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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Donovan Mitchell

Why everyone is talking about Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell was truly torn between staying at the University of Louisville and declaring for the draft. It seems as if he’s made the right choice.

The rookie sensation is on his way to a special first season. He is a go-to scoring option, and he can hold his own on defense. There aren’t very many things he hasn’t shown the NBA he cannot do, and the season is not quite halfway over.

Here are some of the reasons why the NBA is officially on notice.

Rookie of the Year candidacy

Mitchell is tentatively in the top spot for Rookie of the Year. But why?

Ben Simmons collects more rebounds and dishes out more assists at a guard position. Jayson Tatum is shooting 45.3 percent from three and turns the ball over less in the exact same amount of time on the floor. In fact, the only category of note in which Mitchell safely leads his top two challengers is points per game at 18.2.

Defense

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell steals the ball from Nance Jr. (Photo by Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

Part of it might have to do with his commitment to improving his game on the defensive end of the court. He has commented on his own “perfectionist” nature when it comes to his defense and has said ex-Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s defensive expectations were one of the things that drove him to pick Louisville.

That commitment may not show up on the stat sheet, as his 1.5 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game are not gaudy numbers. But they are only going to get better if Mitchell’s is as dedicated to improving as he says he is.

Also, it’s hard to deny when watching him play that he isn’t exerting the effort it takes to be a great defensive guard. Coach Quin Snyder has even lauded Mitchell’s ability to deny an offensive player the ball when they are racing to their spot. Keep in mind that anyone’s first year playing against the best scorers in the world is going to be an adjustment, period.

Offense

What will probably impress ROY voters even more, however, is Mitchell’s electric offense.

Again, he has 18.2 points per game, which leads all rookies at the halfway point on the season. He already has 16 games with 20 or more points, which puts him within spitting distance of the Jazz rookie record, currently held by another former Louisville Cardinal, Darrel Griffith. He’s sinking 3-pointers at an almost 36 percent clip, which is decent enough. Plus, his 43.8 field goal percentage is impressive considering he takes more jump shots than either of his top competitors.

The real story here, though, is his athleticism around and above the rim. He can get up, catch the ball in traffic and most importantly, slam it home. This brings us to our next point.

Dunk Contest

Donovan Mitchell’s dunks are fantastic. If he isn’t in the dunk contest this year, then the NBA might as well cancel it.

There’s no real way to describe a dunk using only words, so suffice it to say, he is exhibiting in-game feats of athleticism that one must see to believe.

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell throws down a dunk. (Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Mitchell told Michael Rapaport on his podcast that he would “love” to participate in the dunk contest over the All-Star break, but would be prepared to lose to Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat, if Jones were to participate. He went on to say that he’s probably lost to Jones in 12 out of the 13 dunk contests he’s been a part of, as they have competed against one another since they were young.

At only 6-foot-3, Donovan has already thrown down some dunks that will undoubtedly be in consideration for Dunk of the Year honors. This is helped by his tremendous jumping ability and having one of the most seasoned passers in the league, Ricky Rubio, at the point guard position.

Earning respect

Along with earning his spot in ROY consideration, Mitchell is also earning high praise from some of the very best players in the NBA.

After a workout with Chris Paul and Paul George, Paul told David Gardner of Bleacher Report that Mitchell was “going to be good for a long time,” while also commenting on his obvious love of the game.

The biggest story here, however, comes from an Instagram comment of all things.

On Dec. 16, the Jazz visited Cleveland. Mitchell scored 26 points in Utah’s losing effort, while LeBron James notched his 60th career triple-double. After the game, Mitchell posted on Instagram about how excited he was to be able to play against the players he grew up watching. In a comment on the post, James called Mitchell “young king.”

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell tries to score against Wade. (Photo by: Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune)

This is significant. James has respect for all rookies, but he appeared to name Mitchell as a potential successor to his throne. That doesn’t happen every day. Regardless of whether it was in a press conference or on Instagram, this is James telling the world to keep an eye on this one.

