We’ve witnessed one of the more frustrating two months of basketball in the history of the Boston Celtics. A team with two superstars and a developing supporting cast has been wildly underwhelming. Was Jaylen Brown out for a long time? Yes. Have there been other injuries that hindered the Celtics’ ceiling, like up and coming big man Robert Williams missing extended time early in the season? Also yes. No one is denying that the team has dealt with unfortunate circumstances early this season. That being said, there is no excuse for the embarrassing product the Celtics have given us so far this season. Injuries aside, the Celtics aren’t controlling what they can control. The lack of fluid ball movement has created a stagnant offense, and the selfish play even caused a divide within the Celtics’ core, as Marcus Smart called out Tatum and Brown because “they [didn’t] want to pass”.
Contary to past years, their struggles this season lay on the shoulders of the leaders of the team, particularly Jayson Tatum. A player who was expected to take another leap and become a potentila MVP candidate, Tatum has not been efficient whatsoever this season and it is evident that the majority of the time he is concerned with personal statistics rather than winning. Tatum’s field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and points per game have all dropped from last year and his inconsistent play has been detrimental to the Celtics this season.
Judging by what I’ve said so far, you might be questioning the title of this article. However, the important thing to remember is that the issues the Celtics are dealing with are different this year in that the “superstars” are the problem, not the rest of the team. From a depth standpoint, the Celtics are as deep as they’ve been in a long time. For one, bringing back Al Horford via trade has proven to be a fantastic move, as the veteran is averaging 12.2 PPG and just under 8 RPG. Prior to being put in COVID-19 protocols, Horford had been the glue that was preventing this team from completely falling apart. Other key additions were Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson, both of whom have proven to be able to give valuable production on a nightly basis. Both Schroder and Richardson are starter caliber players coming off the bench, which speaks volumes about the amount of talent this team possesses. And, of course, we have to mention the young pieces who just continue improving. Romeo Langford, as we saw last night against Cleveland, where he had 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and recorded two steals, has developed a legitimate NBA skill set and can defend at the highest of levels. Aaron Nesmith, although still inconsistent, has shown flashes of greatness on multiple occasions and I think as he sees more playing time he will continue to improve exponentially. We also can’t forget about Grant Williams, who does a great job of knowing his role and providing positive energy and high IQ plays off the bench.
In short, the flaws on this Celtics team are entirely different than years past. They are less widespread, but more catastrophic because it is a situation where the best, most important player on the team (Jayson Tatum) is not playing to his capabilities. While this might not leave you with much optimism, it should give you more hope than in past years; despite the horrendus display of basketball the Celtics have given us so far this season, we all know Tatum is a generational talent that can go head to head with any superstar in the league when he’s locked in. If he takes it upon himself to start playing team first, high intensity basketball, him and Jaylen Brown can lead this deep team into contention. In a lot of ways, the NBA season really begins on Christmas Day, so let’s hope the Celtics go into Milwaukee and show the world what this team looks like at their full potential.