James Young is set to make is return tomorrow at the preseason finale against the Brooklyn Nets. The 19 year old wingman has only appeared in one other preseason game, the first against Philadelphia in which he scored 10 points showing flashes of a player that was ahead of the learning curve most fans were expecting. However, with the emergence of players like Evan Turner/Marcus Thorton, Young may have missed his chance at a spot in the rotation. From a basketball perspective Thorton and Turner have both earned their minutes playing key roles on the team and exceeding expectations. Stevens would be wise to play the veterans now since this team has so many young pieces still evolving. From a Busniess perspective, Thorton is on a one year deal while Turner is on a cap friendly two year deal making a shade over 3 million. Neither of these players figure to be involved in Celtics future plans, by playing them early and often you can raise their stock and end up getting a great deal on the deadline. Young is still a player very early in his development, giving him the chance to watch behind veterans for a bit before seeing an expanded role will only be beneficial to his game. When his name is called just be ready to enjoy the show.
With Rondo looking like he’ll be returning a lot sooner than expected Celtics may just be able to stay afloat long enough to get their superstar back. Until then, here are some of the best lineups you’ll see before he returns:
This may be a possible starting lineup since they have the most continuity due to the injury of green. Backcourt defense shouldn’t be an issue with two best defenders holding down the fort. With players like Bradley/Sullinger/Olynk who can all stretch the floor and two legit ball handlers in Smart and Turner this lineup could be the most dangerous offensively if their all clicking. The main concern here would be frontcout defense, Olynk though he gained a few pounds of muscle is still not an ideal candidate when you think interior presence, but as long as he can play solid team defense and at least alter shots, this lineup should be just fine.
Stevens has made it clear that he wants to give Turner and Green a chance to play together, and his also shown that he wants to give Turner some minutes at the 1. With this lineup both Turner and Green would be on the floor along Sullinger and Zeller who Turner has built a great rhythm on the pick and roll. With Thorton in the lineup this would allow Boston to attack the paint with Sullinger and Zeller while keeping defense honest due to the shooting threats from outside. This big, but versatile lineup is something that Boston can use when they need added length.
This lineup though I doubt has ever been used once is one that has a lot of potential. With Olynk playing his more natural position at the 4 and paired with a legit Center this has the ability to be our strongest frontcout duo. This lineup will most likely feature a lot of P&R, cuts, and a very fluent tempo due to the fact that 3 of our best passers (Smart,Turner, and Olynk) will be on the court at once. As with all our lineup combinations it will have both an inside game because of the height down low and perimeter shooting with Young and Olynk. Also with Smart/Turner/Young in the game at once defensive matchups are interchangeable because of the versatility of all 3.
This lineup is one of the more interesting ones because it’s mostly seen as our “future” starting five. Granted this could all change if Rondo stays, or Celtics trade for a better rim protector. However, until then this lineup consisted of our highest ceiling players across the board. Smart will able to orchestrate the offense, Bradley and Young are capable of shooting from range (Young when more comfortable will be able to take more people off the dribble as well). And a frontcout that features two more players who can work from the inside and out makes for a lot of flexibility on the offensive end. Defensively, they’ll have to play good team defense due to lack of rim protection, but what they don’t have in rim protection they have in perimeter defense thanks to the likes of Smart and Bradley. Young has also shown a commitment to play defense and with his wingspan (7’0) he has the tools to be a great defender. We may not see this lineup till the end of the year, but when we do expect good things.
How we won the game:
Jared Sullinger. He controlled the paint, scored from the inside and out and looked like the by far the best player on the court. 21 points and 19 rebounds isn’t something to expect on a nightly basis, but to know that his capable of such explosions is definitely promising. It’s also worth noting he had a lot of success playing the center position with Green playing the 4.