Also, after that same game, Dwyane Wade lined up after LeBron and patiently waited his turn to give Mitchell a word or two of encouragement. Wade, one of the best shooting guards of all time, and a dynamic finisher around the rim in his prime, wanted words with Mitchell. Neither Wade or James had to to do these things. They were paying their respects to a first-year player. Make no mistake, that’s a big deal.

That is three potential Hall of Fame basketball players already touting Mitchell’s abilities and capacity to improve. And that’s without mentioning all the things that great players have said about him in press conferences after games against the Jazz.

All in all, Mitchell has the ability to be a true all-around player in the league. At the shooting guard position, that’s very impressive. He’s also managed to fill a Gordon Hayward-sized hole in the Jazz’s offense. It probably will not be enough to propel the Jazz to a playoff berth, or even a winning season, but he provides hope for a storied NBA franchise.

And no matter what team you may root for, the potential for another LeBron James should inspire that same hope.

 

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Al Horford: The Celtics’ most important piece right now

The Boston Celtics have now successfully rattled off 15 straight wins. They are without one of their best players in Gordon Hayward and have had injuries to many rotation guys along the way. They just held the NBA’s best offensive team to 88 points in a 92-88 win over the Golden State Warriors and seem to be meshing well as a team.

The Boston Celtics have the longest win streak after a 0-2 start and are looking to extend it with each passing game.

Balanced play

Al Horford

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, (Thesource.com).

The Boston Celtics have had a balanced attack nearly every night. They have seven players averaging 9.1 points per game or above. They have only had one player score over 30 points in a game and that was Kyrie Irving against the Hawks on Saturday night. The Celtics continue to have a rotation of players who have all led the team in scoring this season.

The most important turn around for the Boston Celtics have been solving their rebounding woes. Last season the Celtics were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. This season they are tied for second in the NBA in rebounding and average nearly 48 per game. The difference is drastic.

Last season they were getting out-rebounded by 2.3 rebounds per game. This season they are +5.6 on the boards. They average 7.9 more rebounds than their opponents this season compared to last. They clean up the highest defensive rebound percentage in the NBA at nearly 82 percent of all shots. The difference this season hasn’t necessarily been Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis like many thought. The rebounding battle has been Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford’s battle to win every night.

The three of them combine for 44 percent of the Celtics rebounds on average. Horford has increased his rebounding from 6.8 a game to 8.8 a game from last season to this one. Jaylen Brown in his increased role has jumped from 2.8 rebounds a game to 6.6 this season. There has been a continuous effort to cut down on giving teams extra possessions on offense. The Celtics have capitalized and in turn it is helping the Celtics win games.

Al Horford: The glue guy

Al Horford has had a career season this season and he has done it efficiently. Horford is averaging 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds. He is also chipping in 4.5 assists and has a 20.1 player efficiency rating. Horford is shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. He is doing all this on just over 10 field goal attempts a game.

Every one of the statistics that was previously listed was either slightly or well above his career average. The most impressive statistic for to signify Horford’s importance is when he’s off the floor. The Boston Celtics are just a shade under 12 points per 100 possessions worse when Horford is off the floor. For comparison, when Kyrie Irving is off the floor the Celtics are three points worse when he is off the floor on average.

Al Horford is the most valuable Celtic on offense because he affects the game more than just scoring. Horford is involved more in the offense and is benefiting from touching the ball more on a possession to possession basis. Horford is one of the longest tenured Celtics and is both a vocal leader as well as a guy who can lead by example.

 

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Lauri Markkanen

Why is nobody talking about Lauri Markkanen?

We all knew there was something special about this draft class. This group was just loaded with talent, so much so that Malik Monk fell to No. 11. A player of his caliber is almost always a top five selection.

Throw in Ben Simmons playing his first NBA season and the “rookie” class gets that much better. Simmons is the frontrunner for rookie of the year now, but there are so many other rookies having exciting seasons.

