It's important to remember that we are right in the thick of pandering season within the NBA calendar. Optimism is at an all time high no matter who your favorite team is. Maybe the prized rookie on your favorite team looks great out in Vegas, maybe your favorite team landed a free agent that you've convinced yourself is the missing piece. Maybe your favorite team executed a surprise trade. The point is, everyone is happy and saying the right things. That's what July in the NBA looks and sounds like.
That is especially true when it comes to the newest Celtic Malcolm Brogdon. I mean, that's some Grade A pandering to the fanbase if I've ever seen it. This isn't the first time we've heard it either which tells me it's either genuine or this man is already a master panderer. When the trade first went down, we got these quotes
But at this point, he’s already been a featured player on an NBA team and he’s already gotten the contract. Now his priority is just to be healthy and get a ring.
“I’m looking to win a championship, that’s actually it,” Brogdon said. “In the past, I’ve worried about stats and numbers and all that. I’m going to Boston and not worrying about that.”
and in that clip/quotes with Woj it goes to another level which I think you'll agree as a Celts fan is music to our ears. While I think it's easy to say the right things and have this mindset in July as opposed to let's say, January, it's hard to not get excited about the addition of Brogdon after hearing him talk like this.
Think back to the 2018-19 Celtics roster. You know, the one that was loaded with talent and was talked about as a big time title favorite. That roster was legit insane
Ultimately that roster came up short because Kyrie quit in the 2nd round against the Bucks, but looking back there is no denying a huge part of their issues revolved around roles. Guys didn't know what their role was supposed to be, guys thought maybe they were better than they were, there was a power struggle dynamic, and it all added up to one of the more frustrating seasons in recent Celtics history.
From the second he took over as the boss of this team, it's been pretty clear that Brad learned his lesson from that season. You know what this roster has had since last summer? Defined roles. Every player on the roster knew what his role was and what was expected of him whether he was a starter or coming off the bench. Ime got everyone to buy in and look what happened as a result, they took off. It may not seem like a big deal, but it's pretty clear that having defined roles and complete buy in from the players is the foundation for a successful season.
Which brings me to the Malcolm Brodgon trade. If we're to believe Brogdon here, Brad made it abundantly clear what the plan/role was for him on this team. You either buy in and accept it or there's no deal. With the team so close and currently contending, fit and mentality is just as important as skill. That 2019 team told us that talent isn't everything when it comes to building a contender. It's important, you certainly need to have it, but fit matters. Mentality matters. Brad essentially confirmed this for us
“With our group in particular, it’s not as much about blindly acquiring talent as it is fitting a team together,” Stevens said. “We’ve got some very, very talented guys, and they are young. So it’s about how do we fit together, bring our strengths together to accentuate each other.”
The fact that Brad and the Celts were crystal clear that this was a 6th man opportunity for Brogdon is pretty interesting. There was no, "well just come into camp and compete for a starting spot" nonsense. He was being brought in to add to what the Celts have already built, not change it.
Nobody denies Brogdon's talent at this point. While I do think he's being mischaracterized a little bit by the Anti-Smart people as this natural playmaker, that's not really his game. He's a combo guard that actually had his best seasons playing off ball at the 2 spot while in MIL. He can pass and his veteran presence/skillset will be valuable at that position, but it's not like they added this pass first CP3-esq floor general. The question for him will always surround his health. The fact that you can pretty much bank on him missing at least 20 games is probably why you see Brad building out his guard rotation to be Smart/Brogdon/White/Pritchard. He probably knows that the best way to keep Brogdon on the floor is to keep his minutes down, and if Brogdon is now also going to completely buy into that role, well that seems like it could be beneficial for everyone involved. When healthy, there is legit talent there
One of the things I'm most excited to see when it comes to this upcoming season is the lineup versatility. The combinations are endless and they all look incredible. You want to go big? You can unleash the most dominant starting 5 by the numbers in the NBA last season with Smart/Jaylen/Tatum/Al/Rob. You want to go with a defensive three headed monster on the perimeter? How does a Smart/White/Brogdon/Tatum/Rob lineup look to you? That seems pretty attractive to me.
We can have bench lineups of White/Brogdon/Brown/Gallo/Rob when Al/Tatum get their first stint of rest in the first quarter if Ime wants. The fact that Ime can unload so many different defensively versatile lineups while not giving up too much in terms of scoring/playmaking is pretty rare. The Celts were already the best defense in the NBA by pretty much every metric, and they are adding a plus defender at good size who when healthy can absolutely hold his own on that end. He's not going to guard someone like Giannis the same way Smart does, but that's OK. This addition gives them a starting caliber point guard no matter which of the top 3 Ime decides to go with. Looking around the league, who can really say that right now?
But it all comes back to the buy in. Things can look great on paper and ultimately flame out if guys do not accept and buy into the roles that Brad/Ime had determined. In some cases it's hard to get that buy in because maybe it has to come at a time when that team hasn't really shown how close they really are. That is not the case in Boston at the moment, which is why this is all so exciting. If Brogdon is healthy and buys in, it gives this team the exact dynamic they were missing in the NBA Finals and partially why they ended up choking away a title.
The good news is pandering season is no where close to being over. Just wait until we get to training camp. Everyone will be in the best shape of their life, everyone will be healthy and ready to rock, it's going to be glorious.