The one thing people love to scream at you whenever you talk about some early season trends is how nothing matters because it's a "small sample size". You'll notice that only happens when you talk about anything positive. If it's negative? Well that's for real and counts. I don't think either extreme is true. The good stuff isn't always real the same way the bad shit isn't set in stone. There is some context invovled. So I decided to take a look at some trends I'm noticing through the first handful of games and give some thoughts about if what I'm seeing is sustainable or not. Both good and bad. Let's dive in.
Jaylen Brown's start
I wanted to begin with one of the best and most important surprises of the season. Jaylen looks like an All NBA player right now and has since the season started. But is it sustainable?
What I mean by that is I think you can buy Jaylen's leap and development as being real. The way he's getting into the midrange, his improved playmaking, the way he's scoring the ball, those are all sustainable. Nothing we're seeing is all that crazy for a young player who is getting more comfortable in his role.
But let's remember Kemba Walker exists. When he's back, the shot distribution will shift. Right now Jaylen is averaging around 19 FGA a night. Even if Kemba assumes a #3 option, I'm not sure Jaylen will stay at that level. I think both his and Tatum's FGA will drop. As a result, I think it would be a stretch to assume he's going to average 26 a game all season long. Could it be between 20-22? Absolutely. But Jaylen has a 29% USG% right now which I can't imagine is that high with Kemba in the mix.
The Celtics mostly pathetic defense
As of the writing of this blog, the Celts currently have the 21st ranked defense at a rating of 111.5. Opponents are scoring 111 a night against them (18th) while shooting 46.8% (21st) from the floor and 36.8% from three (17th). It's been one of their biggest issues to start the year without question.
But this is one of the areas where I think we'll see water start to find it's level over the course of the season. For starters, this team didn't lose any of their elite defenders this offseason, and they've played some pretty good teams to start their season. This is where a Brad Stevens team has ranked defensively since he first arrived in Boston:
More often than not, this is a top 10 defensive team, closer to top 5. I trust that the veterans on this team will figure it out. The Jays are making strides defensively, Smart is still an All NBA defender, even Rob is making strides. I think this is one early season trend we won't have to worry about
Jayson Tatum's All NBA start
We don't need to waste time here. Nothing we're seeing from Tatum is unsustainable in my opinion outside of his 45% three point shooting. But even with that coming back down to earth, his FTA should go up one would think. He has a career low FTAr at just .188. So while I think Jaylen's production might come back down once Kemba is back, I do not have that same concern with Tatum. He's the #1 option with out without Kemba, and I don't think we'll see him stray too far from his 27/7/4 start
The Bench's great shooting
Did you know the Celts bench is shooting 46/39% to start the year? This is also while getting absolutely nothing from Romeo or Aaron Nesmith. Guys like Semi and Pritchard have come in and made a real difference when it comes to shooting the ball. In fact, Semi has actually been shooting the ball well for some time now.
I'm just……not totally sold. I would think once Kemba is back Smart slides back down to the bench and I'm still skeptical that Semi can maintain this shooting over an entire season. It's not like Jeff Teague is all that efficient either. So while I think it can be better than what we saw last year, I dunno if it's going to be this good all year
Marcus Smart's hot three point shooting
For the most part, Smart's three point shot selection has been much better to start the year. Wasn't great against MIA, but on the whole it's been great. To the point where he is shooting 40% on 42 attempts. While I think Smart has improved as an outside shooter and is at least league average, I'm not convinced he's going to stay at 40% all year. How could you be.
Two years ago he ws around 36% on 4.3 3PA a night. That feels more comfortable to me. Somewhere between 35-38% is where I see this new and improve Smart ending up as long as he continues to mostly take good threes.
Robert Williams making a real impact
The early season numbers tell an interesting story. While on the court, the Celts Ortg is 118/Drtg is 105/Net rating is +12.8. When Rob is off the floor, those numbers change to 108/111/-3.4. The impact is there. What should excite you is how Rob is achieving that impact. He's better defensively, he's challenging shots, and he's finishing lobs. What part of that isn't sustainable? In my opinion he's done everything Brad could want in order to earn more minutes, and I really think it's only a matter of time before we see Rob slide in an the sole starting big once Kemba comes back
Payton Pritchard's role and impact
This is another one that's similar to Jaylen. It's a complicated situation. I think what we're seeing from Payton is real. He's poised, he's formed a great connection with Rob on the second unit, his effort level is ridiculous, he feels comfortable. That's all stuff you can buy.
But once Kemba and Teague are healthy, I just don't know where his consistent opportunity is going to come from. He's not going to be taking any minutes from Kemba/Teague/Smart, so I do not see him sustaining his 22 MPG. Like I don't think we should be expecting him to play in a playoff series if everyone is 100% healthy just yet.
Nobody, and I mean nobody hates having a double digit lead like the Boston Celtics. They refuse to not blow giant leads no matter who it's against. We've seen a large enough sample size to know that this is not an early season fluke. That shit is here to stay and it annoys the hell out of me.
The Two Big Lineup
I dunno about anyone else, but I'm all set with this. I get why Brad is trying it out, he needs to see a sample size with it, but it's been bad. I do not need it in my life any longer. The two bigs llineup has played 84 mintues together, has a 119 Drtg adna -13.2 net rating. Absolutely nothing suggests this should keep happening, yet here we are.
All in all, it's a good mix in my opinion. Some pleasant surprises I think will come back down to earth like Smart's shooting, but other big problem areas like team defense should get a whole lot better. Given their tough schedule to start the year, to be 6-3 at this point isn't a bad place to be and should only get better if some of these trends prove to be legit.