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NBA 2015-16 Team Previews: Boston Celtics – The Win-Win Season

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Boston Celtics

Our NBA 2015-16 Team Previews continues with the Atlantic Division. Next up it’s time to break down the Boston Celtics:

Record:  40-42, 7th in the Eastern Conference, 2nd in Atlantic Division, Failed to make playoffs

Rank: Offense: 101.7 (20) Defense: 102.1 (14) Differential/Net: minus -0.4 (18) Pace: 98.4 (5)

2014-15

Key Stats:

  • Isaiah Thomas had an immediate impact upon arrival: Celics scored 109.2 points per 100 possessions with Thomas on the court vs. 101.0 when he was off it. As per John Schuhmann of NBA.com that’s the difference between a top 3 offense and bottom 10 offense.
  • The other factor was how often the team got to the line when he was in the line-up combined with the team turning the ball over much less.
  • Boston was first in the NBA in field goal attempts

Off Season Moves

Key Areas Needing Addressing:

  • Consistency: the Celtics tend to go on stretches of winning and then bouts of losing ironically beating the good teams and losing to the lesser teams.
  • Head coach Brad Stevens needs to use this season to assess his talent and decipher who’ll be the best fit moving forward both from a talent and chemistry standpoint
  • The Celtics were number 1 in the league for field goal attempts, but ranked 27th in free throw attempts. Look for Stevens to add versatility in Boston’s game with more drives to the basket by someone other than Isaiah Thomas.

Draft:

  • Terry Rozier selected with the 16th pick of first round
  • R.J. Hunter selected with the 28th pick of the first round
  • Jordan Mickey selected with the 33rd pick of second round – signed 4 year term for $5M
  • Marcus Thornton selected with the 45th pick of second round

Player Additions/Players Re-Signed:

Players Exiting:

2015-16

Core Players:

Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee, Tyler Zeller

Key Reserves:

Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Isaiah Thomas, (a strong candidate for 6th man) Evan Turner

Outlook

Rising Star:

If you didn’t watch the FIBA Americas Tournament this summer you missed Kelly Olynyk loudly announcing his arrival to the world’s basketball loving public. In the game that determined which team would secure an Olympic berth the highly favored Canadians played their worst game losing by one point on a free throw (the result of a very questionable call made with no time left on the clock).

Entering the night  Nik Stauskas, Anthony Bennett and a few others were still recovering from a bout of food poisoning and the Venezuelan’s were clutching and grabbing Andrew Wiggins as if their lives depended on it. Olynyk kept his team in the game shooting 11 of 13 from the field scoring a game high 34 points, including 3 long balls and grabbed 13 rebounds. The Canadians will get another opportunity this summer to capture one of the remaining 3 wild card seeds. In the interim Celtic’s fans can expect to see a much improved player this season. 

On The Bubble:

During his Celtic tenure Jared Sullinger has had brief glimpses of potential. Unfortunately consistency and stamina have eluded him. He was sent off at season end with an edict to improve his conditioning it appeared he took them to heart when he arrived to training camp in his best shape ever. It may be too little too late however as Boston picked up 2 players both superior in talent this off season in Amir Johnson and David Lee. It seems unreasonable they’ll keep all 3 through to season end, so Sullinger will be under a microscope. Though Stevens has been starting Lee I’m not convinced he’ll fit their system nor is he good defender so Sully will have a chance, but he’ll need to make the most of his opportunities.

X-Factor:

Amir Johnson: The third power forward offers the most versatility; capable of playing either big position, is a solid defender, does all the intangibles and will raise his game to another level when his team needs it. Like Andre Iguodala of the Warriors, Johnson is the glue to his team on and off the court. He was my favorite player in Toronto and it was with a heavy heart many in the TDot bid him adieu. Before season end count on Amir having a strong and vocal following in beantown with their knowledgeable fan base. Ex Raptors like Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady upon their return visits  were booed every time they touched the ball. But, when the Celtics come to the ACC on January 20th,  “the Mayor of Toronto” (as he was dubbed by a few of his ex Raptor teammates, and given our recent Mayor fiasco I’m not sure the players understood how funny that was) can expect a standing ovation and resounding cheer from those in attendance.

