Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Evaluating Isaiah Thomas’ new role with the Lakers

On Feb. 7, Isaiah Thomas said in a postgame interview with ESPN that he was “tired of being traded.” Hopefully he wasn’t too tired of it, because one day later, the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped him off to Los Angeles.

In the most surprising trade of the deadline, Cleveland sent Thomas and Channing Frye to the Lakers. In return, they received dunk contest participant Larry Nance Jr. and expensive point guard Jordan Clarkson. Cleveland also traded away its first-round pick (not the Brooklyn pick), which should be relatively low.

Thomas has been underperforming in his contract year, coming off of a hip injury. It is now the Lakers’ job to figure out the best way to utilize him.

Bench player

Thomas began his Lakers tenure coming off of the bench against the Mavericks. Los Angeles utilized a backcourt made up of Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, two players familiar with the system, instead of starting Thomas.

Thomas’ agent vehemently stated that he will not be a bench player for the Lakers. He even went as far as to say that Thomas would “demand” a buyout if Los Angeles made him a bench player for a significant amount of time.

All of this is understandable for a player who is trying to get paid in the offseason. Of course he wants to be seen as a franchise player, rather than a bench scoring option.

But considering his lack of production since his injury, it’s also understandable that the Lakers want to hedge their bets. In his 15-game sample size as a Cavalier, he averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists. That’s a huge drop-off from the 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game he contributed last season in Boston. It’s reasonable to question whether he’ll ever be the same player as he was in the 2016-17 campaign.

Defense

In his career year last year, Brad Stevens and the Celtics successfully hid Isaiah Thomas’ defensive shortcomings. This was due to the coaching and the overall defensive talent and commitment in Boston.

The Cavaliers, however, could not. In his time with Cleveland he posted the worst defensive rating for any player in the last 25 years. Being historically bad at defense is not a good look, even in a league that doesn’t put a premium on defense.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Darren Collison blows by Isaiah Thomas during his time with the Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

Whether or not he can improve this area of his game will have massive impact on Thomas’ new role. The Lakers are not in contention for a playoff berth, and it’s unlikely that they would sign him after the seasons’ end. Dumping Clarkson’s salary and receiving a pick positions Los Angeles to get two stars in the upcoming offseasons. Signing Thomas to the rich contract he’d likely ask for would work directly against that plan.

However, if he can somehow return to last year’s form and improve his awful defense, the Lakers’ focus could shift slightly. He could even be seen as a piece of their future. It’s all very doubtful, though.

Crowded backcourt

Although Lonzo Ball is currently out with an MCL sprain, the Lakers have all but committed to him as their point guard of the future. That doesn’t bode well for Thomas’ starting point guard aspirations.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during a game against the Wizards. (Photo by Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Los Angeles also has Tyler Ennis, Gary Payton II and Brandon Ingram, who can play the position. Couple that with the three shooting guards on the roster, and that makes for a very crowded field. Thomas will very much have to win his starting spot.

Thomas does have his potential going for him though. And the Lakers have enough young talent to mask his struggles somewhat. He also has veteran status, which is invaluable on such a young team.

Again, though, since the Lakers are not in playoff contention, they will be doing their best to give their young players time on the court.

Prediction

Thomas will probably be a spot-starter for the Lakers moving forward. Walton will throw him in the starting rotation in games where offense will be the order of the night.

It makes perfect sense to bring him off of the bench for his first game as a Laker. He’s unfamiliar with the system, and will need an adjustment period before starting him is justified.

Thomas obviously needs more games removed from the hip injury before NBA teams and fans can judge him fairly. But during a contract year on a team where he is a luxury, Los Angeles can do whatever they want regarding his playing time.

Magic Johnson is a former point guard that has a reputation of building relationships with his players. That alone means Thomas will get some starts so he can try to improve his value as he attempts to lock up a new contract.

 

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Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

What the Greg Monroe pickup means for Boston

The Boston Celtics and veteran center Greg Monroe agreed to a one-year contract on Feb. 2. This deal, while expected since the Suns waived him on Feb. 1, is potentially an Eastern Conference-shaking move.

On the surface, this trade fills a hole on the offensive end of the court and does not hamstring the Celtics whatsoever defensively. Dig a little bit deeper, however, and one has to question getting bigger is what will push Boston over the edge to win the East, or give them what they need to beat Golden State.

Here is a breakdown of how Monroe will be able to contribute to the East’s best team going forward.

Rebounds

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe attempts to swat away Wesley Johnson’s shot as a member of the Pistons. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Monroe has been a pretty prolific rebounder since he entered the league during the 2010-11 season.