Marcus Smart. We’ve highlighted extensively how poor of a shooter his been over the course of this preseason, but it has not fazed him in the slightest bit. Smart shot 3/8 from 3 (37%), but what was great was how great he played defensively, and how that seems to be more elevated with the game on the line. Smart hit a big 3 late in the 4th when the game was still on the balance, and played a great game on both ends of the floor. The numbers aren’t always going to be pretty for the Rookie, but his play down the stretch is not going unnoticed.
Offensive rebounding. With the Nets playing without Brook Lopez the Celtics took full advantage on the boards out rebounding the Nets on the offensive glass 20-7. As a team that struggled on the glass since the departure of Kendrick Perkins it’s always a good sign (even in the preseason) to see your team win the rebounding battle.
Balanced Scoring Attack. Of the 10 players that played more than 10 minutes, 6 of those players scored in double digits. Brad Stevens selfless basketball system looks great when everyone can contribute like this, hopefully this momentum can continue all the way to the regular season.
In the first ever 44 minute game Boston and Brooklyn will face off for the first of 3 times heading into the regular season. Here’s what to watch for:
The starting rotation
Since the return of Green, Stevens has gone with a starting lineup of Turner-Bradley-Green-Sullinger-Olynk. Though the results have been okay, Turner did average 5 turnovers in those contests and showed a tendency to over dribble which was the cause for a few of his turnovers. Let’s see if Stevens inserts Smart back into the starting lineup and gives him an early taste of what to expect going head to head with Deron Williams.
2. Tyler Zeller
Over the last two games Zeller has really come around averaging 13.5ppg and 5.5rpg on 80% shooting from the floor. Zeller looks comfortable running the P&R and has shown a nice touch with both hands around the rim. With Lopez out we’ll see if Zeller can continue his momentum for the remainder of the preseason.
3. Jeff Green vs Joe Johnson
Green will be going up against arguably the best scorer in the division in Joe Johnson. Fortunately for him he’ll get two cracks at him before the regular season game on October 29th. Both players have had critics point out that each can be very inconsistent and at times disappear throughout games. It will be interesting to watch how they push each other in order to get some momentum built up for their regular season matchup.
4. Smart’s shooting woes
This preseason the Celtics have shot 38% from the three. To put that into some type of perspective, that would be tied for 5th best in the league last year with the Golden State Warriors and the Washington Wizards if we could keep this pace all year. With all that being said, if you take out all of Marcus Smart’s 3pt attempts, the Celtics would be shooting 42% from range. Stevens needs to get Smart to attack the rim and find is offense their because it’s clear that his not quite ready for NBA range yet.
31 years old
5’11 (if that)
Stats last year: 8.7ppg/3.9ast/1.8rpg/80%FT
Career average in Field Goal and Three Point Precentages are 42% and 28%
However, did shoot a career high in 3’s last year at 32% ( i know still bad).
What to expect
Scoring guard off the bench who can put up numbers in a hurry. You may know him from some of his highflying years, but don’t expect much of that from him now at his somewhat advanced age. When his in the game expect for him to be a passing guard who when choses to score will attack the rim constantly. With a loaded backcourt I’m not entirely sure where he’ll fit in, but he could sneak in and take some minutes from Pressy if Boston needs more of a scoring PG in the game at that time. Also, though unlikely, he could be a piece acquired in order to set up a bigger deal (yes I’m praying for Al Horford).
1. Sullinger vs Sixers bigs
As good as Sullinger has been during these exhibition periods, he has heavily been struggling against players with more lengths. In their first meeting Sullinger went 4-15 and he’ll be looking for a better output tonight.
2. 3 point shooting
Boston has made it clear they want to be a team that can shoot from deep. Last night against the Raptors that didn’t turn out to well as they shot 8/30 from range. Tonight I’ll be looking for two things. One, will their threes fall tonight, and if they don’t will they make more of an effort to go inside which is something they didn’t do last night.
3. Jeff Green’s minutes
Last night Green played 31 minutes, only Olynk registered more at 32. If Green gets a rhythm early it’ll be worth watching to see if Stevens scales back his minutes or leaves him out to get his conditioning up with the season quickly approaching.
