What does the future hold for the Celtics?

After a gutsy buzzer-beating win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, the Celtics lost Game 4 Tuesday night and find themselves down 3-1. However, they have simultaneously built a great basketball team that also has a very promising future.

The Celtics were the top seed in the Eastern Conference this year, so clearly they’ve built a team that can compete in the NBA. Their collection of assets also puts them in a unique position. Their roster is full of young guys budding with potential, and they have a number of quality picks over the next few years to build with.

The general assumption was that the Cavaliers had a stronghold on the Eastern Conference for the years to come, but Sunday’s game may have flipped that narrative on its head. Obviously, the Cavaliers are the better team. More than likely, the Cavaliers will advance to the NBA Finals with their commanding 3-1 lead. The difference between the teams is smaller than we thought though.

Boston Celtics Future

The future is bright in Boston. (Photo by Hoops Habit)

The Celtics have an interesting mix of proven talent and young players on their team. They’re starting lineup shows that foundation of proven talent. Isaiah Thomas has respectively proven himself as a top-tier offensive guard. Avery Bradley has done the same on the defensive side. In the frontcourt, Al Horford and Jae Crowder are proven talents as well.

Their stars have been great, but it is the production from their young guys that has proven to be the difference in these playoffs. Kelly Olynyk was crucial in delivering a Game 7 victory against the Wizards last week. Marcus Smart ended up being the difference Sunday night in the hard-fought victory.

The Celtics still don’t know what they have in guys like Smart, Olynyk, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. To make things more interesting, they have the top pick and this year’s draft and own the Nets’ pick in 2018.

The team will likely arrive at a crossroads this summer. They could try and turn the top pick into a star such as Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Or, they can use the draft pick (likely to pick Markelle Fultz) and continue their long term goals.

Something else to consider would be the team’s chances of taking down the Cavs in the near future. If the Celtics don’t think they can make the Finals while LeBron James is still in his prime, preparing for the future might be the best option. Would a superstar put them on the same level as the Cavs?

Most likely, the addition of a star player would not be able to stop LeBron in the coming years. Despite his anomaly of a game Sunday, he returned to form in Game 4. He has been having a historically dominant playoff run and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near his decline either. Not to mention, he has dominated the Eastern Conference for the past seven years of his career.

If the Celtics do decide to plan for the future, another key decision must be made regarding Isaiah Thomas. Thomas will likely warrant a max deal next summer, so the Celtics will have to either re-sign or replace him.

The Celtics looked much more formidable against the Cavs with Thomas on the bench Sunday. Sure, he is one of the large reasons the Celtics have made it this far. But is he the best option at point guard in the future?

Despite his offensive prowess, Thomas is quite a liability on the other side of the floor. Would waiting for someone like Fultz to develop be a better option for the Celtics? It would be difficult to commit such a large portion of the cap to a starting player that is so detrimental to the team’s defense. Much of the Celtics’ success is due to the fact that they are paying their star player barely more than $6 million per year. Because of that, they have been able to build a much better team around him.

It remains unclear what route the Celtics will take in their future plans. Either way, it’s hard to see them not being a strong contender within the next few years. Whether they add a superstar to their team or build around their young players and picks, the future looks incredibly bright for the Boston Celtics.

 

Featured Image by USA Today

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Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Boston Celtics 2017 NBA draft profile

Welcome to the first day of The Game Haus’ NBA Draftmas. We held an NFL Draftmas for the NFL Draft and wrote a draft profile for every NFL team. We will be doing the same with the NBA draft, starting with the Boston Celtics, who have the first pick.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft Summary

The Boston Celtics have been improving over the last several years. In the last three years, they have finished with the seventh, fifth and first seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Despite being the top seed, it is highly unlikely they get past the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. Clearly Boston has some things they can improve on.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Photo by Sporting News

Offensively, the Celtics finished seventh in the league in points at an average of 108 per game. They also controlled the ball very well. They tied for third most in assists per game with 25.2 and were also third in the league with an assist-to-turnover ratio of two.

Defensively, Boston was in the middle when it came to opponent points per game. They ranked 15th at 105.4 for a point differential of 2.6, which ranked eighth in the league.

