Tag: Boston Celtics


51 Q: Which team takes biggest step back this season?


51 Questions in 51 Days. PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:


Kurt Helin: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland is the clear and obvious choice — they lost or traded LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Nicolas Batum. That’s four starters out the door (plus guys like Arron Afflalo), and the guys they brought in are not of the same quality — many are not good jump shooters. When Aldridge chose to take his talents to San Antonio, the Blazers wisely decided to rebuild — and it’s a lot easier to rebuild when you start with a piece like Damian Lillard. But it’s going to be a process, at times a painful one. What they do offensively now must change — they loved the pick-and-pop with Aldridge, but now their big guys can’t shoot with range, so they are going to roll and that will draw defenders into the paint, meaning things will get clogged. It’s going to be a rough season in Portland.

One team that will push Portland for the crown? The Atlanta Hawks. They won 60 games last season and I expect a healthy step back for a few reasons: 1) They weren’t as good as their record last year, they had the point differential of a 56-win team; 2) They are going to miss DeMarre Carroll on the wing, especially with Thabo Sefolosha still trying to come back from injury; 3) Last season in the regular season they were fortunate to be largely healthy, odds say they will not be that lucky again. The Hawks are still a quality playoff team, they made some quality pickups in the offseason such as Tiago Splitter, but they will fall back to reality this season.

Dan Feldman: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland — largely by design, once LaMarcus Aldridge left — has chosen to take a step back. And it should be a large step. The Trail Blazers SLUMPED to a 51-31 finish last season. When everyone was healthy, they at least belonged in the championship-contender conversation. Now, it’d be a minor miracle if they won 51 games, let alone seriously enter the playoff race. They let Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo walk in free agency, and they traded Nicolas Batum. That’s just too much attrition from a team that values continuity, especially when the replacements are so young and unproven. I like what the Trail Blazers are doing. I just don’t expect them to win much this season.

Sean Highkin: Boston Celtics

Boston was the surprise of the second half of last season, going 20-11 after the All-Star break and sneaking into the playoffs as the seventh seed. It’s to Brad Stevens’ enormous credit that this roster of mostly spare parts played as well as it did down the stretch. And none of the moves they made this summer were bad, per se — it’s just hard to see where they got definitively better, at least to the point where they can definitely be penciled in as a definite playoff team. They re-signed Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko to good value contracts and signed Amir Johnson to fortify the paint, but they still lack an identity beyond “scrappy overachievers.” They have four point guards now, and none of them (save for maybe Marcus Smart) are the clear long-term answer. Danny Ainge is still waiting for the day when the years of asset collecting translate into a star. It’s certainly not anybody on this roster, which is full of players who are the fourth or fifth-best player on a good team. Boston should be right around where they were last season: in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the East, but without a clear path forward.

Brad Stevens hints he will explore taller, more traditional lineups

Brad Stevens

Last season down the stretch, Boston went small more and more often, using Jae Crowder as a four. Small ball works (see the NBA champs) and the league is trending that way.

But Brad Stevens may have his Celtics working against the grain this season. Or at least he’s going to explore it.

With the additions of Amir Johnson and David Lee to go with Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk, Stevens has options. He told Jay King of MassLive.com that he’s going to experiment a little.

This is the smart move to make — you have to adjust your system to the players, not go Mike D’Antoni and try to jam square pegs into round holes. (He eventually adjusted some with the Lakers, but not until it was too late.)

Plus, going against the grain can often be successful.

Small ball works — if you have the right players to execute it. Golden State went small but thanks to Draymond Green their defense didn’t suffer. Miami’s defense was quite good with Bosh as a center when they were winning. But those two teams have elite talent, and teams that do it and don’t have the talent can be exposed.

Meanwhile, guys like Lee, Jared Sullinger, Zeller, Olynyk, and crew could feast on small lineups. Stevens is smart enough to figure out what works best.

Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas: “I wanna be the best little guy to ever play the game of basketball”

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers- Game Two

Isaiah Thomas is one of the most entertaining players in the NBA. He is fearless, a little guy (5’9″) driving and scoring among the trees in the NBA — he finishes well, a career 65% inside the restricted area. He plays hard all the time. He’s once and always the Pizza Guy. He was the No. 1 scoring option for the Celtics when he arrived, a time when the team’s offense was in flux last season. He’s a guy Celtics fans are pumped to see back.

Thomas likely comes off the bench behind Marcus Smart — which is the perfect role for him. He’s not a good enough defender to start, but as a scoring spark plug off the bench that changes the game he’s perfect.

Just don’t expect him to be happy with that role — he has much bigger aspirations for himself. That’s what he told Jay King of MassLive.com.

You have to love his confidence. But the little guy mountain is a tough one to climb.

If we define “little guy” by NBA terms to mean 5’11” or under, then who is the best ever in the NBA?