4. Will Marcus Smart attack?
As great as smart been at every facet of the game shot selection is still troubling. Now this may be completely by design, but Smart has yet to look to attack the basket frequently to score and has relied way to heavily on his streaky 3pt shot. Against a weaker defender like Tony Wroten I would like to see Smart be as relentless in attacking the rim as he is relentless on the defensive end.
1. Evan Turner
Before being ejected Turner looked like the best player on the team getting the start at the Pg position. With 11pts 7rebs and 6ast Turner was on track for a triple-double and probably could have scored even more if the referees were calling a bit of a tighter game. One thing is clear, Stevens loves Evan Turner and he will get every opportunity to be on the court.
2. Tyler Zeller
Last night Zeller played like the man many were hoping he would when he came to the team. He looked efficient and consistent running the pick and roll going a perfect 6/6 on the floor to go along with 4rebs and 3 assists. The best part of the night was his 3 blocks including back to back blocks that ended the first half. One of my biggest complaints was their lack of continuing to feed the ball to Zeller in the second half when it was clear he was in the zone, but we’ll get to that later. All in all, if Zeller can continue this play Olynk might not stay the starting Center for too long.
3. Marcus Smart
As usual the tough shooting continues for Smart has he continues to take too high a rate of 3’s. However, his play down the stretch really is what put him on this list. His relentless defense of Vasquez pushed and frustrated him and was a big part in Boston’s 9-0 run that tied the game at 89. Smart hit 3 free throws to put the Celtics in striking range and played at a whole new level when the game was on the line. This type of competitiveness and drive when the game is tight will keep him on the court during crunch time a lot this season.
4. Marcus Thorton
Thorton continues to shoot lights out and with the confidence from his coach and teammates his been nothing short of exceptional. Thorton shot 60% (3/5) from the 3 and played great defense as well logging in 3 steals. He also had maybe the highlight of the night on a 5 point play when he hit a 3 was fouled and then a raptors technical sent him to the line for a technical and the foul shot. Thorton is another player who throughout this season seems to have won himself a role on this team, and will be someone that will have a high trade value when the trade deadline comes around.
1. Living and dying by the 3pt shoot
Through the first 5 games Celtics have shown an incredible willingness to shoot the 3. Though at times it has looked great, last night was not one of those nights as they went 8/30 (26%) from range. Problem was with their 3’s not falling, Boston just continued to keep shooting over and over again when they had a legit 7 footer in Tyler Zeller who was dominating the game inside. Celtics barley went to him again in the second half and didn’t make a legit attempt to take it to the lane when it was clear their perimeter game was failing. Maybe this was just the case because it was the preseason, but this is a problem that can not persist in the future.
2. Bradley’s defense on Lou Williams last shot
After a great game-tying shot over Terrence Ross, Bradley backed it up with some poor defense that allowed Williams to hit the the GW shot. With the game tied Williams did have the advantage on deciding on wether he could go for 2 or 3, but Bradley made no effort to force Williams to his weak hand and allowed Williams to be the aggressor instead of dictating what he wanted Williams what to do. These type of mishaps are fine in the preseason and I’m sure it was a learning event for himself and the team.
3. Sullinger vs. Size
Though Sullinger has looked great during most of the exhibitions there has been one overwhelming trend that’s a bit concerning. Against bigger opponents, Sullinger has shown a struggle to get his shots off. In two games against Toronto Sullinger was 8/21 from the field (38%). And against the Sixers in our first game who have two lengthy players in the frontcout (Nerlens Noel and Henry Sims) he was 4/15. Sullinger needs to figure out how to play against size or teams will catch the trend and specifically place more lengthy players on him every chance they get.
4. Bradley’s vision
In 5 preseason games, Bradley has a grand total of 4 assists (0.8 per game). In Stevens selfless basketball system where he wants his team to constantly look for the open man, Bradley has become a bit of a dark hole. This lack of creating for others, along with the fact that his proven he can’t play the point guard position might make his position open to be taken if his jumper goes cold.