Boston Celtics: 3 Things That Will Dictate Team Success in 2018
The Boston Celtics are favorites by the majority of the Association to come out on top as Eastern Conference Champions in 2018, and rightly so.
So far, the C’s have made solid moves to keep their core intact, and come out ready to battle the new look Toronto Raptors, as well as a Philadelphia 76ers team that is hungry for some real success in the playoffs.
The Celtics re-signed Marcus Smart to a four-year, $52 million dollar deal, ensuring the heart of the Celtics remains with the team for the long haul. Boston also re-signed a surging big in Aron Baynes who feels there is unfinished business in Boston.
With all this in mind, Here are three things that will dictate Boston’s success in their 2018 campaign:
1. Injuries – Looking into Hayward’s return & Irving’s Durability
One of the biggest incidents of the 2017 season that made the Celtics’ improbable run to the Eastern Conference Finals so special was the horrendous injury to Gordon Hayward, a player who was supposed to turn further solidify the Celtics’ chances at dethroning LeBron James in the East.
In his last season before donning a Celtics uniform, Hayward averaged his best career output in a number of different categories, including points (21 ppg), rebounds (5.4 rpg), and free throw percentage (85 percent).
Kyrie Irving, on the other hand, was dealing with a great deal of pain that stemmed from his fractured patella after the 2015 NBA Finals. The screws that were planted in 2015 had become infected, and Irving missed 15 regular season games, as well as the entirety of the 2018 playoffs after having a procedure to get the screws removed.
When healthy, Kyrie Irving is one of the most dominant scoring guards in the league, and Hayward’s offensive ability would only make it easier for Irving to influence the game with his inside-out ability.
If the Celtics want to make a significant jump in the 2018 season and finally get a chance to battle the Warriors for league supremacy, the team cannot have any major setbacks in the injury department.
2. Depth – How will players react to new roles?
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were monumental when it came to the Celtics’ success last season, partly because they needed to pick up the production and impact that Hayward was supposed to bring before his injury. As a result, both youngsters made tremendous growth, driving Boston to their 2nd consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
Marcus Morris also saw an increased role, which should bode well for the time he spends on the floor in this upcoming season. His tremendous hustle and ability to provide instant scoring off the bench will be pivotal for the Celtics’ second unit.
This, however, would be the best case scenario.
All the players finding and adjusting to a reduced role due to an All-Star returning to the lineup could cause frustration, and the Celtics may have to trade away some of their depth as a result.
The Celtics have one of the most talented starting units in the NBA. What could really separate them between Eastern Conference Champions and NBA Champions could easily be the depth they currently find themselves with.
3. Perimeter Defense – How Smart, Brown, and Terry Rozier can spearhead a Title Run
Many around the NBA see the Celtics as the clear-cut favorites to land as Eastern Conference representatives in the 2019 NBA Finals. And while getting to the big dance is fun, there’s nothing quite like raising yet another banner to the highly decorated TD Garden.
If these C’s want to find themselves in the same conversation as the 2008 team that many considered the best big three in Celtics history, they must get through the best team assembled on an NBA court: the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors are quite the opponent, especially with their newest addition in DeMarcus Cousins. His ability as an all-around center is well documented, and if he hadn’t come off an injury like the one he suffered, DeMarcus would be looking at a max extension from another team.
There is, however, something that makes the Celtics one of the optimal teams to take down a team like the warriors: Perimeter defense.
The signing of Marcus Smart is particularly important as the Celtics’ defensive rating was a league best 99.8 with him on the court, and dropped significantly to 103.3 during the time he missed with injury.
With Marcus Smart returning on a four-year deal, and a number of other Celtics getting geared up for a potential finals run, there is a high incentive to lock up and continue to be known as one of the best defensive teams in the league.