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Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« on: November 24, 2017, 11:47:03 PM »

Offline Erik

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Analysis of the Celtics thus far

Hello. Iíve watched every minute of every game so far (aside from 5 minutes spent sobbing in the bathroom after the Hayward injury).
Iím going to analyze all of the main rotational players and the Celtics in general as of now. I've been writing this off and on for a week now, so some of the statistical rankings might be off as of when I post this.

The key pieces for our future

Coach Brad Stevens
What can be said about Brad Stevens? Heís clearly a top 5 coach in the NBA based on performance output of all of his teams. Coaching can only help so much, but great coaching actually can elevate players to exceed expectations. During his tenure as the Head Coach of the Celtics, Stevens has gotten the absolute best out of all of the players. Itís one of the reasons we keep over performing in trades: Weíre buying low and selling high:

  • Isaiah Thomas was the 3rd best PG on the Suns and under Stevens was a top 5 MVP candidate.
  • Jae Crowder was barely making the Mavs rotation, and 2 years later, analysts (and CelticsBloggers) were citing Jae Crowder as part of the argument on how we overpaid for Kyrie ****ing Irving
  • Amir Johnson looked like a guy who could actually be an average rotational player on a winning team, and heís barely cracking the rotation on a 1st round exit Philly team
  • Kyrie Irving had some of the worst defensive numbers (actually comparable to the worst: IT) and now heís playing above average defense. I wonít get into the stats here since theyíre a bit skewed since heís playing alongside the Cobra, but heís definitely a lot better.

I donít know too much about how he gets it done because all I can personally see are timeout clips, interviews, and 3rd party testimony, but it seems like heís able to build a system for the players that he has and get them to buy into it. During games, he seems to be cool and motivate players to overcome in game adversity as well as draw up some good out of timeout plays.

Al Horford
I purposely picked Horford as the first player to write about. If the Celtics were the Solar System, Al Horford would be the Sun. Heís not the best player, but he is the most important. When they call him a center, heís exactly that. Heís the Center of everything offensively and defensively. He sets the PnRs on offense (Kyrie/Horford PnR is so dangerous), is the 1st person to touch the ball in motion sets, and is the go to option in the low post when the play falls apart. On defense, Iím sure you guys have noticed, but our wing players are setting up gambits constantly where they are setting up to guard their strong hand and allowing the opposing wing to get into the paint. Why? Because Horford is right there to trap while someone else rotates to his man. He can guard all 1-5 relatively well. Obviously he wonít be guarding Russell Westbrook well, etc, but itís not an embarrassment. One of the main keys to the eventual Celtics dynasty is whether or not they can convince Horford to take the vet minimum in a few years. He has low NBA mileage (only his 10th seasonÖ Kyrieís 6th for example) so he will be playing well past 35. Horford is 13th in the league in VORP (value over replacement player), 9th in BPM, and 17th in Win Shares. The stats arenít astounding defensively and offensively, but visually he is the engine and itís showing up in advanced analytics fairly glaringly. When you build your modern NBA center cake, you want quickness, passing, 3pt shooting, post up game, rebounding, defense, and high IQ. That cake is Al Horford. The jack of all trades, ace of nothing. But thatís what the Celtics areÖ 11 interchangable guys .

I remember people were saying that heís overpaid. Iím not sure how that can be the case when heís exactly the Center that the Celtics need. Put another way, on the Cavs where they run ISO, drive to the basket, and kick out for a 3, Horford would be an overpaid 3 point shooter. On the Celtics, heís worth every penny. In the current scheme, I believe I would only trade Karl Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis Heís the 4th best Center in my book (I believe that Embiid is better but I wouldnít touch him) and a top 25 player. He deserves the max in a 30 team league.

Kyrie Irving
UNC What can I say? I cannot believe that we have Kyrie ****ing Irving. And all it took? Realistically BRK18. Why do I say that? Jae Crowder is not part of the future of this team with Jay2, and IT is redundant with Kyrie on our team. My wife thinks that Iím insane because every time heís 1v1 against someone, I scream ďput him in the blender!Ē Offensively, heís the most skilled player we have had on the Celtics since Larry Bird. That is not a hot take. Paul Pierce was a great Celtic, but I think that Kyrie is in the top tier of basketball offensive dominationÖ Iverson, Michael, Kobe, Larry. People keep wondering how we keep winning close games. If the score is within 5 with 5 minutes to go (when CBS puts Irving back in), weíre very likely going to win. Why? #1 defense + #1 closer. He still has some annoying hero ball behaviors where he walks up and launches a 3 from 5 feet behind the line, but hey.. Iíd rather him jack those up than whatever scenario the ball leaves Marcus Smartís hands (including layups). Defensively, heís taken a large leap. Iím not going to say heís an elite defender. I alluded to it earlier.. the advanced analytics here are failing. Heís not the 9th best defender in the NBA. He just happens to play on the same court as a handful of top defenders. Having said that, you can now see the big difference between IT and Kyrieís defense. Both ranked abysmal last year, Kyrie at least can physically play defense. If IT is guarding someone taller than 6í3Ē, itís like heís not even there. Thatís half a foot taller than himÖ imagine someone half a foot shorter than you trying to guard you. You can just shoot right over him. Itís like shooting a practice shot.. and at the NBA level, players shouldnít be missing practice shots regularly. Kyrie has bought into team defense and can actually play it reasonably well. Remember how I said that heís the most skilled player since Larry Bird? Larry Bird was the last Celtic to win the MVP (well, technically Garnett won it on another team). It could be happening again.