I think Calvin Murphy sets that bar. The Hall of Famer and All-Star was a 5’9″ point guard who averaged 17.9 points a game in his 15-year NBA career, all with the Rockets. He had a career PER of 18.  It’s an impressive resume. (For the record, Allen Iverson was officially 6’0″ and “Tiny” Archibald was 6’1″.) Even the best player 5’11” and under in the NBA right now is Ty Lawson, not Thomas.

But I wouldn’t expect anything less of him than to try to climb that mountain.

Anthony Bennett has looked good playing for Canada. Will that carry over to NBA?

Men's basketball, Semi final round action,

Canada opens its FIBA Americas play today (Tuesday) taking on Argentina, in what should be one of the more attractive Group B matches in the tournament. It’s a game of contrasts. Argentina is the old guard, they have had international success — gold at the 2004 Olympics — but their golden generation has aged out (Manu Ginobili isn’t playing for them, for example). Canada is the young team on the rise, a squad loaded with young NBA talent — Andrew Wiggins, Andrew Nicholson, Cory Joseph, Nik Stauskas, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, and…

Anthony Bennett.

The former No. 1 pick, a guy panned as a bust, has looked good for Canada in warmups for the tournament. He was a starter and key part of Canada winning the FIBA Americas’ tuneup event, the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup. Against Brazil, he scored 11 straight points and finished with 16 points in 15 minutes in that tournament.

He was asked about what is different after that win, as reported by Josh Lewenberg at TSN.

“[I’m] just playing with confidence, pretty much,” the 22-year-old forward responded. “Just going out there, playing defense, running the court. Just doing the little things first and trying to make offense come to me.”

“Anthony has been exemplary this summer,” said (Canada GM Steve) Nash, the two-time NBA MVP and future hall of fame point guard. “He’s had a tough first two years in the league but his attitude’s been amazing. His talent has never been in question but his attitude, willingness to learn and attention to detail… not that his attitude was ever an issue, but for him to come, to play in the Pan Am Games, to partake in a whole summer with us, it shows he has a real willingness to learn and get better and a want to be a great player.”

Bennett is also healthy, which has not happened a lot through his first two years in the NBA, and those injuries impacted his conditioning.

The question is, can Bennett bring this same level of play to Minnesota next season?

Bennett has had moments where he’s looked improved before — 2014 Summer League, for example — but it hasn’t translated once the NBA tipped off. Bennett was better last season in Minnesota than he was as a rookie, but he still needs to make strides to become a regular rotation player an improving Timberwolves team can count on.

That’s the ceiling for Bennett, it seem — solid rotation player. That’s nowhere near what is expected out of a No. 1 pick, but that anchor around him is more about Cleveland’s misread than it is Bennett’s game (notice the Cavs changed GMs). Bennett is what he is.

Canadian coach Jay Triano told Bennett to simplify the game — find a thing or two you’re good at and focus on doing those things exceptionally well. Crash the boards, run the floor. Everything else will fall into place.

If it falls into place for the Timberwolves, it will be one more piece in their puzzle.

Report: Celtics engaged in contract extension talks with Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger

Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics

Will they take a little less to gain some long-term security?

That has been the contract extension debate for players around the league this summer. For players such as Jonas Valanciunas and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the answer was yes. For Tristan Thompson, the answer is no.

Boston is having those same discussions with two guys, and both may lean toward taking the security, if the number is right — Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. The sides are talking now and that will ramp up, reports the Boston Globe.

“Obviously, those are two guys that we like moving forward,” Ainge said. “So, yeah, there will be more discussions with both of them, probably during the month of October.”

Zeller, 25, appears the most likely of the three to be in line for an extension. The 7-footer averaged 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds last season and shot a team-high 54.9 percent from the field. Zeller’s win share of 6.5 — a metric that measures the amount of victories contributed by a player — was the highest on the team.

Sullinger, who averaged 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 58 games last year, is still just 23. But he already has had back and foot surgeries, and his conditioning has been a frequent issue. Sullinger has been training in Houston with former NBA player and coach John Lucas for much of the summer and has shared pictures of his apparently trimmed-down physique through social media. But his return to Boston for preseason training will be most telling.

By the three, they are also discussing Perry Jones, but he has to make the roster first (the Celtics have to cut one guaranteed contract and he could be that guy). Even if he does make it there is no extension in his future.

Zeller can take the security of a deal with the Celtics, or bet on himself and become a restricted free agent next summer when two-thirds of the league has max cap space and will be looking to hand out deals. Zeller averaged 10.2 points a game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.2 percent. He had the second highest PER on the Celtics last season (behind Isaiah Thomas), and Zeller led the Celtics in win shares (6.5). He’s a guy Ainge wants to be part of the Celtics’ future. Of course, the question becomes what’s the number that makes Zeller sign? Big men get paid, would something near Kidd-Gilchrist’s $52 million be enough?

As for Sullinger, he averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last season but that doesn’t mean everyone is sold on him. He has battled injuries through his career, which may make him inclined to take the security of a long-term deal. But again, it’s all about the number that works for both sides.

If I were a betting man, I’d expect there’s a better than 50/50 chance a Zeller deal gets done. Not so sure about Sullinger.