 

During his seven-year NBA career, Monroe has averaged 8.7 rebounds per game. His rebounds for the current season are down to 7.4, but considering he has only played 25 games, mostly with one of the worst teams in the league this season, that isn’t too surprising.

The Celtics are already in the top 10 in rebounds per game this season. If Monroe continues to contribute 7-8 per game, which all career consistency numbers indicate he will, it could easily propel Boston to top three in the league.

Minutes

The real question concerning Monroe’s role with the Celtics will be the number of minutes per game he ends up getting.

Boston is already a long team. With Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes, playing time might be stretched a little thinner than the true center is used to.

In his career, Monroe has averaged a little less than 30 minutes per game. Considering both the young and established big-man talent on the Celtics’ roster, a bench role would make sense for him, being that the team has been successful up to this point.

During his 25 games this season, Monroe has averaged 21.8 minutes per game. That number should stay about where it is, if not dip a little, depending on his production on an already stacked team.

Offensive production

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe was waived by the Suns on Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press)

Surprisingly, Boston is 23rd in terms of points per game midway through the season. This obviously has not hurt them too much, considering they have the best record in the Eastern Conference. This has to do with the team’s commitment to defense.

 

But defense alone will not be enough to win in the playoffs. That’s where Monroe steps in.

In the 2017-18 campaign, Monroe has 10.4 points per game. Again, that is down from his 13.9 career points per game, but being on a more complete team will help that number rise quickly. His minutes and role on the Celtics are still in question, but expect that number to get better as he plays more.

His 2.2 offensive rebounds per game this season will also create more opportunities for points. If all goes according to plan, the Celtics should finish at least in the top 20 in terms of points per game after the pickup. When a team plays defense like Boston does, that will go a long way.

Defensive production

For a 6-foot-11 center, Monroe’s defense is not quite as solid as one might expect. His career 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game leaves a bit to be desired on that end of the court.

However, he has never played on a team like the Celtics, or under a coach as talented as Brad Stevens. If he buys into Stevens’ system and gets solid playing time, those numbers should climb.

The Celtics are fifth in defensive rebounds per game. Adding a rebounder like Monroe is only going to help rob opposing teams of possessions when he is on the court. That alone should be enough to justify the pickup, despite his defensive struggles.

Summary

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe goes up for a block during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Photo by Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports)

Being that Monroe’s contract is a one-year, $5 million deal, this is very much an experiment for Boston. A low-risk, high-reward experiment, but an experiment nonetheless.

 

If Boston can figure out how to use him off of the bench, this move only puts them in a better position to further its grasp on the East. A bench role could take some getting used to for the big man, but if he buys into the system, he can be a huge piece moving forward for an already talented team.

After the Suns waived Monroe, it was really a no-brainer for the Celtics to pick him up. And being able to play for a contender should only further his motivation, provided he finds his niche in the system. If he finds his stride and accepts his role, it could also go a long way in being able to re-sign him for relatively cheap after the season ends.

With his first game in green coming Sunday, NBA fans should know pretty soon after what kind of impact he can make on the Eastern Conference.

 

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Isaiah Thomas return

Should the Cavs have waited to bring back Isaiah Thomas?

Isaiah Thomas said he had “no feel for the game right now,” per Dave McMenamin of ESPN after the Cavaliers’ 17-point win over Portland.

That’s interesting considering his 17 points were scored on 6-for-12 shooting in just 19 minutes. Not to mention those 17 points he scored was the exact margin of victory for the Cavs. Suffice it to say, if he doesn’t have a feel for the game now, may God help the Eastern Conference when he gets it back.

The problem here wasn’t with Thomas’ performance, it was with the team on the receiving end of said performance. Specifically, the fact that they weren’t wearing green and represented by a leprechaun.

The Cavaliers chose to make Thomas available for the game against Portland on Tuesday, eschewing the primetime matchup against his former team in Boston on Wednesday. The team did not want Thomas to play back-to-back games after his long awaited return from a torn labrum, lest they risk an injury to one of the big pieces of their playoff hopes.

So, why not just wait one more day and give the NBA the marquee, probable Eastern Conference finals matchup it has been waiting for? With both teams at nearly full strength, this would be a perfect opportunity for both squads to get a feel for what the other team’s game plan might be in the spring.

First, let’s argue for why he should sit.

Sit him

Very simply, the Cavs and Tyronn Lue may just not have a plan they are ready to execute for Thomas against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.