Best Case:  The young team has added some solid veteran leadership with Johnson and Lee as well as a potent offensive threat in Isaiah Thomas to marry with their youthful core. I’m sure Danny Ainge would still like to add a high end star or two, or three to the squad. Looking at Ainge’s history he has the patience of Job, so he’s been stock piling draft picks which he’ll utilize at the perfect time to grab that “go to” player.

Stevens will continue to sift through the talent he has and continue to impress those around the Association by squeezing every drop of goodness out of his team. Though not guaranteed, Boston should be in the playoff mix again.

Worst Case:  Teams will be better prepared for Boston this season knowing they run a high paced offense so look for teams to try to trap them in transition. The challenge for Stevens will be which area he focuses on improving first. Last season’s 5th rated pace would dictate they’ll focus on climbing into the top 10 offensively, though it feels odd for a Celtic team not to be considered a defense first team. What could stymie them is simultaneous injuries to key contributors, youngsters not advancing as quickly as anticipated or a lack of chemistry.

Prediction:

As highlighted above Danny Ainge has a horde of draft picks with potential to pad the nest with deals he made with teams who were contenders at the time.  This puts Boston in a prime position to end up with potentially 3 top 10 picks in the lottery. I noted in the Dallas preview their pick is only top 7 protected which means if Dallas ends up any higher than 23rd Ainge gets his pick. Last year the Lakers moved up and we aren’t that far removed from Cleveland making a massive jump to to grab the first pick.

Even sweeter is the unprotected pick of Brooklyn that Boston owns. The Nets have an aging roster without much talent and their youth (other than Thaddeus Young) aren’t going to make the team immediately better. Rondae Hollis Jefferson will be a solid defender, but his offense needs work and he’ll need time to develop.

The real beauty of the Boston situation is they can gun for the playoffs unlike teams (cough… Philly) who’ll go out of their way to tank and still have a possibility of getting the top draft pick. Just take a look at what Ainge has in his coffers and more importantly what teams’ picks they are:

First Round Picks:

  • Their own
  • Brooklyn: unprotected
  • Dallas: protected 1 through 7
  • Minnesota via the Suns protected 1 through 12

Second Round Picks:

  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Miami
  • Minnesota: if above first round pick falls into the protected territory of top 12 then the pick can be used in the 2nd round this year or next
  • Dallas: separate from above first round pick this second round pick is the better of the Dallas or Memphis’ second round pick)

Scanning the teams above the Dallas and Brooklyn pick stand out simply because it’s highly feasible both teams (especially the Nets) are likely to be bottom feeders. In fact, it’s conceivable Dallas could miss the playoffs, but be in the bottom 10 or that Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson suffer injuries and Brooklyn plummets to the basement. If that situation occurs we could witness Boston in the playoffs possibly even winning a round (depending on what additional moves Ainge makes this season) and also getting the top pick along with another in the top 1o.

Sep 26, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) during media day at the Sacramento Kings practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 28, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) during media day at the Sacramento Kings practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Plus, don’t count out the possibility Ainge uses those 3 to 4 first round picks and 4 to 5 second round picks prior to the trade deadline. It’s even feasible he could use some picks in concert with one of his excess power forwards to trade for a star.

In this scenario David Lee’s contract will be more appealing with his expiring contract of $15,493,680.

Who’s most likely? …

Publicly DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl are saying there is no friction but observation of Boogie Cousins press day photo’s indicate otherwise (His 2014 press day photo is on top and 2015 on the bottom)

Besides doesn’t it feel like Cousins was meant to play for Boston?

If the Kings falter early it’s a no-brainer for Ainge to pursue this possibility. (though I’ll keep Denver in the mix because of Cousins relationship with his former coach Mike Malone).

I’m boldly predicting Boston will make a trade prior to the deadline improving their squad, they’ll nab a low playoff seed (6-8) and when Brooklyn falls apart they’ll reap the rewards.

Bottom line, before the season opens Tuesday night and the 76ers tip off in Boston Wednesday the Celtics are already big winners this season!

Games versus the Houston Rockets:

  •  November 16th at Toyota Center in Houston
  • March 11th at TD Garden in Boston

Fansided Affiliate Site:  Hardwood Houdini

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

Next: Rockets Preview

Next: 76ers Preview

Next: SCS Complete Round Table Sessions

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