Jayson Tatum has stepped up in Boston to fill the hole left by Gordon Hayward. The third overall pick is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds a game and been a key part of why the Celtics have the best record in the NBA.

De’Aaron Fox is also looking impressive so far this season. The fact he is on the Kings has not kept fans from seeing his production. With averages of 12.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, it is a wonder he has only started two games. He also just hit a game-winning shot to beat Simmons and the 76ers.

Fox’s former teammate, Malik Monk is also looking nice. He started off slow, but is now averaging almost 10 points per game with the Hornets. He has had some explosive performances like his 25 points in 23 minutes against the Bucks and 21 points in 27 minutes against the Knicks.

The most talked about rookie in this class has definitely been Lonzo Ball, but not because he has been one of the top rookies in this class. Sure, the No. 2 overall pick has had some nice games like his almost triple-double in his second game, but he only has topped 10 points once since then.

Ball’s fellow rookie teammate, Kyle Kuzma, is also looking good. Kuzma is third amongst rookies in scoring at 14.8 points per game and is also grabbing 6.5 rebounds.

Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Mike James, John Collins, Josh Jackson and Bogdan Bogdanovic are also averaging double figures in points per game. This class has been truly amazing.

I purposely left a name out of that list though, and you may not have noticed because of how little he has been talked about. That name would be Lauri Markkanen.

Quietly dominating

If you remember the draft, Markkanen was picked seventh overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but then was traded along with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler.

Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen has quietyly been the most successful player from this year’s draft. (Photo by Getty Images)

In his one season at Arizona, Markkanen averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from behind the arc.

He has put up similar stats in his 10 games with the Bulls, as he is averaging 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Those numbers are both good for second amongst rookies behind, you guessed it, Ben Simmons.

With all the hype surrounding Simmons, the struggles by Ball and Markelle Fultz and Tatum and Boston being so successful, Markkanen’s production has seemed to go unnoticed.

It more than likely has something to do with the fact that he is playing with the Bulls. With so little star power in Chicago, why would anyone talk about them? They also are second to last in the Eastern Conference. It is hard enough to get talked about in the East with all the stars playing in the West and getting all the attention.

Scouting report

Let’s take a look at what Markkanen’s draft profile said about him. According to Draft Express, Markkanen’s biggest strengths were his shooting ability and size.

He’s definitely a good shooter. Known as a stretch big at 7-feet, 230 pounds, Markkanen’s field goal percentage is 42.6 and his 3-point percentage is 36.1. Not bad numbers for a rookie big.

For comparison, Kristaps Porzingis had a 39.8 field goal percentage and 21.4 3-point percentage through his first 10 NBA games. Porzingis has obviously improved since then. But in today’s game, you have to be able to shoot around 40 percent from deep, and that percentage should only improve for Markkanen as his career progresses.

Markkanen’s size puts him right up there with guys Porzingis, Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki. Obviously they aren’t exact in height and weight, but they are all big men that can stretch the floor and open lanes for their teammates. You have to respect their shot because they all can hit 3-pointers.

One of the bigger weaknesses in his draft profile was his defense. His lack of weight and length prevents him from being physical inside and blocking shots. Guys like Porzingis and Anthony Davis got a whole foot of length more than him with their 8-foot wingspans.

This is not as big of a concern to me though. A lot of the rookies coming in had question marks about their defensive abilities. This is also something that can be improved over time.

I’m also not going to let something like length determine if a guy can be good in this league or not because Love and Nowitzki also don’t have significant length.

Of course you can’t make assumptions this early on in a rookie’s career. Fans love to declare guys future Hall of Famers or busts early on in the season. But you cannot judge a guy that early. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged less than seven points per game in his rookie season. Now he is the leading candidate for MVP in his fifth season.

Maybe Markkanen peaks at his rookie season. Maybe he continues to improve. Maybe we will see him in the 2020 All-Star game playing in front of his home crowd in Chicago. What we know for sure is he has exploded onto the NBA scene faster than his fellow members of this draft class.