Isaiah Thomas return

Isaiah Thomas warms up for his Cavs debut. (Photo by Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

Irving has the best handles in the league, and it won’t inspire confidence in fans, players or the media if Thomas keeps getting cooked by Irving every time down the floor. Not to mention hip injuries limit mobility, so if Lue does have a plan, who’s to say Thomas could even execute it well enough to justify the minutes?

Apropos to that last point, Lue may be playing some mind games with Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Perhaps purposefully not showing Boston what they can do against Irving in an effort to force them to change their defensive set pieces later on in the season.

Another obvious reason for him to sit would be concern over the physicality of a rivalry game. Considering these two teams will almost certainly meet at some point during the playoffs, this will be a chance for both teams to rough each other up to show them what they’ve got. What Boston might have for a 5-foot-9 point guard is a hard screen or a shoulder to the chest that sends him to the floor with a re-aggravated hip.

Finally, the Cavs don’t want to look like they were just sitting on their hands regarding Thomas’ return until he could come back and burn his old team. That is a bad look for an organization that has pretty much dominated the Eastern Conference for three straight years.

Now, why should he start in a potentially dangerous back-to-back?

Start him

The first and most glaring reason for starting Thomas is for the fans. If it’s a forgone conclusion that these teams will be meeting in the playoffs, (which it is, barring some sort of major collapse), then the fans deserve the full playoff atmosphere. With every player that can suiting up and showing us what we’ll get in May.

Isaiah Thomas return

Isaiah Thomas makes his season debut against the Trail Blazers on Jan. 2. (Photo by Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

That’s without even mentioning the great storyline that could have been if Thomas suited up for his first game against his former team that he believes heavily devalued him. But, since he played against Portland, that storyline is less sexy than it had the potential to be.

Regarding playoff atmosphere, why wouldn’t Lue want his best players and best scorers in the game as much as possible? The Celtics are a top-tier team. They can score and suffocate teams defensively. A guy who scored almost 29 points per game last year would be a logical play if points will be at a premium.

Lastly, it makes sense to test Thomas’ hip in tough back-to-backs when the season is not even at its halfway point. Thomas will have the entire All-Star break to rest and rehabilitate. Another injury to that hip is frightening, especially when it cost him nearly eight months. But a full tear is unlikely, and it would be a calculated risk considering the opponent.

Regardless of all of that, the decision has been made. He did not play.

Thomas was not drilling 3-pointers while a man a foot taller than him stumbled to get his hand up. He was not flexing his defensive capabilities against one of the most invaluable point guards in the league. He was also not passing it to the human fountain of youth that is LeBron James.

But, for everyone’s sake, especially the Cavs, let’s all hope he will be by May.

 

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NBA takeaways

Eight thoughts about the NBA season minus LeBron James

The NBA is off to a wonderful, yet somewhat surprising start. The Celtics have won 16 straight games, the Pistons are third in the Eastern Conference and the Oklahoma City Thunder are under .500 despite building a super team in the offseason. Here are a few early season takeaways.

1. Is Lonzo Ball going to be good?

Going into the draft, the Lakers knew they were not drafting Lonzo Ball for his scoring ability, but his shot has been just awful. On shots from 0-3 feet from the basket (essentially layups), Ball is shooting 45.5 percent. His abysmal 22.8 3-point percentage is the worst in the NBA.

NBA takeaways

Hopefully Lonzo can figure out the whole shooting thing (Photo from ClutchPoints)

Instead of panicking, let’s look at some other famous guards. Russell Westbrook shot 47.6 percent from 0-3 feet, and 27.1 percent from three during his first year with the Oklahoma City Thunder. John Wall shot 40.9 percent from the field as a 20-year old in Washington, which is not as poor as Lonzo’s 31.3 percent, but is still weak.

Now for the positives. His assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty solid, and he already has two triple-doubles. Only 12 other guards have eclipsed multiple triple-doubles during their rookie seasons. That list consists of Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan, Chris Paul, Walt Frazier, Tim Hardaway and Kevin Johnson. It also includes Michael Carter-Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Art Williams and Elfrid Payton.

Long story short, he could be great, but he also could be a major bust. He appears somewhat passive, and walking away from a fight that involved his teammates makes me question his toughness. Only time will tell, but in BBB we trust. Through 17 games, Ball is averaging 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The only other rookies to average at least seven boards and seven assists were Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

2. Ben Simmons is super talented

You can already tell that, barring injury, Ben Simmons will be in the Hall of Fame. He is a lock for NBA Rookie of the Year, averaging a ridiculous 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. The only other rookie to average at least 18-8-7 was the great Oscar Robertson. He is the modern day Magic Johnson, and NBA fans should be ecstatic.

