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10 Takeaways From The Celtics Extremely Intoxicating Preseason

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

Now that the preseason is officially over and for the most part we’ve all come down from Carsen Edwards going nuts, it’s a perfect time to take a step back and take a look at the good and not so good from this limited sample size. In some ways what we saw was encouraging, but there were also areas that as we enter the 2019-20 regular season still have me a little concerned. When you’re playing this time of year things are never usually as good as the positive times and as much of a disaster as the negative, but based on the body of work you can start to form some informed opinions on the product.

After a 4-0 run which consisted mostly of blowouts, here are 10 takeaways based on what I watched

1. Daniel Theis should be the starting center

Even if you want to toss out his ridiculous 54.7 Drtg in the preseason based on the competition, there’s little doubt that Daniel Theis is at least in my mind the front runner for that starting five spot. Not only does he have the most knowledge of the system, but he’s also the closest thing you have to Al Horford in the way he defends, spreads the floor, passes, etc. One thing Horford was so good at was his lateral quickness, and having Theis out there gives you a big who is athletic and quick enough to stay with smaller guys in the perimeter, especially in P&R, something a guy like Kanter really struggles with.

He had a DREB% of 20% which is plenty good enough and you combine that with his 33% AST% and if Brad doesn’t totally want to abandon the system we saw last year through Horford, Theis is his best chance at replicating certain facets of that offense.

2. Jayson Tatum’s approach and rebounding are way better

We were promised a new approach of FTs/drives and threes and that’s exactly what we got. Tatum was 3rd on the team in FGA from the restricted area (4.7), led the team in right corner threes, and was second on the team in above the break threes (4.3). From midrange? Just 1.7 FGA a game which is a drastically lower number that we saw his first two seasons. He accounted for only 20% of the teams FTAs which was 3rd among starters (4th if your count Theis) but what we saw was a much more aggressive Tatum and someone who seems to have eliminated the pump fake dribble into a long two decision. I think we’d all rather have him just take the three, and he showed signs of that with Team USA which was nice to see translate into these games.

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From a rebounding perspective, if you’re going to start Theis and play Tatum at the 4, that means he’s going to have to rebound. Well he led all starters in DREB% at 21% and was tied for 2nd in total rebounds per game. If he’s going to be able to hold his own on the boards, that’s going to allow Brad to unleash his small ball lineups more, and you add in his solid defense all preseason and Tatum looks fantastic.

3. It’s a little concerning that Gordon Hayward is still shooting like shit

I get it, there’s excitement because Hayward looks quicker and more aggressive and not the tentative little bitch we saw last season which is good because that tells us mentally he’s feeling like himself again. That’s important. I can understand not focusing on the percentages and putting more stock into the types of shots he’s taking, but at the end of the day I need to see Hayward be a much better shooter once the regular season rolls around.

Putting up 34.8/20% splits with under 1 3PM in 20 minutes a night was slightly concerning, as is his 15.5% usage. If he’s not going to be used a ton, the times he actually is has to be way more efficient.

4. The kids looked terrific

Carsen, Grant, Tremont, Tacko, they all were wildly impressive this preseason. Carsen’s shooting, Grant’s all around game, Tremont’s scoring/vision, Tacko being Tacko, it was all better than advertised coming out of Summer League. Carsen and Grant should make an impact right away, especially if they defend like they did in preseason, and Tremont and Tacko should have the Maine Red Claws on must watch status.

The only downside is we got to see virtually no Romeo Langford, and to think they get to add a lottery talent to this group is pretty damn exciting.

5. The defense overall was much better than I expected

I think there was a lot of panic about the Celts defense heading into the year, and while there are still questions about their interior defense, overall things were much better than I expected. The Celts were 2nd in the NBA in opponent FGM and FG%, 7th in opponent 3PM and 3rd in opponent 3P%, 1st in opponent scoring, 8th in opponent rebounding, and 1st in overall Drtg. Sure, who they played matters and it’s also why the 2nd best team in a lot of these categories are the Sixers who played largely the same opponents plus a team from China, but the early returns on this defense have to be encouraging. The communication was good, the perimeter guys held their own, and after that debacle against the Hornets I thought the bigs actually did a much better job.

Remember, this is a team that had a top 5 defense with Isaiah/Sully/Tyler Zeller, so something tells me Brad is going to be able to figure it out to the point where this can still be a respectable defensive unit.

6. Jaylen Brown seemed way more comfortable as a playmaker

One of Jaylen’s biggest weaknesses was his inability to create for others. His passing and handles are probably his two biggest faults, and both look to have improved drastically over the summer. We saw it with Team USA, and now in the preseason I loved his 15% AST% and team leading 3:1 assist to TO ratio. He looks more in control and that he’s processing defenses way quicker which is leading to the right passes, which to me is a pretty important development. We all know it’s a contract year out of Jaylen and if he wants that money he’s going to have to show some legit growth in that area.

7. Enes Kanter’s offense was a bit underwhelming

We know he can rebound, especially on the offensive glass, we know he struggles defensively, but one thing I was surprised at was how much he struggled offensively out of the post. He led the team in TOs and a lot of that was guards coming down and stealing the ball from Kanter on the block. There were times he had a few nice up and under moves, but if he’s going to be a focal point offensively of the second unit, I need to see him be better offensively plain and simple.

8. Semi’s may never figure it out as a scorer

Everything felt forced. Sort of like when you’re a bench player and coach gives you minutes so you try almost too hard to make an impact in an area you think you need to show in order to reserve a roll. His outside shooting was a tough 22% on 2.3 3PA a game, and overall from the field he shot 32% in his 17 minutes a night. Even when he showed to be aggressive and not just settle for threes, he only shot 45% from the restricted area which is pretty bad. This is a huge year for him in terms of the opportunity he may have, and we know how effective he can be as a defender, but if someone like Grant is going to give you similar defense with better offense, he’s going to steal his minutes.

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9. How has Javonte Green never made an NBA roster?

Given how he played, this is sort of crazy in my opinion. Averaged 9/4 on 80% shooting because nobody could stop him from getting to the rim and finishing strong. To me he’s won the 15th roster spot because he gives them a skillset they need, even more than the three point shooting of Strus. He’s athletic, he’s fearless, he has good size, and unless the Rockets or something who need wing help make an offer for him I don’t see how he won’t make the roster. Definitely one of the pleasant surprises of the preseason.

10. The positive chemistry is palpable

Of all the things listed, this may be the most important. This team loves each other, roots for one another when they do well, and none of the drama that we lived through last year seem to be anywhere in sight. Maybe part of that is Kemba, maybe part of that is Tatum/Brown not sulking,  maybe part of that is the guys who are no longer here, I’m sure Tacko Mania played a role, but in the end this looked a whole lot more like the Isaiah years Celts than last year’s debacle.

The talent and the rotations are one thing, but having better chemistry was a high priority in the draft and in free agency and while we won’t know how much better it is until this team faces true adversity, everything you as a Celtics fan may have hoped for when it comes to the chemistry has been awesome. I really think last year was a wakeup call to pretty much everyone. Talent means dick if everyone hates each other.


Overall the preseason did exactly what I hoped it would. It confirmed some questions, displayed some progression from very important rotation players, everyone for the most part stayed healthy, and they got back to playing Celtics basketball. A huge improvement from last year’s preseason which sort of set the tone for the year, I’m not sure things could have gone much better.