But while it’s easy to begin questioning whether these Celtics have any motive of being a contender year in and year out, it’s even easier to overlook their reasoning.
That’s because Boston’s next two biggest stars already suit up in green and white: Jeff Green and Avery Bradley.
In year’s prior, the Big Four—Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo—would provide the Celtics with all the essentials.
Now, Allen is on the Miami Heat, Rondo is sidelined for the remainder of the season and Pierce and Garnett are not getting any younger.
It would seem as if we were witnessing the end of an era.
At 30-27, Boston has clearly shown signs of it this season.
Extended win streaks are replaced by prolonged losing streaks. Victories over the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder have been followed up by losses to the Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets. Players have yet to click and the team has struggled to find an identity.
But hey, you have to crawl before you can walk, right?
Lately, the Celtics are finally beginning to find their legs. And it’s all thanks to the play of both Green and Bradley.
After undergoing offseason surgery to both shoulders, Bradley missed the team’s first 30 games of the season. Boston went 14-16 during that span.
But the renown defensive prodigy’s absence was felt even deeper.
In those 30 games, opposing point guards would break through the perimeter defense with ease, causing mayhem inside the paint. Opponents lit up the Celtics at the tune of 98.1 points per game—the team’s worst mark since the 2006-07 season.
In the 27 games since, Boston has only allowed 93.7 points per game. Bradley’s pesky perimeter defense has stifled opponents and made easy buckets hard to come by.
Green too missed time due to surgery.
After missing an entire season due to heart surgery, Green got off to a rather pedestrian start. He found his minutes sparse and struggled to make the most out of the floor time he received.
However, he seems to have finally found his groove.
Green is receiving more minutes and taking full advantage of them. He recently dropped 31 points after receiving his first start of the season.
Together, both Green and Bradley signal long-term success for the Celtics.
After slow starts, the duo have finally turned things around.
Up until Feb. 7, Bradley had only played 30 or more minutes in a game only once in the 17 games leading up to that point. Since then, he’s played 30 or more minutes in seven of nine games, averaging 34.2 minutes per game during that span.
In those nine games, Bradley has averaged 11.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting 44.1 percent from the field.
That’s an increase from his season averages of 9.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game on 41.5 percent shooting.
It’s not a significant difference, but it’s a step in the right direction of becoming a solid option at shooting guard, like he was last season when he averaged over 15 points per game over the last month of the season.
Green has battled through a similar plight.
Through the Celtics first 42 games of the season, Green only had 13 games when he played 27 minutes or more.
However, the last 15 games has been a different story.
Green has played 27 or more minutes in 12 of those contests, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in 32.3 minutes a night during that span. Furthermore, Green is shooting 53 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from distance.
These two are giving head coach Doc Rivers every reason to play them more.
Bradley is 22 and Green is 26. Combined with Rajon Rondo, 27, these three will be the face of Boston for a long time coming.
Not only that, but the team performs better when they’re on their game.
According to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics are 11-2 when Bradley scores nine or more points. They’re also 15-5 when he picks up one or more defensive rebounds and 14-5 when he attempts three or more field goals.
As for Green, Boston is 5-1 when he attempts 13 or more field goals. They’re also 8-3 when he’s made six or more of his shots and 14-5 when he’s dished the ball at least twice. (via Hoopsstats.com)
These two make good things happen for the Celtics.
Better get used to it.
Also check out: Doc Rivers' Worst Moves of the Season