The kid can do it all. He is special in half court, full court, open court, heck, he would probably be good in a court of law. The best part is a guy who has no jump shot is shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Simmons dominates inside, shooting 73.5 percent from 0-3 feet. I pray each and every day that he stays healthy for the remainder of the season.

3. Joel Embiid is so fun for the NBA

On Monday night, we watched Embiid swat Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, then proceeded to talk trash while Mitchell was down. This prompted Mitchell to shove Embiid, who flopped and drew a technical foul as he fell down to the floor.

In a game against the Clippers, Embiid had 32 points and 16 rebounds, while taunting Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The following night, Embiid put up his historic 46-15-7-7 stat line and proceeded to taunt Lonzo and LaVar Ball on social media.

Embiid is a national treasure, and like his teammate Simmons, needs prayers every night to stay healthy. He has a chance to be an all-time great, both on and off the court.

4. Brad Stevens is a magician and Kyrie Irving is special

The Celtics are off to an amazing start at 16-2, but the MVP of their team is not on the court. He is patrolling from courtside and calling out the plays.

Head coach Brad Stevens is the obvious choice for Coach of the Year and rightfully so. Without Gordon Hayward, Boston is riding a 16-game winning streak, and sits atop the Eastern Conference. Their defense has been phenomenal, ranking second in opponent field goal percentage, third in opponent threes allowed and fifth in total steals. Offensively, Boston is first in total rebounds and third in free throws made.

NBA takeaways

16 and counting (Photo from NBA.com)

When the Celtics were sitting at 14 straight, Stevens, in a postgame interview, noted “We gotta play a lot better.” That is a clear sign of an elite coach.

Kyrie Irving is shooting worse from the field, from three and from the line compared to last season. Luckily, Irving looks to be back on track after two dominating performances. Against the Hawks, Irving had 30 points while shooting 10-12. On Monday, Uncle Drew had his best game as a member of the Celtics. In an eight-point win against Dallas, Irving had 47 points (16-22), six assists and was +21 for the game.

He is also the most clutch player in the NBA. In the final five minutes with the score within five, Irving, in 38 minutes, has 65 points (24-39), 10 assists, zero turnovers, and a plus-minus of +40. Momma there goes that man.

5. Victor Oladipo looks like an All-Star

After being the punchline in the Paul George trade, the former No. 2 overall pick is having quite the season in Indiana. Oladipo is averaging 22.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, while shooting 44.7 percent from long range. All of a sudden, Oladipo is an offensive threat, and has the Pacers above .500.

6. Dwight Howard is a Hall of Famer

On Monday night, Howard had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. This was his 49th 20-point, 20-rebound game, which is the most of any player since 1983. Yes, that is more than Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal.

NBA takeaways

Dwight Howard will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame (Photo from USA Today)

This past March in an interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, Howard was asked about whether or not he thinks he will be the Hall of Fame. He responded by saying, “No doubt. It’s kind of got swept under the rug because the perception of all the things that happened in Orlando. All of the media stuff. If you look at basketball itself, and I don’t ever talk about myself, but winning three Defensive Player of the Year trophies has never been done. Leading the league in rebounding six straight years. All that kind of stuff, I think that deserves it.”

Although he actually has only led the NBA in five total seasons rather than six straight, the eight-time All-Star should walk into the Hall of Fame with ease. It’s so funny because he has had such an awkward career, from dominating in Orlando, to flopping with the Lakers and bouncing from the Rockets to the Hawks and now the Hornets.

Yes, he has probably underachieved, but Howard’s numbers will put him up with the all-time greats when all is said and done.

7. What is going on in OKC?

Of course it takes time to adjust to playing with other All-Stars, but this Thunder team is sketchy. They are 7-9, and Russell Westbrook is shooting worse from the field and free-throw line than last year. He also has less assists per game despite having more talent around him.

Carmelo Anthony is shooting 42.2 percent, which would be the worst field goal percentage of his career. They are constantly letting teams back into games after the first quarter, and have now lost two straight despite being ahead by 20 points in both contests. Hopefully this team figures it out and can compete with Golden State come June.

8. James Harden is the MVP at this point in the season

Harden leads the league in points and assists per game. He is shooting 45 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from deep and 86.4 percent from the line.

Houston leads the Western Conference at 13-4, and Harden was dominating without Chris Paul, the team’s second best player, who was dealing with an injury. He dropped 56 points against Utah, and another 48 against the Suns.

 

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NBA summary so far

NBA Preview:

Well every team has played from 10-12 games so far this season so it’s time to make some reflections on the start to the season.

Whether it’s championship caliber teams struggling, star players off to rough starts or rookies under performing here’s a look at the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season.