So why is no one talking about Lauri Markkanen? I have no clue, but the numbers speak for themselves. This guy is ballin.

 

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Best team Eastern Conference

The best team in the East

The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA at 8-2 after a huge win against the Thunder with an insane 18-point comeback. The Celtics have the perfect team to perform well in the regular season with a core of young talent that will finish atop the Eastern Conference.

The new-look Celtics

The Celtics currently hold the best record in the entire NBA. With the favorite Cleveland Cavaliers falling apart, it’s hard to see another team challenge the Celtics for the No. 1 seed.

One of the biggest reasons for the Celtics’ success is how Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier have been playing. These three are all playing with fire this season, averaging more than 20 minutes per game, which is only going to help them improve in the long run.

Best team Eastern Conference

Photo from NBC Sports

The bench is filled with solid impact players, especially big guys like Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis, which is something they have been missing in the last few seasons. While Baynes is an established player who the Celtics cooped up in free agency, Theis is a rookie from Germany that has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 5.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and almost a block per game.

Kyrie Irving is getting it down on both ends of the floor and showing all the critics how good his defense really is by leading the entire league in steals this season. Irving has found himself in Brad Stevens’ constant ball movement offense. He’s been able to create so many different looks compared to his time in Cleveland.

Have the Celtics figured out their rebounding problem? Currently, the Celtics are fifth in the league in rebounds, which has been a weak point in recent years. It seems like there is a sense of urgency in defensive rebounding, especially with Tatum and Brown.

Al Horford has been picking up his game as of late, consistently finishing with around 15 points and ten rebounds per game. He just looks like he has more drive than last season. I feel like he’s attacking the paint way more than settling for his patent free throw jumper.

Overall, the entire defense looks really strong. They have held their last eight opponents to under 95 points in each game. If the Celtics keep up this defensive intensity, they might even be able to finish with the best record in the league.

What’s up with Cleveland?

The oldest team in the League is struggling early to secure wins in the early part of the season. The Cavaliers made a bunch of different acquisitions this offseason, but none of them seem to be paying off in regular season play.

Best team Eastern Conference

(Photo from Cavs Nation)

The Cavaliers have been battling through a few injuries this season as well, most recently losing Tristan Thompson to a calf injury that should keep him out for a month. This is a devastating loss for a team that already struggled in rebounding and interior defense.

Currently, the Cavs are 4-6, losing five of their last six games. They rank in the bottom four of the East and just lost to the Atalanta Hawks, the worst team in the entire Eastern Conference.

The team has so many old flashy names, but that doesn’t necessarily make a good team. You need to have roles filled, and the Cavs are lacking in a lot of key areas right now.

I do think once Isaiah Thomas comes back, the team will have more structure and chemistry, but that won’t be until around the All-Star break possibly. Can the Cavs figure it out in time and stay around the top of the East where they belong? Or will they fall to the bottom and have to claw back in the second half of the year?

 

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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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Breaking down the Cavaliers and Celtics blockbuster trade

Just when the NBA offseason seemed over, one of the biggest moves shook up the top of the Eastern Conference.

Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick were shipped away for Kyrie Irving Tuesday night and it shocked the NBA. Kyrie was obviously demanding a trade, however most people didn’t view the Boston Celtics as a landing spot, even if they could offer the best package.

As the top two teams in the Eastern Conference last season, the Cavaliers and Celtics didn’t seem like ideal trade partners. This trade is unique because both teams have gotten better in their own ways.

The Celtics

Cavaliers Celtics Blockbuster Trade

Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, Photo Courtesy of inquisitr.com.

Ultimately there were two big problems here. Isaiah Thomas is one offseason away from a new possible max contract, and Jae Crowder would contribute to a log jam at the small forward position.

When the Celtics made this trade, they were looking for stability, and that comes with Kyrie Irving. Irving has at least one more year on his contract and he is obviously not coming off a hip injury.

Jae Crowder is a guy who would ultimately interfere with the development of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Crowder would receive minutes that could be going to Tatum and Brown, which are important minutes that would speed up their development.

