The Celtics starters have been, by all means, a fantastic scoring group.
Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward continue to lead by example and have been looking to feel each other’s game out offensively, while Al Horford has been fantastic in helping the newcomers soak in the tradition that is the Boston Celtics.
But a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and no matter how good your starting five is, if your bench has little to no chemistry or doesn’t perform as well as that of other teams, then you are at a clear disadvantage.
These are five things I think this new-look bench can do for the Boston Celtics in their much anticipated 2017-2018 season:
The Celtics have, in recent memory, been a team largely based on the three-ball and finesse in order to score the basketball. While Isaiah Thomas was not the most athletic guy in the gym, his ability to shift through defenders and find a way to get to the rim at will by moving and contorting his body were a large part the Celtics were in the running for a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
For the Celtics, a bench led by the scoring of Kelly Olynyk and guys like Jonas Jerebko was more based on ball-movement and trusting the other guy would be able to convert on an open look.
The 2017 Celtics bench, however, is much improved when it comes to athleticism to attack the basket.
Not only do the Celtics have two extremely athletic forwards in the forms of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, they now have a very skilled and very aggressive frontcourt ala Daniel Theis and Guerson Yabusele that outmuscle their opponents and have a renovated aggressiveness when driving to the hoop.
This, combined with the fact that the second unit will most often face less talented competition, should mean the second unit should be built on getting up and down the court aggressively, doing their best to create free throw opportunities together instead of relying on one man to shoulder the load, like Isaiah Thomas did last year.
2. Three-Point Shooting
Yes, the Celtics were one of the best teams when it came to shooting a large number of threes and making a good chunk of them last season.
The only difference this year is, well, the personnel (And how they have improved!)
Like we mentioned above, the 2016 Celtics bench was largely based on ball movement and three point shooting, and we should see a good amount of that from this year’s bench with talented guards and ball-handlers like Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
It looks like Marcus Smart’s recent weight-loss has improved his jumpshot dramatically, which should be music to Celtics fans’ ears because that was one of the major holes in Smart’s game from these last few years. One of the things Marcus needs to really crack down on is decision making when it comes to threes, and if he manages to take the correct shots he should be in the market for a very favorable extension from the Celtics.
But we also have to take a look at guys like Daniel Theis and Yabusele (Most notably Theis).
During the offseason, the signing of Daniel Theis was a quite forgotten moment due in large part to the fact that very few people knew who he was or what he was capable of. Theis has shown a knack for attacking the basket, getting some hustle rebounds, but almost just as importantly: Shooting the Basketball!
Theis has been credited with a modest 33 percent from beyond the arc, but playing with guys like Marcus Smart should give him the opportunity to shine on some spot up situations as he learns the NBA game.
Jayson Tatum has also shot the lights out during his preseason and summer league games, and his offensive game should be a big factor for the Celtics moving forward, perhaps even giving him some opportunities to start against some smaller lineups.
Guerson Yabusele is a big part of this, due to the fact that he is a 6’8 260 pound mammoth of a forward who has some traces of Draymond Green in him.
Am I saying he is Draymond Green? Of course not.
But he can do many things for a second unit that the Celtics will surely appreciate: Rebounding, Shooting from Deep, and bringing a new level of toughness and physicality to that bench, perhaps even taking defensive responsibilities on guys like Andre Drummond, whose games are largely based on outmuscling their opponents.
Marcus Smart also deserves to be in this conversation due to the fact that he is the toughest competitor on the floor most nights, and he should be shining as a bull-dog of a floor general with the second stringers.
Another thing we can note is the fact that most of the players in the second unit are young and hungry to prove they deserve to be a part of the NBA, whether that be with the Celtics or not. This should be further motivation to showing what they can do and hustle on the court as the season progresses.
Expect the Celtics bench to bring a new dimension to the floor than the 2016 Celtics bench. This team has been stacked with athletic playmakers and stretch bigs who should have no problem scoring and running the floor in transition, which seems to be the new identity the Celtics have been leaning towards after dealing their best defensive players during the offseason. Let’s get the season started already!