While that all sounds very exciting (sarcasm) it is a marked sign of progress. The 2015-16 Celtics will be the first team in three-years that is expected to make the playoffs and and at least the second round. This is a far cry from what many thought over the last two years while in full rebuild mode.
The Celtics may even shock the most optimistic fan in 2015-16.
1. The Death of the Big-3
The NBA has been a star driven league since it's inception. However, with the Golden State Warriors success, winning last year's title we may see the NBA team building model shift from "Big-3" teams dominated by 2 or 3 superstars to more balanced 8-10 man "depth model" squad. In addition to Golden State; Memphis, San Antonio, and Atlanta all had balanced squads that ultimately achieved great success based on the depth that is rapidly gaining popularity around the league. The lack of quality stars means teams need to find a new way to succeed and it seems like collecting quality role players and "fringe" stars has become the best way in doing so. With that said, this current Celtics roster may have more cache than the average fan is able to recognize, which bodes very well for the deep "no name" C's.
2. East is Least
The NBA's Eastern Conference is bad. Really bad. When a shock Milwaukee Bucks squad from a year ago is catapulted into a trendy top-3 pick in the East after one year of marginal success, that's not good. Plus, the Bulls (the consensus 2-seed) will start the season with a new coach, the Raptors haven't advanced pass the first round of the playoffs in two successive trips, the Heat missed the playoffs entirely in the 14-15 season, while the Hawks lost one of it's key starters from a year ago in Demare Carroll...that's not mentioning the teams who will miss the playoffs entirely. Yuck.
3. Brad Stevens
It's simple, Brad Stevens is better than your coach. He is a basketball geek who understands X's and O's and has an inexplicable bond with his players. The best part of Stevens you ask? How about that he will start the season with more coaching experience than Derek Fisher, Steve Kerr, and Fred Hoiberg. COMBINED. And he's 39 (yet we wonder why NBA GM's are constantly second guessed for coach hirings). Stevens is yet to coach a team with a collection of talent equal to the games' top franchises, yet has been able to battle the best and put up a great fight. He is the star of this team and will need to continue that trend if Boston wants to shock the world again in 2015-16.
Even with a great coach, a shifting NBA landscape, and inferior competition, the Celtics will need some marked improvement from it's men in green. Here are some keys to the green teams success in 2015-16:
1. Establish the Rotation
Boston's strength is it's depth. Having at least two quality NBA starters at each position is a luxury most teams dream of and Boston will (more than likely) have as a reality. However, with depth comes the need for defined roles and units. Since the team is not star centric, egos should be put aside but nonetheless coach Stevens will need to find the right mix to maximize this squad.
2. Player Evaluation
Celtics' depth will likely leave 3-5 players in the cold for this winter. The challenge will be finding the players who don't fit the rotation correctly but still have value in a trade for additional assets (picks) or another player they do have a need for (star or otherwise). Players like Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, and James Young will need to cash in on some of their "potential" and turn it into production if they want a defined role and an extended stay in green.
3. Progression of the Youth
C's are loaded with young (overlooked) talent that has yet to reach its maximum potential. The growth of Marcus Smart might be the single most important instance of that for the green team to reach its potential. Smart was a Second Team All-NBA Rookie and will need to take that solid start and improve on it. Smart's great athleticism and tenacious defense will be key in setting the tone for the team and turning him into a natural leader for the C's as it did for him at Oklahoma State.
To put it simply, this season can be previewed in one word; Potential. And can be predicted in another; Fulfillment.
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