We sit a little over halfway through the NBA season and quite possibly the biggest surprise this year has been the Boston Celtics. A team that lost little to nothing over this offseason is on track to finish as a mid-seed in the playoffs, while many analysts had them finishing much further up. The thought process was simple; a healthy Kyrie Irving combined with a healthy Gordon Hayward equals production. Mix that with fantastic production from a stellar bench and youngsters like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and that’s a finals contender in the making. Well, that’s what everyone thought. The Celtics currently sit at 3rd in the East with a 35-19 record but have looked considerably shaky at times during the season. Combine that with some off-court antics and passive aggressive comments from teammates and Celtics fans have a reason to be worried. Let’s take a look at how this Celtics team has played and whether the worries of Celtics fans are justified.
Celtics Mid-Season Report
Record: 35-19 (3rd in the East)
Last 10 as of Feb 5th,2019: 9-1
Strength of Schedule (Source: TeamRanking.com): 22nd
More Minutes: Robert Williams
Most Surprising: Marcus Morris
Most Disappointing: Gordon Hayward (sort of)
MVP So Far: Kyrie Irving
The Celtics have had possibly the most up and down season out of everyone in the NBA. Boston went an uncharacteristic 16-13 in the months of November and December. The notion that was created during this time was that the team simply didn’t mesh well. Keep in mind Kyrie only missed two games during this stretch. However, the new year brought out a new Celtics team. Since January 1st the Celtics are 14-4 and have climbed back into the top of the east. This is the Celtics team everyone expected to see and what many expect to see throughout the season.
The Celtics have the eighth hardest remaining schedule and have key games against the Lakers, Raptors, and Bucks coming up. This month is by far their toughest as they face five playoffs teams in their next eight games. Not to mention teams like the Lakers and Pistons although not currently in a playoff spot can certainly give the Celtics trouble. Below are key factors on what needs to happen and what was got the Celtics to this point, to begin with.
Marcus Morris, Keep Being You
The biggest surprise of this season has got to be Marcus Morris. He is currently averaging 15/6/1 on 48 % FG and 41% 3P. He sits in the top 25 for three-point percentage and has kept the production up all season. What has really impressed me about Morris is his ability to become a clutch factor for this Celtics team. He is currently shooting 53 % from the field in the 4th and 44 % from three-point range. To put this in perspective, Kyrie Irving shoots a solid 47 % from the field and still cannot top the production Morris is bringing this team. Even looking at eFG % or effective field goal percentage which takes into account the three ball, Morris still blows Kyrie out of the water 64% to 51%. In no way am I insinuating Marcus Morris is anywhere close to Kyrie Irving, but you see my point? The reason this Celtics squad is at the top of the East is due largely to Marcus Morris. He is providing what Gordon Hayward can’t provide at the moment and that’s just what the Celtics need. His production will be key down the stretch.
About Gordon Hayward…
Give this man a break. He suffered a horrific ankle/foot injury not even a year and a half ago and people are already trying to find a team that will take him. I’ve seen this reference around the internet and it is so perfect for this situation; if you got into a severe car crash that mirrored the injury Gordon Hayward suffered don’t you think the next 100 or so times you drive you’d be more cautious and would have to adjust again? This man worked so hard over the past year and he’s getting ridiculed for his production. He could have easily said I’m done or I need more time, but he wanted to get back to the game as quick as possible.
As I mentioned above, Marcus Morris is doing a great job filling in for Hayward and it really helps give him more time to adjust. I firmly believe Hayward will be a key piece to the Celtics playoff run and will show up when it matters most. But until then, leave the man alone.
Danny Ainge Let Go of Some Draft Picks
Look, last year it was understandable that we made minimal moves at the deadline. We didn’t necessarily have many draft picks that year and their positioning was somewhat solidified in the east. But now? The Celtics have got to go get someone that can help this team. Rumors of guys like Marc Gasol being available have to push the Celtics to do something. You don’t need a big name guy but someone who can give you 10 points and 6 boards a night. I think Gasol fits this mold perfectly and I think the Celtics need to make a move. However because of cap issues this really isn’t feasible. Look for a legit big with one or two years left who can provide help in both rebounding and scoring.
If you want any chance of beating the Warriors in the Finals you cannot sit at the deadline again. Ainge needs to use some of those picks he has and deal them for a legit forward or center that can provide much needed rebounding to this team.
Untucked Kyrie is the Best Kyrie
Irving has had a fantastic season this year. currently averaging 24/7/5 is exactly what the Celtics needed. Except down the stretch, they’re going to need a little bit more/ Irving is a premier player in this game but in these last few months and into the playoffs, he needs to show how he can lead a team. Block out the media and all the other noise and focus on balling out. Irving has made comments about the team and himself and now it’s time to put up or shut up.
The Celtics wouldn’t be here without Kyrie and we need him now more than ever. So whether he needs to untuck his jersey or use some colorful language, do what you need to do to turn it up. We’ll see Lebron do it, we’ll see Kevin Durant do it, we will see all the great players in this league do it. He wants to make a legacy in Boston, now’s his chance.
So that’s it. Not too complicated for the Celtics. Keep up the production, go out and grab a rebounding big, and have your clutch players be clutch. The Celtics have the potential and they most certainly have the coaching to push them to a strong playoff run, it’s simply about performing when it matters. The New England Patriots used the slogan “Do your job” and that couldn’t be more true for the Celtics. Morris did his job and became the Hayward that the Celtics signed two years ago. Kyrie is being Kyrie. It’s starting to come together but can it stay together is the real question. The Boston Celtics have one of the most storied franchises in all of the NBA and there is no reason they can’t add to that legacy this season.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images