Finally! The NBA regular season is right around the corner. No more watching starters on restricted minutes or sitting through a fourth quarter filled with D-league prospects and players fighting to be the 12th man off the bench.
We are two days away from the Boston Celtics taking the court for their home-opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, Oct. 28. With that in mind, although the preseason was way too long for anyone's liking, there were some important takeaways that fans can latch on to heading into the season.
This team just looks, sounds and feels like they love playing together. I'm not sure if it was the international trip to start the preseason or if it's the fact that these guys are just excited to get our on the court together, but from top to bottom the roster is ready to get after it:
Marcus Smart hardly ever stops encouraging guys from the bench.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) October 24, 2015
When your most promising player and starting point guard of the future is up off the bench cheering on guys who are fighting for a roster spot, you know that you have a close squad who want to see each other succeed. This group is ready to win and each player has seemed to buy in to the team-first mentality that carried the Celtics during their 2014-2015 postseason run.
The Celtics have been in need of outside shooting for a few years now. Since the departures of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the C's have lacked the ability to stretch the floor and efficiently knock down three-point field goals. Although a very small sample size, it looks like they have taken a step in the right direction.
While having one of the top three-point field goal percentages in the league may not be sustainable throughout the season, I think the team will improve in that area. I think the addition of Amir Johnson, a more confident Kelly Olynyk, a rejuvenated Avery Bradley and less Jared Sullinger will keep the team afloat when it comes to knocking down outside shots.
After months of speculation, educated guesses and even some worry, it seems that the Celtics finally have a starting five. Smart, Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee and Tyler Zeller have asserted themselves as the starting five that will take the floor on Wednesday night's season opener. This unit has played well together during the preseason and has proved that they can defend as well as put points on the board, which is something you couldn't always say about last season's starters.
Although the starting lineup is presumably set, that does not mean that this group will start all 82 games. Via Chris Forsberg of ESPN:
All that said, don't get too attached to this rotation. [Brad] Stevens has repeated ad nauseum that he will use Boston's depth as a weapon and won't hesitate to mix and match personnel to give the Celtics a better chance at success. We suspect that will mean a lot of third-quarter tinkering like we saw last season when Stevens would often swap out a big to generate a more favorable matchup or ride a hot hand. While keeping players happy with their playing time is the biggest challenge for Stevens with this deep and even roster, the ability to go 12 deep and get creative with matchups is a small luxury. Twelve different players started games for Boston last season -- aided in large part by the 11 trades and 41 different roster players the Celtics carried -- but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Stevens start a similar number this year even with more roster stability.
The versatility that Stevens will be able to emphasize throughout the season will be an asset that wasn't there last season. While he had plenty of options due to the number of players on the roster, Stevens never had the level of talent that he does now. The starting lineup will change based on the opponent and we could end up seeing as much variation as we did last year. But this time it will be on purpose, and not forced by roster turmoil and a plethora of new bodies streaming through the locker room.
There were a lot of things to like after watching seven preseason games, and as fans, lets hope that they carry over to the regular season.
Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/NBAE
Follow Connor Casey on Twitter @Connor_Casey5 Connor Casey 10/26/2015 01:21:00 PM Tweet Edit