One thing they could have done better is rebound the basketball. Only three teams had less rebounds per game than the Celtics’ 42 per game. There were also plenty of opportunities for rebounds as the Celtics ranked 16th in the NBA in field goal percentage at 45.4 percent. This is uncharacteristic of a Brad Stevens team. 

One other thing to look at is individual play. Isaiah Thomas was the Eastern Conference’s top scorer at 28.9 points per game. After him, they do not really have a second scorer to rely on. Avery Bradley averaged 16.3 a game, but is more known for his defense. Al Horford averaged 14, but has never been a big-time scorer in his career. Most of the league’s top teams have two guys capable of putting up a ton of points, and Boston lacks a second.

Through the draft, Boston should try to add another scoring option and some help with rebounding.

Celtics’ Picks and Needs

The Celtics have four picks in this draft.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Photo by www.sportslogos.net

First Round: No. 1 (from Brooklyn)

Second Round: No. 37 (from Minnesota via Phoenix), 53 (from Cleveland) and 56 (from L.A. Clippers)

The first overall pick is going to be used to get an impact player and a second scoring option for Thomas to work with. The other three could go multiple directions. These are some guys the Celtics could benefit from drafting.

Scorer: Most top teams have two scorers with 20-points-per-game potential. Boston does not have that.

Rebounder: Boston ranked low in rebounds with plenty of opportunities to grab some. Possibly something they can address in the second round. 

Celtics’ Targets and Thoughts

Let’s take a look at the options Boston has with their first-round pick.

Pick #1: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

Almost every mock draft you read has Fultz going first, and there is a reason for that. The 6-foot-4 point guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in his one year at Washington. He also shot 41.3 percent from the 3-point line.

Fultz has the scoring ability Boston needs. In time, he can develop into an impact player that can help score alongside Thomas.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Photo by 247 Sports

Thomas is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. While he does not seem interested in leaving at the moment, Boston needs to do everything they can to keep him. Giving him more weapons on offense surely helps them. In the event that Thomas does leave, Fultz should be ready to take over as the franchise player.

The other option with the pick is to trade it. Some analysts believe Boston needs to build a team to win now that can defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rumors have swarmed in the past about Boston trading for a superstar like Paul George or Jimmy Butler as well.

However, it may be better to let Fultz develop within the young team. The Cavs are a lot older than Boston. Isaiah Thomas is 28. Avery Bradley is 26. Al Horford is 30. Last year’s third overall pick Jaylen Brown is 20. Gerald Green is their oldest player at 31.

The bottom line is Boston is young. They can afford to wait three to four years for their guys like Brown and Fultz to develop into studs next to Thomas, Horford and Bradley. By then the Cavs should be on the decline. Trading for a superstar now wouldn’t be the worst thing to do with the first overall pick, but trying to beat the Cavs right now in the postseason seems nearly impossible.

Fultz is the best option. Drafting anybody else would be selling themselves short and trading the pick does not make sense when looking at the bigger picture.

Conclusion

Boston has two options with the first pick. They can trade it for an impact player now, or draft one like Markelle Fultz. It all depends on how confident they are in Fultz and if they are willing to let their young team develop and wait for the Cavaliers to get old so they can overtake them. They do already have a point guard, but there is not anybody else that compares to Fultz’s talent. Playing him at shooting guard alongside Thomas would make a scary backcourt.

Thank you for joining us on our first day of TGH NBA Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the draft profile for the Los Angeles Lakers!

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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens is the biggest key to Boston’s success

When you look at the Boston Celtics’ roster, a couple names will stand out.

First there is Isaiah Thomas, the NBA’s third highest scorer. The two-time All-Star point guard is the clear leader in Boston. Everything starts and ends with him.

Then there is Al Horford, a 10-year veteran and four-time All Star. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder. There was a lot of excitement among Boston fans when they signed him this past summer. He averaged 14 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his first season with the team.

The last name that might stand out to you is Avery Bradley. He is more known for his defense, but has improved his scoring over the years.

There aren’t really any weapons on this Boston team besides those guys. A 12-point gap exists between their leading scorer and second-highest scorer in terms of points per game. No one averages even seven rebounds a game on their team.

However, the Celtics ranked seventh in points per game. They also move the ball very well, evidence by their 25.2 assists per game, which ranked fourth in the league. They take care of the ball as well with the ninth fewest turnovers in the league at only 13.3 per game.

