To Celtics fans, this upcoming season almost feels like a pallet cleanse. Regardless of what happens, nothing….NOTHING can be worse than what happened last season. Kyrie’s drama and the players just going through the motions coasting into a second round exit. The team starts the 2019-20 season on Wednesday night in Philadelphia against the 76ers in already what could be a playoff preview. The radio voice of the Celtics Sean Grande said it best, this may be the best thing for a team. Opening on the road against a team that has been picked by many to represent the east in the NBA Finals. There are some things I’m looking for not just in game one of the regular season but throughout the entire 82 game slate.
Kamba Walker signed a max contract with the Celtics minutes after free agency started. He hasn’t had a team that can truly help him. Malik Monk and Jeremy Lamb tried, but could only muster 24.6 points per game combined while Walker averaged 25.6 ppg. While Kemba may not possess the same super stardom as Kyrie, Walker did play all 82 games and averaged nearly two points more per game than Irving who finished the 2018 season averaging 23.8 ppg. Teammates like Kemba, he listens to criticism, and has ingratiated himself into the city. This isn’t just the focal point of the offense for the Celtics, but this is a big focal point in the C’s image rehab project.
Jaylen Brown agreed to a four-year extension worth $115 million. I’ve written in the past that Brown still has something to prove. Contract or not, I still stand by that statement. This is a big season for number 7, who is entering his 4th season and will most likely see a decent amount of time on the bench. That could be a good spot for him, I like Jaylen Brown as a player. He has raw strength inside and can fight for rebounds and with him on the floor with players like Marcus Smart or even Carsen Edwards, He could have as much impact as Lou Williams with the Clippers last year and be crucial in the playoffs.
Averaging about 14 points per game over 25-30 minutes a night gives Brown the opportunity to play with a little more physicality as opposed to a starting role where fouls can mount up early. With the Celtics signing Brown to a $115 million extension over four seasons, his contract becomes a little easier to move if the Celtics need or if Brown wants. With Jayson Tatum next on the contract to-do list, that could be something worth thinking about.
C’s fans need to be cautious when talking about Gordon Hayward. The nine-year NBA vet has averaged 7 points per game in his three preseason appearances over about 21 minutes a night. He is two years removed from that awful ankle injury he suffered in Cleveland but he says this offseason has been about working out and not rehabbing. CAN Gordon Hayward get back to his Utah playing level? Yes, but it will still take a few weeks against the top guys of the other teams. Hayward has become more confident on his drives inside, but as bad as it may sound, I need to see Hayward get hit a little bit. If he plays through contact and gets back up then I will be the first to say he’s back, but so far all we’ve see is preseason Hayward. Playing the likes of Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Golden State and the Clippers all in the first five weeks of the season, those will be the true tests.
The rookies have garnered a lot of talk in the preseason which is not a shock. If there are a couple of first year players for the Celtics that I expect some production out of early on, that would be Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards. You may remember Edwards was on fire in the preseason finale against Cleveland scoring 30 points and going 9-15 from three-point land. Edwards has been compared to Eddie House with his shoot first mentality but this could be the spark plug the 2nd unit needs for the Celtics. Last season the team didn’t really have someone that teams had to worry about but if Edwards is shooting deep threes, but again let’s wait until the regular season to see what Edwards can truly give the C’s.
Grant Williams has been compared to PJ Tucker by some basketball scouting reports. The back-to-back SEC player of the year has tremendous upside but he’s going to be a work in progress. He has the basketball IQ as a passer but his scoring could hold him down only averaging 7 points a game over about 18 minutes a night. He won’t play every night, but he seems like the type of player that puts the team first which is big especially for a guy that will be anywhere between a 3-5 on the floor.
A lot of questions, a lot of talent, a lot of possibilities. I wrote that the Celtics will be a three seed in the east which would be an improvement from a season ago. Realistically playing through my seeds, the Celtics would get through Charlotte who could surprise some people with ease leading into a Boston-Philly playoff series. There are still too many questions from the coaches and the players in the city of brotherly love for me to pick the 76ers over the C’s so Boston would move on to face the Bucks. That is where it will end though for the Celtics, the Eastern Conference Finals. The Greek Freak will prove too much as he continues to grow into his true potential, but for the Celtics the conference finals would be important especially for a team that is undergoing a face lift.