In the Celtics Season Preview, I talked about how if this team bought back into Brad Stevens’s system the team could make a sneaky run in the playoffs. Instead the now 9-1 Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA right now and look to be making their talent shown across the league. Although you do not get a championship for having the best record in the league 10 games in, I believe this Celtics team have shown signs that they can compete not only in the playoffs, but for Banner 18 this season.
The Celtics are back to what they were pre Kyrie Irving. A team that plays together and is focused on winning versus getting paid and getting numbers. This team reminds me a lot of the 2017-18 Celtics that lost Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward and still managed to take LeBron and the Cavaliers to a game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals. A team that had no expectations once the injuries hit and rallied behind rookie Jayson Tatum, second-year player Jaylen Brown and Scary Terry Rozier to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the LeBron led Cavaliers. The major difference between the two teams is there are more talent and maturity with this Celtics team and with a weak Eastern Conference, this team can find themselves in the Finals in June.
This Celtics team has 2-3 All-Star caliber players on their team and with the team buying into the system, the sky is the limit. Kemba Walker has been proven to be worth the 4 years 141 million max contract based on his leadership alone. Walker averaging 25 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game has teamed up with Marcus Smart and become the leaders that the locker room needed to come together. Last year eye rolls and team meetings destroyed the Celtics chemistry and after 10 games this year that problem is gone.
Gordon Hayward also is back to himself and although he is dealing with a broken hand for six weeks, Hayward might be the Christmas gift Celtics fans need for rings in June. Hayward averaged 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game shooting 55% from the field in the first eight games and the way the ball moved while he was on the court made for open looks that led to success. There has also been improvement from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Both players who needed to improve for Boston to take that next step and they both have delivered. Tatum is averaging 19.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game as well as having the best plus minus in the NBA with a +128 which is +36 ahead from number two Giannis Antetokoumpo +92. Brown who has only played seven games is averaging 20.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists a game and has shown the ability to guard big men in the Celtics small-ball lineups. With the team coming together it all shows signs for a spectacular regular season and a long postseason.
The main question that still remains is can this team get a big. Daniel Theis has been solid with 6.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a game, but he is injured and has struggled with bigger players. Robert Williams 111 has been a pleasant surprise bringing solid energy on the bench with 5.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game, however, Williams is nowhere near as polished offensively as he needs to be. Enes Kanter is back on the floor so it is unclear how solid he can be for the C’s so far in three games he is averaging 9.0 points, and 6.0 rebounds a game. The good news with the big men issue is the Celtics have trade capital and if they continue to compete at this level there is no doubt that Danny Ainge will give this team a solid center for the playoff run.
The Celtics are not a future contender for a title. They are a title contender now. The Celtics are closer to Banner 18 then the fans originally thought and with the league being wide open this season, it might be time to get the duck boats and cigars ready in June for