All of these things have contributed to Boston getting to the top of the Eastern Conference this season. The Celtics do not look intimidating on paper, so how did they do it?

Brad Stevens took Butler to back-to-back title games. (Photo by Zimbio)

The answer is Brad Stevens. Stevens has done so much for the organization in the four seasons he has been with the team. He took them from nothing and turned them into contenders.

Before Stevens came to Boston, he was working his magic with the Butler Bulldogs. In his six seasons with the team he went 166-49 and brought Butler to the National Championship game in back-to-back seasons. They may not have won either of them, but Stevens put Butler on the map.

Stevens has been known for his young age. When initially hired at Butler, he was the second-youngest coach in NCAA Division I basketball. Later on he became the third-youngest coach in NCAA Division I history to have a 30-win season. He was also the second-youngest coach to make an NCAA Championship game and youngest coach to make two Final Fours.

When Stevens signed with Boston, he was the league’s youngest active coach at 36 years old. The young genius did not have much to work with when he first came to Boston in 2013. Yes, the team went 41-40 the season before, which was good enough for the seventh seed in the playoffs.

However, the team made a blockbuster trade with the Nets and lost key contributors like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. They received Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks and the right to swap first-round picks this season.

Looking back, Boston obviously won this trade because of the draft picks, but the players they received were not much to be happy about. Joseph was waived not too long after the trade and the four remaining players averaged a combined 18.6 points per game in their first season in Boston. Neither of those guys are on the team today.

The starting lineup featured guys like Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green. Green lead the team in scoring at just 16.9 points per game. Star point guard Rajon Rondo only played in 30 games due to an injury he suffered in the season before. It was a tough first year for Stevens in Boston as the team finished 25-57.

In Stevens’ second season, he improved the Celtics to a 40-42 record. It was not a winning record, but it was 15 more wins than the previous season and was good enough to get Boston back to the playoffs. They suffered a first-round sweep to the Cleveland Cavaliers, so there was still a lot of room for improvement.

The Celtics finished 48-34 in the next season, but still couldn’t get past the first round of the playoffs. They lost to the Hawks in six games. At least it was not a sweep like the previous season. This year, they finally got past the first-round.

Brad Stevens

Imagine how much better Stevens will get as he continues to gain experience. (Photo by The Boston Globe)

Now in his fourth season, Stevens has the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They finished first in the East with a 53-29 record. Only the Cavs stand in their way of returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. It is going to be a tough task considering LeBron James has been in the Finals the last six seasons.

Regardless of the end result, look at what Stevens has done with the team. He took them from one of the worst teams in the East to the top seed. Stevens should be right up their in the league’s top coaches along with Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr. It might finally be time for Stevens to win NBA Coach of the Year.

Stevens has the Celtics at the top of the East despite only having one All Star this season. The second-seeded Cavs have three and the third-seeded Raptors have two.

Stevens has had a short career in coaching so far with only 10 years between college and the NBA. He is also only 40 years old. He is so young and has had so much success already in the time he has had. Imagine what he can become in the future with the amount of experience Popovich has had. Also imagine what he could do with a few more star players.

They will be adding to their bright future in the offseason as they just won the NBA draft lottery. They will also have the Nets’ draft pick next season. Stevens is going to continue to get young talent to work with veterans like Thomas, Horford and Bradley for the upcoming years. It is going to be interesting to see if Boston will ever take down the Cavs.

Featured Image by NBA.com

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Seven Stats or Less: Atlanta Hawks

This 2016-2017 season for the Atlanta Hawks has been a bit of a roller coaster. After the events of the offseason, there has been some expected trauma. Now in the middle of an 8-1 stretch in their last nine games, things have seemed to settle down for the team that sits fourth in the jumbled Eastern Conference. Today, we’ll go over some Atlanta Hawks stats that help illustrate the team’s structure.

The team is sure to be a major player at the trade deadline, or then again maybe not. That’s how it has gone for the Hawks this year, a hard team to grasp a handle on, but very entertaining to follow. On to the stats.

