I’ve touched on many topics in my columns this year, but I have yet to write about NBA content. Frankly, I don’t care too much about the NBA regular season. However, this season, I’m finding myself going out of my way to watch Celtics games, which hasn’t happened in a few years.
The way this team is playing right now is wonderful. Even after a tough loss to Sacramento on Sunday, they still own the best record in the Eastern Conference at 10-2. Everything seems to be meshing together perfectly, something which couldn’t be further from the truth last year.
The most obvious difference is the change at point guard from Kyrie Irving to Kemba Walker. This isn’t a Kyrie Irving hate piece, but I am happy he’s gone. That team was a mess last year and while he wasn’t the only reason, he was a main culprit in the headache that surrounded the 2018-19 Celtics.
They completely turned the page this year, and it’s a breath of fresh air. Walker may not be as talented as Irving, but he’s a way better fit on this team. So far, he has done a terrific job of getting everyone involved but also taking over games when necessary.
Walker is great, but it hasn’t all been on him. It seems like every player on the floor has been making plays this year. Jaylen Brown has been fantastic. He must have heard the haters before the season saying he wasn’t worth the $100-plus million extension. So far, he’s been Boston’s best overall player, averaging 20.1 points per game on over 50% shooting. He is also one of the team’s top rebounders, grabbing more than seven per game.
Jayson Tatum is also great. He hasn’t shot the ball perfectly this season, but he has improved his shot selection and has found more effective ways to score. He is the team’s leading rebounder and has also been effective on defense.
Speaking of defense, you can’t talk about the Celtics without bringing up Marcus Smart. He is the heart and soul of this team. Even when he doesn’t score a lot, Smart is getting the ball to his teammates and making the plays on both sides of the floor that help the team win. Whenever the Celtics are playing well, Smart is usually a big reason why.
The start of this season saw the resurgence of Gordon Hayward, who looked phenomenal in the eight games he played, especially his 39-point performance against the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, he broke his hand two games later and will be out for the next six weeks or so. Even without him, the Celtics have not missed a beat and continue to find ways to win.
The biggest question mark for the team this season was the frontcourt with the departure of Al Horford. The Celtics don’t have a clear replacement for Horford, but through a frontcourt-by-committee approach, they have been able to make it work. The combo of Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter and Robert Williams may not always be pretty to watch, but they’ve all been solid in their roles this season.
The Celtics are getting contributions from everyone right now, even rookies Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards. That gives me a lot of confidence moving forward this season. I am still not sure if they can beat the Bucks or the 76ers in a seven-game series, but I am definitely more confident in this team now than I was at the beginning of the season.
Regardless, this is the most fun Celtics team to watch since the Isaiah Thomas-led team of 2016-17. The best part is that we don’t even know the full potential of this team yet. A lot has gone well, but there is still room for improvement. They already eclipsed my original expectations, and I can’t wait to see what this team continues to accomplish this season.