Eastern Conference:

I’m going to go out on limb and say no one had the Magic and Pistons in the top 3 in the east through 10+ games. The Pistons have benefited from Tobias Harris’ spectacular play on both ends.

Other teams have shocked the Eastern Conference with their struggles. Luckily for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the season doesn’t end today or they would be out of the playoffs. Not having a second scoring option to go with Lebron has hurt them.

The Milwaukee Bucks have struggled despite MVP level play from Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the addition of Eric Bledsoe, the team should turn it around moving forward.

The Celtics have rattled off 10 straight wins even without their second best player. Brad Stevens has put together great game plans and has transformed a roster full of youth into the best defensive team in the NBA.

Players Worth Noting:

NBA

Kyle Lowry, (Raptors Republic).

Ben Simmons has practically led the way for the Philadelphia 76ers. Once a front runner for the rookie of the year, Simmons has lived up to his anticipated hype. In his last 10 games, Simmons is nearly averaging a triple double. He has 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game as well as a 19.8 player efficiency rating. Simmons is leading a 76ers team through the point-forward position.

Kristaps Porzingis has been incredible for the New York Knicks. In his last 10, Porzingis is averaging 29.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He is also at an astounding 29.2 for player efficiency rating which is one of the tops in the entire NBA.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the tops in the NBA in player efficiency as well. He sits at 32.7 and is averaging 32 points per game. Giannis is one of the only reasons that the Bucks have been competitive through 10 games.

Kyle Lowry is one of the players who has struggled out of the gates for the Raptors. Lowry is shooting 32 percent from three and 39 percent from the field. He is averaging 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists as the secondary option for the Raptors. All of those per game stats are well below his career averages.

Western Conference:

There isn’t too many surprises in the Western Conference. Some of the bigger ones have been the Thunder, Grizzlies and Clippers.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have struggled to win games. They are getting over 60 points per game from Westbrook, Anthony and George. They are 4-6 and have gotten great play from their big three.

One of the shocking things is how well the Memphis Grizzlies have played. They managed to knock off the Warriors and Rockets already and those two teams are the best in the Western Conference so far. They come out at 7-4 and have gotten help from a rested and ready Chandler Parsons who has just under a 17 player efficiency rating.

Even though the Clippers are 5-5, they have had glimpses of great play. They won their first four and have hit a skid as of late. Obviously their strength of schedule hasn’t been too heavy, but the Clippers are a fringe playoff team and they are only going to get better as the season moves forward.

Players Worth Noting:

Clint Capela has provided a low post threat and has been the second option for the Houston Rockets. Capela is averaging 12.7 points and 10.6 rebounds as well as 2 blocks and 2 assists. He is manning the middle for the Rockets and has helped them to a 8-3 record.

Lamarcus Aldridge has benefited from Kawhi Leonard being out. He is averaging 22.6 point and 8.3 rebounds and has helped a team without one of their stars jump out to a 7-4 record.

A final statistic that is interesting for the league as a whole so far is that Shabazz Muhammad is averaging 10.3 minutes in the seven games the Timberwolves have won this year. He is also averaging 22.3 minutes in the four losses they have this season.

 

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Boston Celtics: Youth leading the way

The Boston Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. What seemed like a log jam at small forward and shooting guard a month ago has now grown thin with the injuries to Hayward and Smart. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have played key roles in life without Hayward.

The Celtics are one possession away from beating the Cavaliers and being 3-1 even without one of their All-Star guards. So how are they doing it? How are they surviving without Hayward? Well many of the young guards are being thrust into important roles and are coming out successful so far.

Brad Stevens

Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens on the Celtics bench (Photo: Business Insider)

Stevens is obviously one of the youngest coaches in the league so it’s only fitting that he’s one of the most important parts of the team. One of Brad Stevens’ biggest attributes is his ability to mesh a bunch of players with different skill sets together. Stevens has really shown that off throughout the first week of the season. Players like Shane Larkin are averaging 15 minutes and Aron Baynes is even starting games.

Stevens has shown that his coaching isn’t built solely around stars. Kyrie Irving’s statistics are down from last season. It’s completely understandable knowing he isn’t playing alongside LeBron James but it’s also a product of Brad Stevens’ offense. Stevens uses less isolation and more off-ball screens and more off-ball movement.

Kyrie’s numbers have improved in certain aspects. He is getting more assists per game and is turning the ball over less as well. Stevens offense makes Kyrie’s 21 percent decrease in points per game understandable.

Jayson Tatum

A month ago Jayson Tatum was going to be battling with Jae Crowder, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown for minutes. As a rookie he is now starting and playing 34 minutes a game. 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on 48 percent from the field and 46 percent from three.

