Boston Celtics Restart: 10 Players, 10 Keys

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The Boston Celtics officially resume their 2019-20 season this Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.  Many feel that this could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals.  If the Celtics hope to get to the conference finals, and beyond, here's one thing they'll need from each player.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Kemba Walker - Health

Having Walker on the floor is nice, but if he's not fully healthy, he doesn't pose the same threat.  Knee injuries are nothing to scoff at in basketball, and that's why Brad Stevens and the Celtics are being extremely cautious with Walker right now, even with him having had several months off to rest and heal.  The Celtics may be becoming Jayson Tatum's team, but without Walker on the court, an NBA championship is highly unlikely.  Having Walker on the floor helps take away some of the pressure on Tatum as well.  If teams decide to double team Tatum, it leaves Walker with a lot of one-on-one situations, and he'll have the advantage in the majority of those; assuming he is 100%, or close to it, in terms of health.

Jayson Tatum - Be the Alpha

Before things went to hell in mid-March, and the NBA went on a hiatus, Tatum was blossoming into a star.  He had shown flashes on many occasions, but the consistency wasn't quite there.  That started to change right around the All-Star break in mid-February.  He wasn't just putting up big numbers, but he was doing it on big stages, against top competition: 39 against the Clippers, 41 against the Lakers.  The confidence that a lot of the superstars in the NBA have, you could start to see it with Tatum.  He was attacking defenders who dared to try him 
one-on-one, and seemed relaxed and comfortable with doing it.  He was nearing the point of disrespect with some of the shots he was taking - and making - over defenders.  That is the Tatum that Boston needs during this NBA restart.  If he is playing at that level, Boston has as good a chance as anybody to come out of the East.

Jaylen Brown - Be the Beta

For what it's worth, Brown was Boston's best player in their recent scrimmages.  He showed no signs of rust and actually looked pretty crisp given the four month layoff.  He's attacked the basket, knocked down threes and has shown some pretty impressive one-on-one moves.  Maybe I'm reading too much into two exhibitions, but given the concern over Walker's knee, I think it's on Brown to be Boston's second option.  If Tatum is Batman, Brown has to be Robin.  He has all of the tools to fill that role, he just needs to have the right mindset.  Brown and Tatum are the future of this team, now is the perfect time to show that.

Gordon Hayward - Aggression

Hayward does a good job of playing within Boston's offense.  He understands that on this team, he's not the top option.  At certain times the team will play through him, but he's just as content with allowing guys like Walker and Tatum to be the focal points.  Perfect.  At times though, you wish Hayward would be a little more aggressive.  Sometimes he can be too passive, to a detriment.  For the Celtics to get where they want to go, Hayward has to be aggressive.  It's okay for him to look for his shot every now and then.  Not just looking for his shot, but attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line is key for Hayward.

Daniel Theis - Rim Protection

The Celtics were supposed to have a massive void in the middle of the floor with the departures of Al Horford and Aaron Baynes.  Well, Theis has filled in admirably, really as well as anybody could have hoped.  He's done it at both ends of the floor too.  His biggest contribution though, has been on the defensive end.  Theis has been an underrated shot blocker this year, averaging just over a block a game, and is top 20 in the league.  You may not think that's overly impressive, but for a guy who is in his third year in the league, his first as a full time starter and was playing just 13 minutes a game last year, it's noteworthy.  If Theis can continue to bring that rim protection, it allows Boston's perimeter defense to play a little more aggressively, knowing that Theis has their back.

Marcus Smart - Energy

Energy has never been something that Smart has lacked. He always injects life into the game, and the crowd, whenever his name is called.  Though he does bring it on both ends, it's his defensive intensity that gets things going.  Whether it's with steals, blocks, taking charges or just straight up lockdown defense, Smart's hustle and effort usually ignites the crowd, and in turn his teammates.  With players unable to feed off the energy of the crowd down in the Orlando bubble, having a guy like Smart who can come in and force his teammates to pick up their intensity is crucial.

Enes Kanter - Rebounding

If there is something this team lacks, it's size.  The two seven-footers on the roster are basically "break glass in case of emergency" type players, who don't expect to see any meaningful minutes if all goes according to plan.  With a lack of size, comes shortcomings in terms of rebounding.  Now, the Celtics actually aren't a bad rebounding team.  They're a little better than middle of the pack, including 8th in the league in offensive rebounding.  Kanter is a big reason for that. He's just a rebounding machine.  He's not what you would call a leaper, but he knows how to use his body, and position himself to secure rebounds.  In the postseason, having a guy like Kanter who can get you extra possessions is key.

Semi Ojeleye - Three and D

In the great words of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, "know your role".  Ojeleye does.  He knows what he can and can't do, and he knows exactly what the team needs from him when he's out there.  That's three-point shooting and solid defense.  He's a 33% career three-point shooter, and was shooting 36% from three this season.  He's a solid defender too.  Solid is the key word there because Ojeleye is built like a brick house.  He made a name for himself with the way he defended Giannis Antetokounmpo two years ago in the postseason.  When called upon, you can usually rely on some solid minutes from Ojeleye.  If he can come in, knock down a couple threes, and play good defense, he'll fill his role perfectly.

Brad Wanamaker - Ball Security

What teams want from a backup point guard is somebody who can come in and just run the offense.  Don't give away possessions.  Put your teammates in good positions to make plays.  For a guy like Wanamaker, that's really it.  If you knock down a couple of shots, great, but the Celtics have plenty of guys who can score.  They aren't looking for Wanamaker to come in and put up 10-12 points.  Come in, run the offense and take care of the ball.

Robert Williams - Athleticism

This one is pretty simple.  Williams is the most athletic player on the roster.  So, he needs to tap into that athleticism and showcase it when he's on the floor.  With Williams on the floor, Boston's alley-oop ability skyrockets.  Whether it's off of a pick and roll, or from just being around the basket on a teammate's drive, Williams is a prime candidate to catch a lob and throw it down.  If he can do that, that opens things up for his teammates.  Defenders will be less likely to double team a guy like Tatum or Walker on a drive to the basket, if it means they are going to leave Williams open for a potential alley-oop.  Defensively, his athleticism alone makes him a shot blocker.  Williams' athletic ability presents him with opportunities to make an impact on the floor, it's up to him to take advantage.

Everybody Else - Be Ready

It feels like a matter of if, not when, somebody on the Celtics will receive a positive COVID-19 test.  When that happens, there's no other choice but to have a next man up mantra.  With the chance that a key player could at any time test positive and miss 14 days of action, guys on the end of the bench have to be ready.  That could mean guys like Grant Williams and Romeo Langford - who may get playing time anyway - getting expanded roles, or guys like Carsen Edwards, Javonte Green and yes, even Tacko Fall getting unexpected minutes.  Everybody has to be ready when called upon.



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Boston Sports Syndicate: Boston Celtics Restart: 10 Players, 10 Keys
Boston Celtics Restart: 10 Players, 10 Keys
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