The Boston Celtics are just a few games away from potentially making the NBA finals. A lot has been made about the Celtics ability to win despite a perceived lack of talent. Head coach Brad Stevens has received a lot of credit for Boston’s playoff success, but the quality of the Celtics roster may surprise you.
C- Aron Baynes, Greg Monroe, Daniel Theis
PF- Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Guerschon Yabusele
SF- Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, Abdel Nader
SG- Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jabari Bird
PG- Terry Rozier, Shane Larkin, Jonathan Gibson, Kadeem Allen
What is true is the Celtics are missing their two best players. Just minutes into his Celtics debut, Gordon Hayward sustained an ankle injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Kyrie Irving had the Celtics surging, but the point guard underwent knee surgery that forced him to miss the entire playoffs. Both players were off-season additions that were expected to form a unique one-two punch in Boston.
What happened in Boston in their absence has been surprising, but not improbable. Young players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have progressed quicker than expected, but both were top NBA prospects heading into the draft. Both players were selected third in consecutive drafts with Brown entering the league in 2016, while Tatum is still in his rookie season. The Celtics initially had the first pick in the 2017 draft, but opted to trade down with the Sixers for the third spot. After the draft, the Celtics maintained they would have selected Tatum had they stayed at No. 1. This is something Tatum reiterated in an interview with NBC Sports Boston.
“The Celtics were always going to pick me No. 1, but Philly didn’t know that,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “Philly thought that Boston was going to pick Markelle, so Philly traded the pick and gave Boston a pick for next year, so Boston was like, ‘Well, we can still get the player we want, a [future] pick and then we get the player we wanted for less money.’ So Boston still got what they wanted, and Philly had to give up still to get the player. But Philly didn’t know that Boston was gong to pick me, so that’s why they traded up.”
Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier have been two other key players for the Celtics in their postseason run, and both players were high first round picks for Boston. Smart was selected with the No. 6 pick in 2014, while Rozier was picked No. 16 in 2015. Al Horford is one of the handful of players who was not drafted by the Celtics that is a key contributor on their current roster. Many wondered if the Celtics overpaid Horford when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract. Horford has been one of the Celtics most valuable contributors in the 2018 playoffs.
It is fair to call this Celtics team underdogs, but the Boston starting lineup is full of high lottery picks. Boston’s young core has progressed quicker than anyone expected, but these are also players that were highly rated across the league heading into their respective drafts. There are plenty of teams with numerous players who were lottery picks who did not even get close to the playoffs this season. However, painting the picture of the Celtics as a team full of underdogs does not provide a full picture of the talent in Boston.
Source: Heavy Sports