He has been both efficient as well as a scoring option to take the pressure off Kyrie and Jaylen. Many rookies don’t play three quarters of a game on average. Stevens has enjoyed his versatility as well as his ability to grab rebounds as a power forward.

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown has transformed his offensive game in just a season. He is being more aggressive and almost has to be in this offense. He like Tatum is shooting 48 percent and is second on the team with 18.8 points per game.

Brown has also increased his three point percentage by three percent since last season. He has been his best when he’s gotten out in transition and attacked the lane and with many of the Celtics sets being with four guards, he has the option to almost every time he’s on the floor.

Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier

Every year there are extra minutes that no one knows where they go. Excluding Terry Rozier in this one but Shane Larkin has been receiving those minutes. Averaging 5.3 points and 2.7 assists in 14.7 minutes a game Larkin has provided a spark off the bench that wasn’t originally expected. Larkin has been benefiting from Marcus Smart’s injury and taking full advantage of his minutes.

Terry Rozier for long stretches in the last two years has looked to be the Celtics most consistent rebounder. This season he has a 5.3/1 assist to turnover ratio which is best on the team and 5.8 rebounds as a 6-foot-2 point guard. He is one of the first Celtics off the bench and has gotten Brad Stevens trust.

As a backup guard, not turning it over and providing energy and effort are two of the most important things and Rozier has done both of those things throughout the first week of the NBA season.

The Celtics have been hit with an injury bug to start the season with Morris, Smart and obviously Hayward. As they move forward their rotation will continue to differ being that Daniel Theis will be starting as of Thursday night. Look for the Celtics to continue to improve and for Brad Stevens to continue to put great rotations together moving forward.

 

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The Celtics’ season is not over

A tragic event occurred on Tuesday night. The Celtics new star forward, Gordon Hayward, suffered a brutal injury to his ankle.

Many people are counting this year as a complete loss for the Celtics, and while it is certainly not ideal, the Celtics could still make something out of this. Obviously, the Celtics rally in the second half was electric. Call me an optimist, but I saw enough from that second half team to be able to say they could yet be a top two seed in the Eastern Conference.

When it comes to personnel, I am only going to break down players I think will play an integral role in replacing Hayward in Boston.

Coaching

Brad Stevens

There is a legitimate argument to be made that this man is a better head coach than Steve Kerr, which would make him the second best head coach in the league. That exemplifies just how good he is at his job. While the GM’s of the league may think otherwise, I would say Brad Stevens is the best coach in the league at making adjustments, and he’s only getting started.

The team defense he has designed has even been able to hide Isaiah Thomas on that side of the ball, so Kyrie Irving’s lack of defensive skill should be no problem. With more offensive weapons at his disposal, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with on that side of the ball.

Personnel

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart was the biggest surprise to me on Tuesday, as he stepped up on the offensive end once Hayward left. His post work looked very good, like a budget Chris Paul almost. Not to mention his high effort, high-level defense and pretty decent court vision. A stellar performance from the young man, the Celtics are gonna need a lot more where that came from.

Jaylen Brown

Welcome, Jaylen Brown. A fantastic performance from the second-year man, leading his team in scoring with 25 points. His outside shot still needs work, however, his athleticism really overshadowed his lack of an outside shot.

He looked fierce in this outing as he carved up the inside, with 14 of his 25 points coming off of layups or dunks. His defense was also pretty good in this one, as he was putting up a good fight on every possession, and came away with two steals. He can step and make a difference in Boston.

Marcus Morris

While Gordon Hayward is gone, Marcus Morris should be back soon. Morris is a solid defender, and decent 3-point shooter, with a career 35.5 percent from beyond the arc. He is a great asset, especially for a team like the Celtics, as floor spacing for Kyrie Irving is key. He also brings that toughness when defending on the low block that someone like Al Horford just doesn’t seem to have.

Jayson Tatum

His offense looked very good in the second half of this game after a shaky start. I hope he blossoms quickly, as he has a similar skillset to Gordon Hayward, and could be a great sixth man, or a decent starter.

Aron Baynes

He showed some real value on Tuesday, playing decent interior defense, and grabbing quite a few offensive rebounds. He could log some serious minutes.

This Celtics roster cannot take another injury. With one more hit, even to a role player like Aron Baynes, could be enough to kill them. Though at the moment, I think they still have all they need to seriously challenge for the East crown, even if they will almost certainly fall short.