  1. This season for the Atlanta Hawks sees them 21st in offensive efficiency and 8th in defensive efficiency. Losing Al Horford and Jeff Teague undoubtedly hurt the offense, but the defense has remained steady. Trading Kyle Korver a couple of weeks ago will have its effects. However, Mike Dunleavy has showed he should be able to contribute the team in his two showings for the Hawks. Coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff are making sure that even if the team isn’t scoring, the opponent isn’t either. The team also adept at forcing turnovers and creating offense out of the oppositions’ mistakes – 17 points off of turnovers.
    Atlanta Hawks Stats

    Via USA Today Sports Images

  2. Atlanta is long and rangy on the defensive end and they know it. When the team is engaged, they use that length and energy to become a terror on that end. Top ten in deflections and recovered loose balls, getting in the passing lanes and or poking balls away is and easy way to disrupt what teams are doing on offense. Out-hustling the other five guys on the court for loose balls is a great to build momentum and keep possessions alive.
  3. Before the home loss to the Boston Celtics, the Hawks were on a seven-game winning streak and playing well. Someone who went a tad bit under the radar was Dwight Howard, specifically his rebounding. During the win-streak, Howard posted 2 games of 20+ rebounds. Over the last five games he’s averaging 14 rebounds. Grabbing boards at such a rate is still excellent to see from the 31 year-old big man.
  4. The lineup of Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder, and Thabo Sefolosha per 100 possessions has a 27.6 net rating. The offensive rating of 120 is an elite showing. Although the lineup has seen limited floor time, this is clearly a five man deployment that has shown prodigious results for Coach Bud.
  5. Dennis Schroder is third in the league in drives to basket, ahead of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, albeit only by a few percentage points. Peculiarly, Schroder is only attempting a little over a free throw per game in such instances. For context Jimmy Butler attempts four free throws.
    Atlanta Hawks Stats

    Via USA Today Sports Images

  6. The endowment of the starting point guard responsibilities has given a jump to the touches of Schroder. With 71 touches a game, Dennis has 12 more touches than the next player. Schroder has played well enough in his new role, knowing that there would be an adjustment period for the third year guard from Germany.This significant of a jump in load has shown the ups and downs of Dennis, but hopefully in the years to come as he becomes more comfortable his game will catch up to his role.

 

 

 

 

 

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If LeBron James took a Year Off: Who’s Ready?

LeBron James. 12-time all Star, 3 NBA championships, 3 MVPs, 10 all-NBA teams. The six straight finals, the two championships with the Miami Heat and the one for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This past NBA finals saw James almost single-handedly take a championship back from the clutches of the Golden State Warriors. Over 40,000 minutes played over his 13 year illustrious career. 8,383 playoff minutes.

USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports

His place set at the table of NBA deities. If he decided to take a year off, would anyone blame him? Outside of GM David Griffin, there shouldn’t be any backlash or drop in Q rating. He probably wouldn’t take up baseball a la Michael Jordan. But what would most likely take away from the shock and intrigue from his departure would be which team would take the title as the number one seed from the Cavs. It’s not a stretch to assume that the Cavs would no longer be the prohibitive favorites to repeat as champions.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

 

No team that assumed that role would be the favorites either. There isn’t a team in the league without James that has the ability to knock off the Warriors especially now that they’ve added Kevin Durant. No harm in trying though. There are 3 teams in the Conference that have the talent to take the next shot at the Dubs.

 

Honorable mention

Cleveland Cavaliers- one would have to assume that James left a winning culture behind. With Kyrie Irving coming off his first Ring, and maybe a successful Olympics there is a chance he will take a leap in his leadership role and help keep the team competitive and out of the lottery. Irving and Love should be a formidable offensive combo.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

That’s how they would have to operate, outscore the other team. The defense would be sub-par at best. With LeBron off the court last season the team’s offensive rating dropped 13.9 points to an anemic 101.6 points. Coach Tyronn Lue has to devise a plan to keep the offense flowing and productive. If none of these things happen, the Cavs would be back competing for a different number one.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

 

Most likely to succeed

Boston Celtics- Fans of the Celtics are extremely optimistic about their team even with Lebron still in the league. But for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll also extend some glass half full perspective. They added Al Horford, an all-star with great IQ and a well above average jack-of-all trades. Passing, shooting, defense. Although he only shot 34% from 3 with the Atlanta Hawks last season he made 84% percent of his attempts at the rim. With Isaiah Thomas penetrating the defense and getting to the rack, there should be plenty of close range shots for Horford.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Horford has great defensive instincts. He knows where to be and has to the ability to get there on time. He’ll be thirty years old when the season starts so while a slight decline would be expected, he should have just enough athleticism left to be a rim protector. Additionally, he would fit right in as the team’s leader. This Celtics squad is starved for someone to be the alpha. Thomas is the leading scorer, but is he ready to spearhead a contender?

