The Boston Celtics are currently the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They are 5-2 thus far in the bubble and are the only team in the NBA that arguably has 4 all-star caliber talents in Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward respectively. Tatum leads them in scoring with 23.4 points per game. Jaylen Brown chips in with a solid 20 points per game and the Celtics also get 20 from Walker to go with 17 from Hayward. This is a deadly foursome, that when all four are clicking can run anyone in the league out of the gym. The Celtics problem however is that it’s difficult to get all four to play up to their potential at one time. Tatum is usually Boston’s first option offensively and things get tough for them when he’s not going. For instance in their most meaningful game in the bubble against the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks Tatum was a horrid 2-18, while Brown was 3-10, and The Celtics went on to lose 119-112. They also lost another meaningful game against Miami where in Walker, Hayward, and Brown combined to shoot 18-45.
If the Celtics could get Tatum, Hayward, Brown, and Walker to play well at the same time, they would remind us of Celtics lore of the past in that the team is stacked with heroes but so far this kind of consistency has been elusive for the Celtics. Yes, they are the 3rd seed but if they got consistency out of their four most precious players simultaneously, they could and should be the number one seed. The Celtics are 3rd in opponents’ points per game giving up 107, 9th in points per game averaging 114, and 4th in opponent field goal percentage allowing 44% per game. The Celtics have all the defensive indicators of being a special team but they also lack offensively in averaging a 25th best 23 assists a game. This means that most of their offensive possessions are ones in which one of their 4 is looking to make their own basket via isolation basketball. Coach Brad Stevens needs to find ways of getting all 4 of his immensely talented players going in all of their games. It shouldn’t be too hard of a task given how skilled Tatum, Walker, Brown, and Hayward are.
Tatum is clearly the Celtics go to guy, but the others must get involved and stay patient to get their offense. On defense players such as Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis will make all the difference because both do a little bit of everything on defense. Enes Kanter is also another solid defensive player on the Celtics’ roster. These Celtics as composed could be very very good but just how good depends on whether Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward can all play well together instead of separately. The Celtics should win their first round match up against the Philadelphia 76ers given the injuries the 76ers have undergone, but we’ll know how good these Celtics really are when they have to play the Toronto Raptors and then potentially the Milwaukee Bucks.