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Welcome to Boston, Kyrie Irving

Just when you thought the Boston Celtics were done with their off-season journey, they strike again. Boston has acquired All-Star guard, Kyrie Irving, from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Boston has agreed to trade All-Star guard, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and 2018 Nets First Round Pick.

Its been over a month since Kyrie Irving openly talked about his urge to get out of Cleveland. Well, welcome to Boston: home of 17 NBA Championships.

Boston has made the biggest decisions this NBA off-season. They have acquired Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz. They have traded Avery Bradley to the Pistons. They drafted Jayson Tatum. What more can they do? Oh yeah, pick up the one of the best guards Kyrie Irving, if not the best, in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving averaged 25.2 points-per-game last season, while helping lead the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

Photo Courtesy of (NBA.com)

Isaiah Thomas will be truly missed in Boston. His determination to make this team succeed was impeccable. Thomas averaged 23.3 points-per-game last season, bringing the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Ante Zizic is a 7-foot rookie-center, who is on his way to Cleveland now. Zizic made the Boston roster just weeks ago.

Jae Crowder is entering his fifth season in the NBA, after averaging nearly 14 points-per-game for Boston last season. Crowder was originally drafted by Cleveland in 2012.

After this trade, Boston is a definite favorite for the Eastern Conference champions. They fell to Cleveland last year 4-1. Kyrie is ready to play for Coach Brad Stevens, making him a great fit in Boston.

Mark the calendars for October 17th, as Boston travels to Cleveland for the first game of the season. Kyrie will be in the Celtic green.

 

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Top five NBA coaches heading into the 2017-18 season

Every NBA team is chock-full of talent. Each team needs a good coach to shuffle a lineup and find the players that mesh the right way. Sometimes some of the best teams in basketball don’t work well in a bad coaching system.

Coaches also have to deal with large egos, injuries and the grueling 82-game season filled with scheduling obstacles. It is easy for a coach to let a city, the players or even the fans get the best of them. Here are the top five coaches heading into this NBA season.

Number five: Rick Carlisle

Listen, let’s just forget about this past season and remember the body of work here. Carlisle in his lengthy career as a coach has only had two teams fall under the .500 mark.

He is 28-30 coaching in the playoffs and has an NBA championship thanks to beating the LeBron James led Miami Heat.

Carlisle is 694-520 in regular season games and will become just the 18th coach to hit 700 wins this upcoming season. He also won the Coach of the Year award in the 2001-02 season.

Carlisle has had the pleasure of coaching guys like Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki throughout his tenure and has found a way to get the best out of them.

Number four: Erik Spoelstra

top five NBA coaches

Erik Spoelstra, Photo Courtesy of SI.com.

Spoelstra has risen from a video coordinator to two-time NBA champion and a spot in the top five.

In his first years he obviously benefited from having LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but some of Spoelstra’s most impressive coaching came in the last 41 games of last season. He coached his team from what was a 11-30 season and turning it into 41-41.

Spoelstra has an impressive 70-40 playoff record and has won 61 percent of his regular season games.

Spoelstra will continue to be tested moving forward as his team is no longer the front runner in the Eastern Conference.

Number three: Brad Stevens

Stevens has had a short amount of time coaching in the association and came on board with the Celtics mid-rebuild.

Stevens is 11-17 in the playoffs, but has run into the Cavaliers in two of the last three times he has made it to the playoffs.

The first season he took over as head coach, the Celtics had 25 wins and last season had 53. He also continues to build moving forward with the recent addition of Gordon Hayward.

Stevens has won 51 percent of his games and will continue to improve that mark moving forward.

Number two: Steve Kerr

top five NBA coaches

Steve Kerr, Photo Courtesy of chicagotribune.com.

Winning two out of the last three championships will absolutely win you credit.

Steve Kerr has been fantastic for the Golden State Warriors. He has led the to the best NBA regular season record of all time and has gone 207-39 in three years at the helm. Kerr has proven that lots of talent doesn’t just translate to wins but also to championships.

Kerr has been fantastic, but it has been too small of a sample size to propel him into the top spot. It also doesn’t help that during the playoffs last year Mike Brown stepped in and coached the Warriors extremely well.

This Warriors team has a ton of talent and if Kerr sticks around and can stay healthy, he will quickly approach the top spot on this list.

Number one: Gregg Popovich

Pop has created a way of life in San Antonio. He has created a system that works with nearly all selfless players.

He has created a platform for Kawhi Leonard to grow into a star and successfully passed the torch from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to Kawhi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge almost without skipping a beat.

Pop has 1,150 wins which is more than three of the other four coaches have total games.

He has five NBA championships and some electric in-game interviews. Coach Popovich, if he retired tomorrow, goes down as the best coach in NBA history, but for now he just gets to improve on the most impressive resume we have seen in the game today.