Jaylen Brown
Weíre all witnessing Jaythovenís 2nd symphony, and man is it better than the 1st. Two big changes:

1) Jaylen Brown might actually make an all defensive team this year. It honestly looks like they somehow cloned Marcus Smart and stretched him out to 6í7ĒÖ some kind of LeBron James / Marcus Smart hybrid. Heís hungry, heís aggressive, heís keeping his body in front of defenders, heís creating and grabbing the loose balls, heís blocking shots on chase downs. You know how I mentioned that advanced analytics has a tendency to elevate players based on their teammates? Jaylen is one of the elevators on defense. Heís somehow both bigger and quicker than all the other shooting guards heís playing against. The one knock I will put on his defense is that heís still young and making mistakes such as leaving his feet and falling for fakes. Thatís something that will just go away naturally so Iím not too worried about it.
2) Heís so much more aggressive on offense. I like the aggression and I think that heís reasonably reliable scorer. His 3pt shooting is up big time (+.6 to over 40%), heís able to get to the hoop basically whenever he wants. But there are a couple of problems that this leads to: finishing around the rim and FT%. He needs to take his time and focus on both of these. Someone with his ability to get to the rim needs to be shooting 75%+ from FT and converting almost all of the easy layups. These are the 2 things that he has to continue to work on to get to the Allstar level.

Jayson Tatum

Itís hard for me to hold back the homer hereÖ but what I am seeing is the personification of ďI canít believe heís only 19.Ē He looks like what I would look like if I went out back and played ball against some 10 year olds. This guy is making me feel like KD isnít the ceilingÖ but more like the floor.. if thatís even possible. I donít know what he can become because it may have not existed yet, but I do know this: I wouldnít trade him for ANYONEÖ not KAT, not Giannis, not KD, not Porzingis, not AD. Heís 23rd in VORP, 43rd in BPM, and 13th in Win shares. If heís showing this level of play at 19, imagine what a few years will look like. He can shoot, he can drive, he finishes with ease, he makes his free throws, heís long, he plays great defenseÖ my only criticism? He's a bit clumsy with the ball on drives... he has to work on his handles (maybe bend his knees more as he's driving and use his body and off hand to stop guys from poking the ball loose). My other criticism is not directed towards him.. itís directed towards Brad Stevens: give him half of Smartís looks (and the other half as well, honestly). Every time he has the ball in his hands, good things happen. The future is bright in Boston.

Marcus Smart

They call us the ďCardiac CelticsĒ large in part to Smart. The guy can pull off the sickest defensive and hustle plays and then clank 10 straight shots without remorse. I believe that Smart needs to be the off ball guard and (sigh) continue shooting open catch and shoot jumpers, even if heís only making 25% of then. You just canít afford to concede that 1 of your 5 players will never shoot ó it will kill our offense. I donít like the ball in his hands during PnRs and I certainly donít like him posting up or trying to beat people off the dribble. His role on the Celtics needs to be 3 and D. He HAS to shoot better from 3s. When you have people like Brown, Tatum and Irving on the team, there is absolutely no reason why Marcus Smart should be running PnR offense or taking people off the dribble trying to finish at the rim surrounded by 4 defenders when, honestly, heíd struggle to finish a wide open layup. Wide open 3? Yes, shoot it if no one else is open for a swing. He has to.

Iím going to use Smartís section to complain about something in general here. Why do we have to wait until the last 5 minutes to admit that Kyrie can score whenever he wants? During the Mavs game, there was a stretch where they went to Harrison Barnes on every single possession running the same play. Why? Because it was working! Why canít the Celtics just use their weapons? Why canít Tatum or Brown be the one who has the ball in his hands in PnR? Why canít Kyrie blender ISO people? If you had to rate on a scale of 1 to 100 on the likelihood of a good outcome, where would you rank these? 1) Kyrie on an ISO play 2) Tatum/Horford PnR 3) Smart post up. Framed that way, there should really be no #3 unless exactly Isaiah Thomas is the one guarding Smart.

