A Look At Some Of The Biggest Surprises From The Celtics Preseason That I Don't Think Anyone Saw Coming

Boston Globe. Getty Images.

Somehow, we all have to make it until Friday before we see the Preseason Celts play again. I think it's fair to say that even though I knew this week long break was coming, I was not prepared. I just looked again, and it's only Monday. This is going to be a long week.

Then I started thinking of what has really surprised me through 3 games. There are things you could have expected like Jaylen looking incredible, Jayson's October efficiency being dogshit, the Marcus Smart Experience being a rollercoaster already, shit like that. But I will say there have been more than a few things that I certainly was not expecting that have been pleasant surprises and things I think we are all hoping carry over to the regular season and beyond. Here are a few that stood out


Grant Williams' handles

I was curious to see what Grant came back with after this summer given that it's a contract year in the event he doesn't sign that early extension, and the easiest and most obvious answer is his handles. I wouldn't exactly say he's on the Steph/Kyrie level or anything insane, but he's doing shit that we have never seen before in his Celtics tenure when it comes to putting the ball on the floor

I can say confidently that we've never seen Grant be able to do shit like this on an NBA floor, no matter what time of year. We were once at a point in the Grant Era where you could cringe any time he touched the ball because normally it would end in disaster. Then last year he slimmed down and became a legit knockdown shooter and versatile defender. While great, he was still kind of one dimensional when it came to his offensive arsenal. Now? This version of Grant actually has dribble moves that he can pull off against NBA defenses? That would certainly be a welcomed addition.


Noah Vonleh might be able to actually play

We all knew with Rob out for months that someone was going to have to step up when it came to the Celts frontcourt. How many of you were expecting that guy to be Noah Vonleh?

OK, there have been some games since that tweet went out so it's not totally accurate anymore, but as of today Noah Vonleh is currently

5th in Total REB (25)

10th in REB average (8.3)

It was a bit of a surprise when we learned that Vonleh was going to be the first big off the bench, and then Mazzulla took it a step further with Vonleh starting on Friday night against the Hornets. This told us that Brad/Mazzulla are giving him a legit look in terms of securing one of the final guaranteed roster spots.

Given that you still have Kab on the Two Way, I think this makes sense. Someone was going to have to snag that end of the bench guaranteed spot, and I think I feel more comfortable with Vonleh getting it than any of the other reserve guards/wings, and watching him play the man is so much bigger than I remembered. I didn't know what to expect when they brought him in to compete for a spot in camp, but he's certainly been better than I think we all thought.

Blake didn't look weird wearing Celtics green

Sometimes when a player joins a new team, the fit looks weird. Not just on the floor, but in the actual jersey. I was excited to see Blake on Friday night because not only did I want to see how he meshed on the floor, but considering the Celts have been after him for nearly a decade, I couldn't wait to see what it actually looked like. The result? Not bad in both areas! First, the look

Kent Smith. Getty Images.

That doesn't look so bad! The green suits him. Just like with Brogdon, you don't get that immediate feeling of things not looking quite right like it does with other players who found new teams this year. Then when it came to Blake's play


That's pretty much all I want from Blake in his 10-15 minutes. Rebound well, move the ball, play good defense and knock down an open three every once in a while. 

The Celtics still look like the Celtics under Joe Mazzulla

Now this is of course something we'll have to see once the games count and all that, but so far? You're lying if you aren't even at least a little surprised that there seems to be no difference between Joe and Ime when it comes to how the Celts play. The things they thrive at, they're still good at. Their problem areas that existed last year still exist through three preseason games. The regular rotation players are kicking the shit out of everyone they play, just like they did for the final 5 months of the year last season under Ime.

This is maybe the biggest factor in everything we've seen so far. Joe Mazzulla is a giant question mark for this team the same way Ime was in Year 1 last season. How this team is playing right now should give you some confidence that when the real things start, they shouldn't really deviate from what made them successful last year despite having a new head coach. This is where the leadership of Brown and Tatum really comes into play. They set the tone and the rest of the roster follows. Let me ask you, does Jaylen look locked in right now? Yes. Is a surprise that everyone else in the regular rotation does too? It shouldn't be.

This team still refuses to take care of the ball

I had to call this out separately. I find it legitimately insane that after the playoff run we all just witnessed, and how critical taking care of the basketball was to their success and ultimately their failure, they've come out this preseason still turning the ball over at an insane rate.

In the two games against the Hornets who most certainly do not possess what I would call a "good defense", the Celts turned it over 44 times. Of the teams who have only played 3 games, only the Bulls have turned it over more (65 vs 55) but they're also without their starting point guard. What is the Celts excuse?

If you were to ask me heading into these games, their ball security would have been one of the things I figured would look drastically better given what happened last year. Nope. It's been horrific. That for sure surprised me and in none of the good ways.

Having said all that, the Celts are 2nd in total assists (99) so the ball movement has been great. Just please take care of the basketball I am literally begging you.

Sam Hauser is playing what I would call passable defense

When it comes to Sam Hauser, we knew he could shoot. The man came out of the womb locked and loaded, ready to bury catch and shoot threes. That part of his preseason has been awesome to watch, but was to be expected for the most part.

The surprising stuff comes on the defensive end of the floor. He's not going to make an All NBA Defense team, but the defense we've seen Hauser be able to play in all three games so far has been WAY better than what I think many were expecting. Just be passable, that's the bar in my opinion. He's showing the ability to stay with guys off the dribble which is nice, his positioning has been OK, and the thought is during the year when he's surrounded by 4 other plus defenders, things won't be so bad.

As long as he can hold his own defensively, I see no reason why he isn't a regular rotation player. The shooting is too good. The chemistry he clearly already has with Malcolm Brogdon is too good to not have out there with the second unit. It was clear that he saw his path to actual minutes was going to come down to knocking down open looks and defending at an acceptable level, and Hauser has done both which is great to see.

Again, let me be VERY clear about all this. These games are fake. We'll have to see what things look like in 8 days when the season officially kicks off against the Sixers. But this time of year is about looking for signs of things that could absolutely translate to the real games, and I don't see anything on that list that is too outrageous to suggest they might. If they do? Well you mix that in with all the shit we already know is going to be awesome, and we should have one hell of a year on our hands.