There used to be a day in which people said once Duncan, Ginobili and Parker retire the Spurs will drastically struggle. As Ginobili and Parker begin to pack it up and follow Duncan, the Spurs were the two seed in last year’s NBA Playoffs.

Popovich has created an incredible winning culture and the Spurs don’t seem to be slowing down.

Summary

Good coaches are hard to come by. Many of the best teams have the best coaches to lead the players they have.

Six of the last seven NBA championships have been won by a member of this list. The only one who hasn’t is Brad Stevens.

A good coach creates a culture and can get players to buy into a system. Nearly all of the coaches listed have created a winning foundation and atmosphere during their tenures in the Association. We will see just how good each coach will perform in the 2017-18 NBA regular season and beyond.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of sportsworldnews.com

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The new look C’s: Boston Celtics 2018 Preview

As the NBA offseason cycles through, many basketball fans find it hard not to talk about the upcoming Boston Celtics. From trading rising star Avery Bradley and trading the first overall pick, we have just begun on the changes that Danny Ainge and his organization have made.

Gordon Hayward signs with the c’s

Gordon Hayward was one of the biggest free agents available this offseason, and had offers from Miami, Utah and of course, Boston.

Hayward poses in All Star Game gear (purpleandblues.com)

However, Boston had something that stood out more than their past legends, Larry Bird, Bill Russell and a franchise with 17 total NBA championships: Head coach Brad Stevens. For those who don’t know the reasoning behind Stevens, Gordon Hayward played for Brad Stevens at Butler University, where Stevens coached in the past.

Right away, that boosted the Celtics’ chances of capturing yet another NBA All-Star.

Days later, Gordon Hayward officially signed with Boston on a four-year, $127,829,970 contract, doubling his recent contract of four years, $62,965,420 with the Utah Jazz.

The only downside of signing the recent All-Star is dealing with the nonexistent cap space. Boston needed to free cap space to sign Hayward to his full contract, which led to Boston trading away Avery Bradley, a beloved player in the eyes of Boston fans.

Boston traded Bradley to the Detroit Pistons, receiving Marcus Morris. Many are against this trade, but don’t forget the fact that Bradley is a free agent next season, who inevitably will ask for more money. This is something the Celtics cannot afford after the signing of Gordon Hayward.

third overall pick: jayson tatum. sf (duke)

The Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in the draft.

Tatum poses with the Celtics Front Office (boston.cbslocal.com)

Arguably the best man in this year’s draft, Jayson Tatum will bring his talents to Boston this upcoming season, bringing nothing but excitement to the organization and fans.

At Duke, Jayson Tatum recorded a total of 488 points, averaging 16.8 points per game as well as 7.3 rebounds per game, and shot nearly 50 percent on field goals in his single season with the Blue Devils. Tatum was ranked No. 3 in the 2016 ESPN Top 100 going into Duke University.

By the looks of the media, it seems like Tatum has already built chemistry with this Celtics roster, especially with Jaylen Brown who was a third overall pick in the NBA Draft two drafts ago. The two stars have referred to themselves as “7/11, always open” indicating their jersey numbers and the fact that they both hold great abilities to create openness on the court and sinking any shot.

Jayson Tatum will be a great attribute to this particular Celtics team. Whatever role Stevens gives him, Tatum will exceed.

depth

In addition to Gordon Hayward and rookie Jayson Tatum, the Celtics welcome Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes to the team, as well as key new players like Shane Larkin, Semi Ojeleye and Ante Zizic.

The Celtics made big moves to create a roster that embarks on winning a NBA championship.

Celtics coach, Brad Stevens (bostonglobe.com)

According to ABC News, Celtics president Danny Ainge said “I feel like our team is in better position than last year.”

Not to mention that the Celtics were NBA Eastern Conference finalists last season. The C’s look to change that to NBA East Champions, and even NBA Champions. With these added players, this goal is fully achievable.

How will this be done? Last season, the Celtics finshed 27th out of 30 teams in total rebounds, yet still managed to win the Eastern Conference regular season title. Simply, the Celtics needed more big men.

After one offseason, they have introduced a 6-8 forward in Jayson Tatum, a 7-foot center in Ante Zizic, a 6-10 center inn Aron Baynes and a 6-9 forward in Marcus Morris. These are all solid players with great height.

Mix this height with stars like Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, and you have a team with full potential to raise Boston’s 18th NBA Championship.

Brad Stevens will have a full roster with complete talent this upcoming season. With the new arrivals and established stars, the Celtics are trending up for next season.

 

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