Now, on to Smartís benefits. I know that Brown, Tatum, and the upgrade at PG in Kyrie are the big reasons why our defense is elite compared to last year, but Smart is our best defender and itís not even close. Every time you see a hustle play, a failed PnR, a loose ball, a contested rebound, a steal, etc.. Smart is either the reason or in the vicinity. If you play a drinking game in which you take a shot when Smart does something amazing, youíd be drunk by halftime. My favorite thing to watch is someone trying to make a move on him, and he just laterally jumps right in front of them. I know that this is controversial, but I believe that Smart is a key reason why we are playing so well. This team has been built around ďgetting just one stopĒ and Smart is the guy you want on the floor for that. I think he should be extended and continue to develop his 3 point jumper. He has clear mechanics issues that aren't that difficult to correct (release position & timing). This isn't a Lonzo Ball issue where it's a complete overhaul. The C's should hire the best shooting coaches to work with him.

The replaceables
The key pieces are CBS, Kyrie, Horford, Hayward, Brown, Tatum, and Smart. The rest of the rotation will be some combination of the following players + new acquisitions.

Marcus Morris

Morris has a very nice 1 on 1 game and has a smooth jumpshot. I think that his talent is wasted in the starting unit. He should be the #1 option on the second unit because God knows they need some offense. Until Hayward is back, Iíd probably put Semi to replace him in the starting lineup not because heís our 5th best player, but he would help the first unitís defense along with being a good perimeter threat on Kyrie/Brown/Tatum drive and dishes.

Terry Rozier

Terry is like if you tone down Kyrieís offense and Smartís defense/hustle and stick the pieces together. That makes him a pretty good player but nothing spectacular. That said, he could easily be a starting PG on a lot of NBA teams. I like him playing the PG on the 2nd unit with Smart as the 2 guard.

Aron Baynes

Heís a big body thatís capable of great defense, rebounding & decent 20 ft jump shots. Now that weíve covered his strengths, letís discuss what he isnít. He isnít Hakeem Olajuwon so stop putting him into the post. That hook shot looks absolutely terribleÖ

Daniel Theis

Ok I seriously underestimated this guy. Heís a rebounding machine and he plays good defense. Him and Baynes have turned us into one of the worst rebounding teams to one of the best. The part that makes me want to pull my hair out is missing easy put backs, dunks and alley-oops. But donít stress it too muchÖ heís just doing it on purpose so Smart doesnít look that bad.

Semi Ojeleye

Heís clearly setup to be a 3 & D player. The D is clearly there.. he needs to get better at shooting 3s. Overall, Iím fairly impressed that heís able to contribute well to a top 4 team this early in his career. Then again, if we traded him to the Sixers, heíd probably never see playing time and be in the D league/China for the rest of his life.

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2017, 01:54:20 AM »

Offline trickybilly

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Ease up on Baynes' hook. Pretty effective usually..
"Gimme the ball, gimme the ball". Freddy Quimby, 1994.

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2017, 03:08:07 AM »

Offline Greyman

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TP to the OP for the effort and dedication to the Celtics.

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2017, 05:03:43 AM »

Offline MasterEmile

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Both Brown and Tatum are below average ball handlers and passers for their positions, there is no way they should be running Pick and Rolls.
Agree on everything else you said.

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2017, 05:08:52 AM »

Offline tarheelsxxiii

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TP for effort.  You seem to be a little higher on each player than should be warranted, which will likely get you a lot of TPs here.  What does "UNC" Kyrie Irving mean?
"As far as playing, I didn't care who guarded me - red, yellow, black. I just didn't want a white guy guarding me, because it's disrespect to my game."
-Larry Bird

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2017, 07:45:53 AM »

Offline Celtics4ever

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You seem to be a little higher on each player than should be warranted

Often a blog wide issue for many.

I thought it was a nice effort albeit wordy.

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2017, 09:22:27 AM »

Offline DefenseWinsChamps

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Good thoughts.

Jayson Tatum has really good upside, but you slipped into fanatic hyperbole. Durant is a top 50 player all-time on his way to top 20. He has been a top 5 player in the NBA each year he's been injury-free. If Tatum got to that level, it would be amazing.

If everything went perfectly, he might become a top 5 player in the NBA. Any way you look at it, he is definitely a key cog on a championship team.

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2017, 10:13:16 AM »

Offline Eddie20

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Huge overreaction with these two takes-

"He could easily be a starting PG on a lot of NBA teams."

"This guy is making me feel like KD isnít the ceilingÖ but more like the floor. I wouldnít trade him for ANYONEÖ not KAT, not Giannis, not KD, not Porzingis, not AD."

Re: Analysis of the Celtics thus far
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2017, 11:55:56 AM »

Offline Phantom255x

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TP. Great, in-depth analysis.  ;D
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