With the All-Star game in the books we are finally coming closer to the end of the season. For many teams the year is already over, at least in terms of postseason contention; but for a handful of teams in the East this is the most important stretch of the year, as they fight out the seeding order, hoping to avoid Cleveland for as long as possible. One of these teams are the Celtics. After a sluggish start in 2016, they really got things going in the new year and are now sitting at second, in front of Toronto and Washington. The symbol of Boston’s success is without doubt Isaiah Thomas who has become the league’s most lethal fourth quarter scorer. While the team is mostly built around veterans like Thomas, there is a cast of youngsters that makes not only the present look bright in Beantown.
The fruits of a trade
Because of the infamous trade with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012, Boston is blessed with the Nets’ first-round pick up until 2019. Although they are constantly rumored to send these picks away in a trade, they started to reap the first fruits in this year’s draft. The third overall pick got them Jaylen Brown out of California, a talent the Nets would have sorely needed. The 20-year old Small Forward hasn’t been a sensation, but he does show signs of promise. Since Avery Bradley’s injury left a hole in the Celtic’s wing rotation, Brown has quietly put together a decent rookie season. In 16 minutes a game he puts up 6 points and 2.5 rebounds at 44.3 % shooting. His numbers don’t blow you away yet, but his athleticism paired with good size and a developing shot hint at what a player he could be one day.
A third year veteran
Marcus Smart, on the contrary, already is a fairly good player. After being picked sixth in the 2014 draft, he played two solid campaigns, but has established himself as a vital part of Boston’s game this year. Even before he came into the league, Smart was known as a hard-nosed guy who digs in on the defensive end of the floor. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy brought exactly that to the Celtics without making big splashes on offense. He admittedly hasn’t been able to become a viable threat from long range – something almost expected from guards in this day and age. Apart from that, Smart, who turns 23 next Monday, worked his way to a respectable offensive game (10.7p 4.5a from the bench). Maybe his great value for Brad Steven’s team is that he is a totally different player from Thomas. While Thomas puts up huge numbers and torches opposing defenses on a nightly basis, Marcus Smart is the definition of hustle and is still capable of playing lead guard on offense.
Too much choice?
The third young gun I want to look at is Terry Rozier. The Point Guard didn’t have the best of starts in the NBA as a rookie last year, barely seeing the floor he often played for the Main Red Claws, the Celtics’ D-League affiliate. This year, however, has seen an improvement in playing time for the second-year man. His game has developed nicely in most areas and he now looks like a player that can stay in the league for some time. But his future might as well be elsewhere, as the 2017 draft is full of Point Guards who could once be a franchise type player. Should Boston want to keep the Nets’ pick, they will surely be picking in the top three again. With the prospect of another guard coming in soon, the Celtics would have to find minutes for Thomas, Smart, Rozier and possibly a rookie at the one spot. Regardless of what Boston does with their picks, the team is not only poised for a deep playoff run for the first time in years, but also equipped with a group of viable young players. Also, they could well serve as chips in a trade to lure another All-Star into town to lift them onto the next level. In one way or the other, the future looks bright in Boston.