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Toronto Raptors- Last year’s eastern conference runner’s up should have enough experience and continuity to take the number one spot. They had a record regular season, winning over 50 games for the first time in franchise history. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan was extremely formidable. Both averaging over 20 points per game in the regular season. Jonas Valanciunas also had a plus season for them as well. The playoffs however saw their backcourt struggle.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Derozan’s lack of 3-point shooting in the regular season didn’t hurt as much (1.8 attempts per game) in the playoffs though his paltry 15% shooting from behind the arc was flat out embarrassing. Lowry’s very noted struggles only add to the fact that maybe when the expectations are high, he wouldn’t be able to lead them past his competitors. Nevertheless, with no James to have to overcome it could relieve some of the tension and lead to a more carefree environment for them.

 

Dark horse squad

The Indiana Pacers team that challenged James’ Heat teams are no more. Roy Hibbert is no longer an all-star type player and no longer plays for the Pacers. David West, the team’s enforcer and veteran leader is playing for pennies for the Warriors. George Hill, the underappreciated point guard that manned the backcourt now plays for a budding Utah Jazz team. Frank Vogel, the head coach that manned an almost impenetrable defense was fired and now Coaches the Orlando Magic.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

The only Major piece left is Paul George. The forward averaged a career high in points last season at 23 ppg only a season after missing 76 games due to a horrific leg incident during a FIBA exhibition game. It would be up to George to take a hold of this roster and lead it back to championship contender status. Jeff Teague was an excellent addition to the team as he adds playoff experience and change of pace at the point guard position. Thaddeus Young, another offseason addition adds some needed athleticism in the frontcourt. Al Jefferson, while not in the mold of Larry Bird’s plan to play faster, would give them some luxury scoring.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the young, talented Myles Turner. His defensive upside is right on par with already budding offensive arsenal. With a playoff series under his belt already in his rookie season, there wouldn’t be any surprises for the young, versatile forward.

 

This is all hypothetical. Should James take a year off to rest on his laurels, although unlikely, someone has to step up and challenge the teams in the Western Conference. Each of the teams mentioned could challenge a LeBron led team. And they’ll have to, which may be harder than in years past now that is seemingly no pressure on James. They can only hope he would consider taking an extended vacation.

Second Round Predictions Part II

Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel

Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks- This is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Championship in which Cleveland swept Atlanta. The Cavaliers have had tons of rest and are the better team. The loss of DeMarre Carroll does not make the Hawks better or give the Hawks a better chance than last year. Last year it was so much of a cake walk for the Cavs that I don’t think the Hawks have a real shot at winning unless the Cavs run into injuries. With that being said it would take four perfect games from Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Jeff Teague to win this series. The Cavaliers will win this series and the only question is in how many games.

Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers in 5

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat- Let me be the first to say it is fun to watch Dwayne Wade again. I see the old Wade, the Wade pre-LeBron. He is a much more exciting player without LeBron. He is the unquestioned leader for the Heat. He provides so much experience, heart and leadership for a team that is mostly young and talented. Luol Deng has lots of playoff experience as well that has been very beneficial to the Heat. It has given them a reliable all around player. Hassan Whiteside has been a beast defensively as well. The Heat look poised to win the series but the Raptors will not go down without a fight. It took them longer than expected to eliminate the Pacers but after a superstar performance from Demar DeRozan and a surprise performance from Norman Powell in game seven the Raptors advanced and will look to knock off the Heat. This could be a long series as well but an exciting and intriguing one. This series has a chance to be the best series of the second round. It is definitely a difficult series to pick. Sorry Toronto, I really want to see LeBron go to battle against Wade and the Heat.

Prediction: Miami Heat in 6