Based on this season’s summer league (obviously not that important), Zizic was at least one step slow. He seemed to be a few years away from translating his skills to contribute to an NBA rotation.

The biggest part of this whole deal is the Brooklyn Nets draft pick. The Nets haven’t recently been a powerhouse, and because of that the chance of that pick being high in the lottery is more likely than not.

The 2018 NBA Draft will be a loaded draft without a doubt, but with the additions of D’Angelo Russell and DeMarre Carroll, the Nets might not be in the cellar anymore.

The Cavaliers

Cavaliers Celtics Blockbuster Trade

Kyrie Irving, Photo Courtesy of Image Arcade.

Listen, there really wasn’t a choice for Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers here. Kyrie had voiced his frustration and if he had stayed on the Cavs to start the season, who knows how it would’ve played out.

The Celtics ultimately had the most to offer, but sending one of your stars to a conference rival is always messy. I don’t think the Cavaliers get to the Warriors level with this move, but they do close the gap.

Isaiah Thomas’ production-wise is nearly even with Kyrie and much cheaper, but the big key here is Crowder.

Richard Jefferson seems like he’s been playing in the NBA for 30 years, but for a fair amount of Finals minutes he chases Kevin Durant around. Jae Crowder adds another wave of defense to try and contain Durant.

In turn, Jae can attempt to guard Durant and give LeBron more minutes to rest.

The trade also opens up the idea of life after LeBron or could even get him to stay. The 2018 Nets pick could very well be a star.

There has been a lot of speculation on what LeBron will do next summer in regards to where he will play. If LeBron does walk, the Nets pick could be a player to build around. At the same time, LeBron could look at that as a reason to stay, and another playmaker to compete with the Warriors down the road.

The East moving forward

Oddly enough, these players were viewed differently by their former fan bases. Thomas was loved by the Celtics for putting it all on the line every night. Kyrie made the biggest shot in Cleveland Cavaliers history, but he also demanded to be traded out of that same scenario.

Both of the primary players in this trade are below average defenders and that’s a given, but both guards have unique skills that will be better suited for their new locations.

Kyrie is a pure playmaker who loves to finish around the rim and is possibly the best finisher in our game today. He comes to a Celtics team looking to help stretch the floor and finish when team don’t collapse, something he is better than Thomas at.

Thomas has the ability to spot up and also slash to create for others. Sharing the ball with LeBron will mean he will be off the ball much more than he was with the Celtics.

His spot up shooting was at 40 percent from three last season and that is with a large sample size. Thomas’ statistics will diminish without being the primary offensive weapon but he will still score well.

Both the Cavaliers and Celtics got better, and neither team lost this trade as the teams just filled different needs. The two top teams in the East just got a whole lot more interesting. Keep a lookout for opening night where Kyrie will get his nice warm welcome by Cavalier fans.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of ArkansasNewsonline.com.

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Why Duke is the Best College Basketball Program

To no surprise, the Duke Blue Devils’ head into the 2017-18 season as one of the top ranked teams. You would think losing four players, three in the first round, to this year’s NBA draft would have hurt them. Instead, the Blue Devils brought in three of the top seven players among the Top 100 prospect list, as well as kept Grayson Allen for his senior year.

Barring injury, it looks like another National Championship banner could be headed to Durham. With all of Duke’s recent success, it got us thinking… do the Blue Devils have the best program in the NCAA?

Just going by the numbers, it is clear that no team in the modern era is even close to accomplishing what Duke has done, on and off the court.

To start off, let’s take a look at the five-time champions basketball résumé.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI & DUKE’S WINNING TRADITIONS

Before everyone freaks out about Duke being named a better program than UCLA, who won 10 titles from 1964 to 1975, let’s take a look back at the rules and regulations of that era. In nine of their 10 titles, UCLA only had to win four games during the NCAA Tournament. One thing that should also be noted, freshman weren’t even allowed to play varsity basketball until the 1972-73 season. In this past NBA draft, nine of the first ten selections were freshman. Imagine playing in a time in which some of the best players could not even step on the court? Players could not dunk the ball from 1968-1976. Not to mention the three-point shot wasn’t even introduced until 1986.

