Brad Stevens Make a Good Celtics Team Very Dangerous

Rewind to opening night in the NBA. Gordon Hayward had the latest gruesome leg injury and the Cleveland Cavaliers ruined Kyrie Irving’s Celtic debut. With Hayward out for the year, many immediately left the Celtics for dead and were ready to name the Cavs Eastern Conference champions yet again. After that, Boston lost to Milwaukee to drop to 0-2 and it looked like Hayward’s absence would indeed be missed this year.

All Brad Stevens and company did from there was rattle off 12 straight wins and now own the best record in the NBA. And while their opening night opponents are still struggling to find their identity, Boston seems to have theirs figured out. One large reason why is the man on their sidelines.

Say what you want about the top coaches in the NBA. Greg Popovich has been a mad genius for years. Steve Kerr and Golden State have lost just 24 games in two seasons. You can mention Thibodeau, D’Antoni, and Spoelstra. None of them have been as impressive as Brad Stevens has so far this season.

Imagine winning the Eastern Conference last season over the mighty Cavaliers. Then imagine trading your best player, who was the heart and soul of your club. Imagine trading away your defensive specialist on the perimeter. You replace them with two all-stars, but you lose one of them on opening night. You now have one all-star, who grant it is one of the best players in the league, and a back court of young, unproven players. Couple that with a thin front court. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for sbest record in the NBA.

Now I know that is exaggerated to an extent. The cupboard is not empty in Boston. They do have Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and two lottery picks in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. It’s not that they are winning that is the impressive part. It’s how they are winning. They come from behind (see their game against Oklahoma City). They win the close game (25% of their wins have been a one possession game). And they’ve even won at less than full strength (Irving and Horford have each missed games).

Brad Stevens has this team competing. He has them playing very balanced and serving their roles. Irving is the team’s leading scorer, but six other players are scoring 10 points plus a game, if you include Marcus Morris’s 12.2 in just five games. Horford leads the team in rebounding, but league sophomore Jaylen Brown chips in almost seven a game. Aron Baynes, the definition of a role player, adds six a game as well. Their assist leader? Marcus Smart. The guy everyone was worried would lose his place on this team. He also adds 1.67 steals per game, second to Kyrie’s 1.92.

Top to bottom Stevens is getting production from their guys on the floor. And the result is win after win. That’s the biggest thing a coach can do in the NBA; Get his team to buy into their roles and play as one, cohesive unit. Not bad for a guy that many thought would flame out after a couple seasons, as most college-to-NBA coaches do.

I’m not crowning the Celtics 2018 NBA Champions three weeks into the season. I’m not saying give Brad Stevens the Coach of the Year award yet either. There is far too much season. The Pistons are legit and the Cavs will be scary come playoff time when they get their point guard healthy. A lot can still happen. But right now it doesn’t seem to matter who Boston throws out on the court. Brad Stevens has them winning.

NBA Draft Lottery Prediction: Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics- #3 Pick 2017 NBA Draft

Needs: Wing Scoring, Depth at the 3/4 Position

The Pick: Jayson Tatum

Other Options: Josh Jackson (Kansas), Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)

The Celtics lack of talent on the wing was exposed in their series with the Cavs, when LeBron James absolutely dominated Boston. Granted, he is (arguably) the best player of all-time, the Celtics will need to figure out a way to counter LeBron for the next several years.

Since it is nearly impossible to stop James, the best way for the Celtics to counteract him is to keeping pace with his offensive output. That is why the Celtics are looking to sign Gordon Hayward, and that is why they should take Tatum over Jackson, despite most regarding Jackson as the better talent.

Tatum averaged impressive numbers at Duke, dropping over 16 points per game and hauling in over 7 rebounds. His 6-11 wingspan and slightly larger frame gives him versatility to play the 4 position and add depth to the front-court as well, something that Josh Jackson cannot provide.

Tatum can score in a multitude of ways and has great offensive instincts. He is dangerous driving to the lane or posting up on the block, and he has been making significant strides to improve his outside shooting. Jackson did perform slightly better from beyond the arc, but if there is anything to be learned from the progression of NBA talent, it is that shooting can be taught, while size and instinct are hard to change.