As we start the new year, lets begin with reasons why the Boston Celtics should be excited about their potential. While they have an underwhelming record (who doesn’t in the Eastern Conference?), there should be plenty of optimism regarding this team going forward.
First of all, head coach Brad Stevens seems to be on his path to super-stardom as an NBA coach. While there have been hiccups along the way (figuring out lineups, utilizing players’ strengths), general manager Danny Ainge has certainly steered the Celtics in the right direction with the hiring of the former Butler coach. I would think Ainge would rather hire the coach one year early, than a year late, as I’m sure numerous teams would have jumped at the chance to hire Stevens.
With Stevens at the helm, he has the Celtics competing on a nightly basis, which doesn’t sound like much, but in the NBA that isn’t a common occurrence. While their record is nothing to be proud of, when looking at the talent at hand, it is quite remarkable that they have produced that many wins. That, in large can be attributed to Stevens and his coaching staff. They have coaxed the enigmatic Jordan Crawford into a respectable, and most surprisingly, mostly dependable point guard. That might be the most astonishing part of the season, to be honest with you. For anybody who had seen Crawford play in previous years, you would know that he never met a shot he didn’t like, generally espousing team play for a me-first strategy of play. Stevens has also managed to get steady production from a bunch of pedestrian players as well, more than thought possible.
The development of players such as Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley have also been key. Sullinger has been the team’s best rebounder, and arguably their most consistent scorer, once he got healthy. Now, on a championship caliber team, Sullinger would be a bench player, but for now it’s great to give him a heavier workload to see exactly what he can do when accumulating heavier minutes.
Bradley has had the offensive shackles taken off by this coaching staff, as he has consistently attempted more shots than he ever had during Doc Rivers’ tenure as coach. While he will never be a dynamic offensive weapon, it’s imperative that the coaching staff sees what he can do when setting him free to score. After slumping early in the season his three point shooting has picked up, and if he can maintain that, he will be a key piece going forward; be it on the team or as a trading chip.
The coaching staff has also managed to get reasonable production out of retreads Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries, Courtney Lee, and Gerald Wallace. These players won’t be on the team when the Celtics will be competing for championships again, but they can help Boston get there by continuing to play above expectations, and being used as valuable trade chips.
As we start the new year, the Celtics are primed for a bright future with Brad Stevens. Within the next few years, I’d expect the Celtics to be seriously challenging for the title again, as Danny Ainge acquires real talent via the draft and trades, and show how Stevens could be with a really talented team.
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