In 2018 the Boston Celtics enjoyed an epic playoff run which saw them push Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This run was led by a trio of youngsters in Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier. It was an unexpected playoff run while many predicted that they would lose in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks, with Kyrie Irving on the bench in street clothes.
These three players’ games rose to unprecedented levels which saw the city of Boston jump on their backs. Nineteen-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum opened the eyes of many as he averaged 18.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 1.2 SPG to pair with a .471 FG%. Tatum had become the first rookie to score 20-plus points in at least 10 postseason games in nearly 50 years. The last player to reach this type of feat as a rookie was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970. Second-year-pro Jaylen Brown averaged 18 PPG and 4.8 RPG to pair with a .466 FG% and .393% from deep. Some may remember Jaylen carried the Celtics through the first round before departing Game 7 to a hamstring injury. How could we forget the legend of Scary Terry? Terry averaged 16.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.7 APG, and 1.3 SPG while starting at PG in place of Irving.
The Celtics came into this season as favorites to win the Eastern Conference and square off against the Golden State Warriors. Coming out of the gates this season their record stands at 8-6. This team has seemed to lose their “Grit and Balls” identity that contributed to their overachievements the previous season. Granted it’s been a completely different roster than the one assembled in the playoffs with healthy stars Irving and Hayward. This young trio was expected to take their games to the next level and that have failed to do so.
Jayson Tatum has started the season off averaging 15.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 90% FT, and 40% from deep. But holds an underwhelming .409 FG%. Tatum was benched to begin the third quarter against the Suns in favor of Marcus Smart. Coach Brad Stevens had this to say on the matter, “Any time you’re getting beat like we’re getting beat, you have to rely on toughness. And Marcus Smart’s a guy that you always know you’re getting that every single time he hits the court.” I love this subtle jab at Tatum, as Brad must not be happy about the lack of aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. Of all his shots, 28% are long twos while he is only hitting 27% of them which ranks him in the 100th percentile among forwards. This shows that Tatum needs to take more efficient shots to better suit the offense.
Jaylen Brown has had the roughest start of any of the Boston Celtics. Jaylen is averaging 11.8 PPG with shooting percentages of 29% from three, 38% from the field, and 65% from the charity stripe. Leading up to the Bulls game he had yet to shoot greater than 50% in any game, while only connecting on an abysmal 21 out of 50 layups. On November 6th, Brown had stated he would have five rings by the time he is 28 years of age. I love his confidence but he should concentrate greater focus to the pregame layup line before talking about championships. This is a prime example of last year’s success getting to some of the young Celtics heads.
Scary Terry has probably had the most difficult role coming into the season as he had to shift his talents back to the bench with the return of superstar Kyrie Irving. Rozier is only playing 23.7 minutes per game while averaging 9PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 2 APG. He is shooting a horrendous 37.8% from the field, but a respectable 38% from three-point land. Terry needs to be more efficient on offense from here on out. These could be an outcome of going back to his old bench role and trying to find himself in the offense. There have been rumors that Rozier is unhappy with his playing time and may be looking to be dealt. Terry on these reports, “I don’t know where it came from. I’m happy.” GM Danny Ainge also had something to say on these reports, “I talk to Terry quite a bit and I haven’t heard any of those types of things, so I don’t know how reliable the sources/rumors are. If he were feeling that way, I think he’d share that with me.” I’m sure we will hear more of these as the season rolls along.
Wednesday’s 111-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls brought some optimism to the team. Even though it was against the lowly 4-11 Bulls, there was some progress made when it came to scoring the basketball. The three youngsters combined a total of 44 points and not one of them played over 30 minutes. Brad Stevens is going to have to use that brilliant basketball mind to put these kids in a position to succeed. This will be his first test in having to balance egos that were created from the postseason success and preseason hype. Leader Marcus Smart said something to the tune that the Celtics better play their asses off for Brad, and that they did. The young trio has to continue to play with an identical sense of aggression the remainder of the season and follow Brad’s game-plan. A lot is expected of these highly gifted talents, but with that success, there will be some growing pains.