Stock is Rising for These Two Celtics Despite Recent Struggles

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Since a 27-point victory over the Orlando Magic on January 15th, the Boston Celtics have posted an ugly 6-11 record, giving them an overall record of 14-14.  Not only is the record a disappointment for a team that was in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, but it's the manner in which they have lost some of these games that is the most disheartening.

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Those losses have included a 30-point drubbing at the hands of the New York Knicks and back to back losses to the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, the only two teams in the Eastern Conference with fewer than ten wins this year. 

There are going to be some nights where you just don't have it.  Shots aren't falling.  Somebody on the other team has a career night.  I can live with those.  The stuff that is frustrating is the lack of energy, hustle and effort that have normally been staples of Brad Stevens' coached teams.  In many of these games, the Celtics get outworked. 

Now me, I like to keep things positive, so let's not get too bogged down in all of the stuff going wrong with the Celtics.  I'm here to put some sunshine and rainbows into your life.  Despite all of the struggles Boston has been enduring lately, there have been some bright spots.  Allow me to tell you about them.

1. Robert Williams

Williams' first two seasons with Boston were plagued by injuries, but also flashes of potential.  There would be games where his athleticism was on full display and led him to have a major impact on the game.  After a strong showing in the bubble last summer, it felt like this season could be a breakout one for him.  While it hasn't been quite that, it's certainly been his best season, and lately he's been stringing solid performances together.

Staying healthy has been key.  He's appeared in 21 of Boston's 28 games so far, and most of the games he missed were due to COVID-19.  He's currently posting career highs in points, rebounds and minutes.  Now, an average fan will look at the box scores and not bat an eye at his numbers, but if you watch the games, you can see his progression, and how he can impact games.

He's just in his own stratosphere when it comes to athleticism.  Not only does he have a strong vertical leap, but it's how quickly he reacts that separates him from others.  He's so explosive.  There are many occasions on missed shots, where he's already halfway off the ground before anybody else can realize what's happening.  He's also a very underrated passer for a bigman.  

Some of his recent stat lines include:
  • 10 points (5 of 5 shooting), 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals against the Lakers
  • 9 points (4 of 4 shooting), 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block against the Kings
  • 8 points (4 of 4 shooting), 8 rebounds, and 5 steals against the  Nuggets
He's impacted games on both ends of the floor, becoming a reliable piece off the bench, and deserves more minutes.

2. Aaron Nesmith

Overall, it's certainly been a disappointing rookie campaign for Nesmith.  Many labeled him the best shooter in the draft this year, but he's struggled to crack Stevens' rotation.  When he has been given opportunities, he hasn't quite capitalized.  It also hasn't helped that a guy like Peyton Pritchard has come in and produced right away.

However, Nesmith seems to be turning a corner.  His last three games have been very encouraging, particularly his performance against the Nuggets where he posted nine points and four rebounds.  Now again, casual fans will look at those numbers, and give a sarcastic clap.  To that I would say stop being a slave to the box score, and actually watch a game. 

If you have watched these last few games, you've noticed Nesmith making progress.  While he's still trying to find consistency with his shot, he's finding other ways to impact the game; a key to getting minutes from Stevens.  He has 15 rebounds in the last three games, and also a couple of blocks. 

He's playing with energy on both ends of the floor, but especially the defensive end.  That is one guy whose effort you cannot question over these past few weeks.  Early on in the season, Nesmith looked a little lost out there.  He wasn't moving much on offense.  He was definitely forcing his shot.  Looked a little confused on defense.

Now, he's active on defense and seems to have a better grasp of his responsibilities.  He's moving without the ball on offense, and overall he seems to be playing with more confidence. 

Since he received such high marks for his shooting coming out of the draft, naturally that's how fans will evaluate him.  That's fair.  Just don't discount the other stuff.  His shot will start to fall.  If he can continue to make an impact in other areas, that's only going to help.


Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34.

Check out Above The Parquet, the Syndicate’s podcast dedicated solely to the Boston Celtics and the rest of the NBA.  Follow on Twitter @AboveTheParquet.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Stock is Rising for These Two Celtics Despite Recent Struggles
Stock is Rising for These Two Celtics Despite Recent Struggles
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