I love the Boston Celtics, and in the last few weeks, I have relished the chance to watch them. Especially games played in the last week, so here are my thoughts on the starting five of the Celtics from the last few days.
The last few games the Boston Celtics starting five has been:
- PG Isaiah Thomas
- SG Jaylen Brown
- SF Jonas Jerebko
- PF Jae Crowder
- C Amir Johnson
Let me get this one of the way quickly. The Swedish Larry Bird is my absolute boy. I hold him in Sacre level esteem as a bit of a cult figure, with one excepting. Jerebko can really go, His grit and hustle, as well as his ability on both sides of the ball, were a real highlight in a very bleak playoff, for me at least, he was a standout player, especially after Avery Bradley went down hurt. Jerebko’s numbers are a little down on last years, such as points per game and rebounds, but this is down more to a change in the way the Celtics play, Jerebko is spending less time banging bodies in the paint. His PER is up a fraction from last year to 10.6 and his field goal percentage is at a record high for him at .488. Jerebko is an important player for the Celtics organisation and I’m enjoying his run as a starter.
The Celtics have been lacking a superstar since the breakup of the big three and the blockbuster trade with the Nets (the gift that keeps on giving). I cannot accept the notion that Rondo was a superstar. Whilst clearly gifted he was fourth banana behind the big three and when it was his team, he wasn’t amongst the elite players across the league.
The Celtics are now watching the 60th pick in the 2011 draft become a truly elite Superstar in the modern NBA. His PER is through the roof, his scoring, boards and assists are at career highs this season, and whilst his defence will always be held against him, what he brings to a team going forward is more than enough to make up for any worries around his height.
The way Isaiah Thomas glides through defences and make frankly ridiculous shots look simple to raise the roof off the Garden and demoralises defences. Isaiah Thomas is an increasingly clutch shooter and coming up big time after time this season for the Celtics, as well as being the guy the team can rally around. The Celtics found their superstar, the Pizza Guy from Tacoma.
Jaylen Brown was a bit of an unknown to Celtics fans. Read any of the fan chat boards and nobody was entirely sure what we were getting in the then 19-year-old shooting guard. Fast forward six months and we are looking at a player whose stock is on the rise and is starting games in the NBA. Brown shot a career high 20 points against Orlando Friday night, and record highs in total rebounds (8) the last two nights on the spin. The young shooting guard has confounded critics with better shooting performances than were predicted by some in the media post draft. Brown will return to being a bench player when Bradley returns from his Achilles injury. This run as a starter has been promising, with two particularly good performances, especially last night, being leant on heavily in the OT win at the Bucks.
Brown is an exciting piece of the Celtics future, and that future could be very near at hand for the young man. My two hopes for Brown is that the Celtics don’t package him in a trade for Melo or even Boogie and that he grows a moustache to complete his otherwise excellent beard.
Amir Johnson, the forward playing up at center, is an interesting case. Johnson is a free agent at the end of the year and whilst he is a very handy player and a fan favourite in Boston, nobody is sure if the Celtics will look to pick him up in the summer. Johnson’s numbers this year a roughly in line with his career average, again boards and points are a little lower due to change in style of the Celtics who look to work from the perimeter. I like Johnson’s game, a player who quietly goes about his work and does the simple things well. Johnson has been averaging 20 minutes a night shooting a creditable .551 from the field, a career low. Johnson is a good player, but the Celtics will look for an upgrade at the position long term, I love the energy he brings the team and the way he quietly does good work averaging 6.2 points per night with a season-high 23 coming against Chicago at the start of the season.
The winner of the Rondo trade was Boston. In a big way. Because the want away destroyer of clubhouses was traded for THE BEAST. Jae Crowder was an immediate hit with Boston crowds bringing high intensity, grit and determination to Garden. Couple these intangibles with a 14 points, 5.2 boards and a 16.0 PER you’ve got a real player. Crowder started the season a little slowly with some writers calling him overrated, but in recent weeks has kicked it up a notch and is playing at career-high levels of boards, assists, efficiency and is .2 down on scoring. Crowder brings defensive rebounding, increasingly accurate 3 point and free throw shooting. Crowder is an excellent player, who is tied into a good long term contract that benefits both him and the team. The Celtics will be hoping the 26-year-old will continue to go from strength to strength as a starter and build on good playoff performances in a very tough series last year.
People have spoken about trading Crowder for a Melo or package him up with Smart and the Nets pick for Boogie. This would be a mistake. Crowder is the beating heart of this Celtics team. Thomas is the engine, but Crowder brings the heart and muscle that the Boston crowds feed off and allows those around him to play their game. The hardworking small forward is going to go from strength to strength moving forward and I can’t wait to watch it.
The Celtics have gone 3-1 in their last four games with this approximate starting 5. Win, lose or tie this Celtics team is good to watch and these 5 are a big part of that. Even whilst watching them get blown out against Washington all I could think was how much I enjoy watching this team, and how the core can be built around for years to come.
This Celtics squad should have a home first round matchup in the postseason and anything less than second round would be a disappointment of a season, but whatever happens, they will go down as a talented squad that balance grit and pure entertainment.