Let me say that one more time.

The three-point shot was not apart of the NCAA until 1986, thus proving that the game was much different, and not comparable to the one we see today.

Now that it’s clear the game really became official in 1986, let’s see how Duke compares to other major programs.

 

SCHOOL # OF CHAMPIONSHIPS SINCE 1986
DUKE 5
UNC 4
UCONN 4
KENTUCKY 3
SCHOOL # OF NCAA TOURNAMENT WINS SINCE 1986
DUKE 90
UNC 85
KANSAS 79
KENTUCKY 76
CONNECTICUT 55
ARIZONA 54
MICHIGAN STATE 54

ADDITIONAL FACTS

  • Duke has had 11 National Player of the Years
  • Duke has made the National Championship 11 total times
  • Duke has made 16 Final Fours
  • Duke has made 20 Elite Eights
  • Duke has made 29 Sweet Sixteens
  • Duke has had 71 McDonalds All-Americans (Most in NCAA)
  • Duke has the Most Consecutive APR Awards (Most in NCAA)

Next Level

  • Duke has had 23 Lottery Picks (MOST in NCAA)
  • Duke has had 32 First Round Picks (MOST in NCAA)
  • Duke has had 10 Top Three Picks since 1992 (MOST in NCAA)
  • Duke has had Multiple 1st Round Picks in five out of the last seven years

So how does one school stay on top, year after year? The answer: Krzyzewski.

The winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski is clearly the most important piece to this storied university. His ability to lead, coach, and teach his players has made Duke a hot destination for upcoming freshman, year after year.

PAST FRESHMAN CLASSES

YEAR PLAYER(S) in Top 30 of ESPN Top 100
2017 Wendell Carter (#4), Trevon Duval (#5), Gary Trent Jr (#7)
2016 Harry Giles (#1), Jayson Tatum (#3), Frank Jackson (#10), Marques Bolden (#16)
2015 Brandon Ingram (#3), Chase Jeter (#11), Derryck Thornton (#17), Luke Kennard (#24)
2014 Jahlil Okafor (#1), Tyus Jones (#4), Justise Winslow (#15), Grayson Allen (#21)

What makes coach K so special? He tries not to focus too much on the x’s and o’s. Krzyzewski builds relationships with all of his players. He constantly asks them about their goals, both on the floor and off. Coach K focuses on the “we” concept, which is vital in creating a championship team. When recruiting, he doesn’t just look at talent. In an interview with Entrepreneur.com, coach explained how “academic ability and character” are two major evaluation areas for all incoming recruits.

Photo Courtesy of (nytimes.com)

When a relationship is established, it is very easy to gain trust. “Without trust, you have nothing” says Krzyzewski in an interview with Championship Coaches Network. His .755 winning percentage in March can be credited to the type of environment he creates for his team. In that same interview, when asked about culture and how he deals with players failing, Coach K exclaims how it is essential to “create an environment where people can make mistakes without worrying about it too much.” He would go on to say that, in order to successfully lead a program, one must “empower your assistants and the leadership on your team (like the captains) to speak and express themselves.” Coach K trusts his players and gives them confidence, which creates his winning culture.

Another significant advantage is the fact that Krzyzewski has been the head coach of the USA men’s basketball team since 2005. In that span, he has gone on to win Olympic Gold medals in each of the past three Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016). As a high school kid, whose dream is reaching the NBA, there is no better coach to play under than the guy who has spent countless summers with the best players in the world. Not only does Coach K offer great leadership and mentoring to the pros, but he is also able to pick up on how they train, and what they do to be successful. This information is then transferred over to his boys, which is a clear advantage for the talented young men.

