Through sixteen games, the Celtics are 9-7. That’s not an overly impressive record for a team that was expected to take the next step forward after a 48 win season last year. With that said, the Celtics have had their fair share of injuries which have contributed to this record. Al Horford and Jae Crowder, in particular, missed significant time with injuries. The Celtics have clearly looked like a better team since their return with three straight wins before a tough loss to the Spurs on Friday afternoon. The Spurs game at TD Garden was a good test for the Celtics. They held a fourteen point lead early before ultimately losing to the a superior team. The Spurs game exposed a few things on the Celtics which will be pointed out in today’s post.
Here are five observations on the 2016-17 Boston Celtics.
1. Isaiah Thomas is not the Celtics best player. He’s not even their second best player. Thomas is a very good player. This is not a knock against him. He’s averaging 27.2 points and 6.5 assists a game. Those stats jump out. He’s a top ten scorer in the league. He makes big shots. As we all know, what he does as his size is probably nothing that has everyone accomplished in the NBA. However, to say that he’s the best player in the team is having a very narrow outlook on the game. His scoring stands out. His defense is a liability. On this team, where there is no much emphasis on defense, there are times where he can cannot be on the court because it’s such a disadvantage. This brings us to…
2. Avery Bradley is the best player on the Celtics. Bradley isn’t the flashiest player on the team. You’re not going to see as many highlights for Bradley as you will with Thomas. However, he was voted as the best defensive guard in the NBA last season and he surely is continuing his stellar defense this year. In addition, Bradley leads the team with 8.7 rebounds a game. He’s shooting a career high 46% from the field and is averaging 18.5 points per game. No liability with this guy. He is strong in ALL phases of the game. When opposing teams are talking trades with the Celtics, do you think they covet Thomas or Bradley more? Remember, GM’s aren’t looking for highlights. Their looking for wins.
3. Kelly Olynyk continues to get exposed and does not fit in with this team. Olynyk’s numbers are deceiving. If you were looking for a big man off the bench, you would take Olynyk’s 10.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. However, the numbers don’t tell the true story here. He’s a big liability on defense. He really got exposed in Friday’s game against the Spurs. He can’t guard players in the post and he loses battles for rebounds consistently. It just doesn’t work and it’s not going to work in the playoffs as was the case last year. They were exposed in this area last year and they will again if Olynyk is playing significant minutes.
4. The Celtics bench is overrated. We always hear about the Celtics depth being a big advantage. It isn’t this year. The only player on the bench making solid contributions is Marcus Smart. After that, the group is led by Olynyk, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jonas Jerebko. Brown has good potential, but he’s certainly not at a point where he’s making big contributions right now. Jerebko and Olynyk are similar players. They can hit the open jumper, but they hurt the team defensively. When the first unit is on the bench, the Celtics certainly don’t have the good depth that is typically discussed locally.
5. After Cleveland, the Celtics can compete with any team in the East. The Celtics starting five is very strong. Al Horford is making a big difference. He stats don’t jump out at you, but he does a lot of the little things that win you games. His defense has been even better than advertised and he’s shown a lot of leadership. Jae Crowder continues to improve and you can add him to the list of all-around play with Horford and Bradley. Outside of injuries, there’s no reason why this team can’t make it to the Eastern Conference Finals in a watered down conference.