevens – NBA All Star Head Coach. The Celtics are no longer the little team that could. They’re now an elite team in the Eastern Conference. Now, this certainly doesn’t change the fact that they have an enormous mountain to climb to contend with Cleveland. However, the Celtics continue to take steps every year and this year is no different.
Take a look at the Celtics records since Stevens has taken over as coach.
2013-14 : 25 – 57
2014-15 : 40 – 42
2015-16 : 48 – 34
2016-17 current pace : 51-31
Good luck finding another team that has made this type of progress in each of the past three seasons. The Celtics roster has certainly improved since the 2013-14 season, but how much? It certainly isn’t a team that you look at and say that there’s a lot of superstar talent. They have one NBA All Star this year. The Celtics players have thrived under Stevens.
Here’s a look at the following players individual numbers this year compared to before they joined the Celtics.
This season: 29.1 points; 6.3 assists, .466 FG%
Prior to joining Celtics (2014-15 prior to trade): 15.2 points, 3.7 assists, .426 FG%
This season: 17.7 points; 6.9 rebounds; .545 FG%
Last season without Stevens (2012-13): 9.2 points; 2.2 rebounds; .444 FG%
This season: 14.0 points; 5.2 rebounds; .488 FG%
Last season without Stevens (2014-15 prior to trade): 3.6 points; 1.2 rebounds; .434 FG%
This season: 15.5 points; 6.6 rebounds; 5.1 assists; .463 FG%
Last season with Atlanta: 15.2 points; 7.3 rebounds; 3.2 assists; .505 FG%
There’s your four core players on the Celtics. All have improved significantly under Stevens with the exception of Horford who is basically giving the same production he did last year. Horford is who he is. He’s not a guy that’s going to be coached up at this point in his career. Thomas, Bradley, and Crowder have all greatly benefitted with Stevens as the coach. In fact, the production has pretty much doubled for all three players. Note the field goal percentages with those three players as well. In his system, players get open shots and more opportunities to score. Aside from the numbers alone, Bradley and Crowder have become two of the better defensive players in the league. In fact, Bradley was on All-Defensive First Team last season. Three years ago, if you said three of the Celtics four top players were going to be Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder would you think that would be a playoff team let alone the second best team in the East?!
Let’s take a deeper dive. After these four players, the Celtics roster is littered with limited players. Jaylen Brown looks like he may be the real deal. Time will tell. Marcus Smart has improved in every season with the Celtics. And, how about Kelly Olynyk? He went from being one of the softest big men in the league to a guy who is a legitimate bench player giving the team significant minutes and production. He’s still painful to watch at times, but it’s fair to say the Stevens in getting the most out of him.
In addition, the Celtics are second in the East without one player on their roster playing in every game this season.
Take a look at how many games their core players have missed.
Al Horford – 12 missed games
Avery Bradley – 11 missed games
Jae Crowder – 8 missed games
Isaiah Thomas – 4 missed games
Name another NBA coach that could lead this roster to a 29-18 record with these four core players missing this much time.
Better yet, name another NBA coach that has a team on pace to win over 50 games that has less top end talent than Brad Stevens? Here are your options:
Warriors – Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green.
Spurs – Leonard, Aldridge, Gasol, Parker
Cavs – James, Irving, Love.
Rockets – Harden, Gordon.
Clippers – Paul, Griffin, Jordan.
Raptors – DeRozan, Lowry.
What do all of these teams have in common? They’re talent is superior to the Celtics. Brad Stevens has the Celtics right there with most of these teams.
The Celtics don’t have a championship roster just yet. What they do have is a championship GM and what looks to be a championship coach. The Celtics may very well get the #1 pick this year and put themselves in a better future position than any team in the NBA.
If Ainge keeps adding the talent, Stevens will continue to get the most out of the players. That’s a very dangerous combination for the rest of the NBA.
Be patient, Celtics fans. It’s almost time…and the Celtics have the best coach in the league.