Off the court, Krzyzewski remains nothing short of spectacular. Each semester, he keeps copies of everyone’s syllabi, and is alerted each week on how the team is doing. He constantly checks in with his players and asks them about upcoming papers and tests, making sure they feel just as confident in the classroom, as they do on the court.

This type of leadership has done wonders for the boys in the classroom. For instance, it is nearly impossible to find a year in which multiple Duke basketball players did not make the All-ACC Academic Team. In order to qualify for this team,  “a student-athlete must have earned a 3.00 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career” (theacc.com).

In the Classroom

As we know, academics is a huge part of the university itself. Duke University holds a 9% acceptance rate, one of the top 10 schools with the lowest acceptance rates.

What does that mean?

It means that one of Coach K’s roles is to ensure that his players can obtain the education at the university with no problems. By the looks of it, he has established great success regarding his players and their transcripts.

The last two years, the Blue Devils basketball team has posted a total of seven NCAA Academic ACC All Americans: Grayson Allen (2), Chase Jeter, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Amile Jefferson (2) and Marshall Plumlee. The highest amount among any ACC team. Not to mention that Grayson 

Duke Basketball Grads IG: (@dukembb)

Allen was named an NCAA Academic All American. 2016 marked Duke’s 22nd consecutive year with at-least one player on the ACC all-academic team. To add, Duke holds a historical list of 91 total players on the ACC All Academic team. UNC stands in second place with only 57 players. 

With that being said, Duke produces talent on the basketball court, and definitely in the classroom.  Unfortunately, there are a plethora of other NCAA men’s basketball programs in which players are openly admitting to their tutors writing their papers, as well as constantly skipping out on classes. For example, in an interview with ESPN, Rashad McCants from UNC’s 2004-05 National Title team, he publicly announced his academic secrets by saying “he rarely went to class…and took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible” showing that his time was centrally focused on basketball. Or how about when Derrick Rose never took the SAT, instead having a friend take the test under Rose’s name. Rose went on to play at the University of Memphis, where John Calipari was coaching at the time. Now coaching at Kentucky, who knows what Calipari is allowing in his classrooms.

Let’s close the books and head back to the court. Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of the Duke Blue Devils, and the biggest homecourt advantage in all of college hoops. What gives Duke such an advantage? The Cameron Crazies. 

“The Cameron Crazies”

Cameron Indoor Stadium: the wildest stadium among any NCAA basketball stadiums, and home to “The Cameron Crazies”. It’s safe to say, the Cameron Crazies affect each and every home-game. Their ability to remain standing the entire game with the same antics play-by-play gives Duke the full advantage.

“The rowdiest…best-organized college basketball fans in the land” Says ESPN.

Photo Courtesy of (syracuse.com)

A major leap from other college basketball programs is Krzyzewskiville, also known as “K-Ville”. For those unaware of this, “K-Ville” is one of the homes to the Cameron Crazies besides the stadium itself. It stands as a spot designated for the “Crazies” to camp out before games. Yes, camp out. They set up tents, move their dorm furniture in, and live there until game-time. Something unlike any college basketball fan-base. The “K-Ville” is the rowdiest during the UNC rival game. Students camp out for days, waiting for the tip-off of the biggest college rivalry matchup.

During the last eight seasons, the Duke basketball team has lost only eight total games at home. Can you guess how many they have won?

125 games.

Yes, this team holds a 125-8 record at home, during the last eight seasons. Four of the last eight seasons, the Blue Devils recorded undefeated home records.

Its obvious that this team exceeds at their home stadium. I mean, who wouldn’t with a fan-base like the “Cameron Crazies”? They have been known for their antics to rattle the opposite-team. In the past, they have thrown Twinkies at players who were considered overweight. They have also said “you’ll work for us one-day”, exhibiting the academic levels at Duke compared to other schools.

Senior Grayson Allen calls them “The Best Fans in the World”. 

It’s no surprise that Duke will have yet another successful season. The history shows what this program is capable of doing.

This piece was a collaboration by Shane Leary and Jeremy Bhandari. You can Like The Game Haus on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more esports and sports coverage.

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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