10 Things We Learned About Boston Celtics After Week 1
This season will be a learning one, for both the Boston Celtics and their fans.
Through three games, the team is winless but has still divulged a fair amount about how its season will go and who these individuals are as NBA players.
Obviously, we won't learn much about the franchise as a whole until Rajon Rondo returns. Right now, the team is treading water and trying to figure out some rotations. It is also getting healthy and gaining experience.
Three-of-82 is ultimately a tiny sample size, but you can still learn a lot from watching these Celtics.
Vitor Faverani Is Actually NBA-Caliber
When Vitor Faverani was placed in the season opener's starting five, it looked to be just a filler role while Jared Sullinger served his suspension.
Then Faverani played well. He earned another start and started against the Detroit Pistons too. In three starts, the Celtics' new big is averaging 11 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 27.3 minutes per game.
While the sample size is still way to small to make any sweeping declarations, Faverani looks like a legitimate NBA player.
He was undrafted in 2009 and hasn't been heard from in the United State since them. Therefore, it seems odd that he wouldn't have been on more radars before Boston picked him up. The Celtics didn't offer him a super attractive contract, but they must have some quality scouts scouring the Liga Espanola de Baloncesto.
For now, Faverani is Boston's starting, and maybe only, real center.
Team Will Have Massive Trouble Closing Games
In three fourth quarters, the Boston Celtics have been outscored 80-50. That type of late disparity isn't going to win many games.
The Celtics let a 22-point lead slip away against the Milwaukee Bucks and had a chance to beat the Detroit Pistons as well. In their opener against the Toronto Raptors, they held a slim lead in the fourth quarter.
Down 79-77 inside two minutes against Detroit, the Celtics had four straight horrific possessions. They gave away three turnovers and had a three-point attempt blocked.
This wasn't totally unexpected. This is the first time in 15 years that Boston doesn't have Paul Pierce available to take shots in the final minutes. However, these three games have definitely taught us that Boston will struggle to close out close games for quite a while.
Jared Sullinger May Not Be 100 Percent
Obviously Jared Sullinger was inactive for the Boston Celtics season opener. Since then, though, he has played just 24 minutes through two games.
Sullinger looked good against the Milwaukee Bucks, with 10 points in 10 minutes, but was limited to just that. It may have had something to do with his four personal fouls, but against the Detroit Pistons, Boston's sophomore power forward committed a single foul and still played just 14 minutes.
Since he averaged more than 20 minutes per game during the preseason, this is a little confusing. Brad Stevens is juggling a lot of different lineups trying to figure out who works with whom, but Sullinger hasn't gotten much of a shake.
Maybe his back isn't totally fine just yet, or he lost some conditioning time while waiting the pain out during the offseason.
Temper Expectations on Kelly Olynyk
Kelly Olynyk really showed a lot, posting 15 points and eight rebounds against a dangerous Detroit Pistons frontcourt.
However, Brad Stevens didn't use him a whole lot through the Boston Celtics' other two games. Stevens is giving his veteran bigs a fair shake early, which could lessen Olynyk's impact early in his rookie season.
He should still be able to put together a solid overall season, but it will take time for him to earn playing time.
Also of concern is going to be the rookie big foul-trouble rule. In general, young bigs don't get very many calls from referees who are unfamiliar with them and their defensive style. Jared Sullinger dealt with this a lot last year.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks, he committed four fouls in 14 minutes. Against Detroit, he was whistled for five in 26 minutes. This type of thing could also limit his minutes and growth early on.
Brad Stevens Using Veterans Heavily Early On
Despite a roster featuring some intriguing youth, Brad Stevens isn't just handing the reins over to those young players.
Brandon Bass has seen 34.7 minutes per game. Gerald Wallace has averaged 37.3 minutes so far. Kris Humphries earned 21 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks. Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee have also been heavily featured, while Phil Pressey and MarShon Brooks have registered four combined DNPs. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger have also been limited.
Stevens is playing with lineups right now and testing out various groupings, so there may be nothing to look deeply at here. Still, it is worth noting that Stevens appears to be trying to win games right now, using the most experienced Celtics players.
Gerald Wallace Is Going to Be Doing a Lot of Talking
The Boston Celtics have played three regular-season games, and Gerald Wallace has publicly called out his teammates twice.
It is clear, even this early in the season, that Wallace is making a play to be one of the team's leaders. With Rajon Rondo unable to be on the floor with the team, a vocal Wallace could be a positive for Boston. There isn't a long track record of Wallace being that type of player, but this is the point in his career when he'll have to adapt. What he is sacrificing in ability, he can make up for with leadership.
Wallace has made it known that his teammates cannot be trying to pad stats or take nights off. He has also reportedly been very vocal in the huddle during games.
Some of this can be good, but some can be bad. If anyone starts feeling like Wallace is stepping on his toes, dissension can become an issue. Professional athletes rarely enjoy being called out by someone who isn't a natural leader, long-time team member or superstar.
Jeff Green Emotionally Checking Out Could Be a Concern
For all the concerns about Rajon Rondo checking out if his teammates are not good, Jeff Green didn't get a whole lot of that same warning.
However, Green does have a history of disappearing during games and being wildly unproductive for stretches.
Against the Detroit Pistons, coming off two very draining losses, Green didn't seem interested. He was slow on rotations, allowing Detroit's bigs free reign in the post. Through three quarters, Green had seven points on five shots, two coming in the paint, with just one free throw.
Fans could see it, his teammates could sense it, and Brad Stevens obviously realized something as well. Green was benched for the fourth quarter. Even with the Celtics down two with two minutes left, Green remained sidelined.
No one has ever confused Jeff Green as a leader in the NBA, so maybe asking him to front this type of team is too much.
The Celtics Will Compete
Yes, the Boston Celtics are 0-3. However, they have been in all three games against quality teams, all of which are looking for the postseason.
The Celtics are not a very good team, but that doesn't mean they are sub-20 wins bad. Even without Rajon Rondo, this team will win games here and there. This isn't the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats we are watching. There are numerous legitimate NBA players on this roster.
The Celtics were scrappy in hanging around the Detroit Pistons game, even taking a small lead in the fourth quarter. They obviously led by 10 entering the final frame against the Milwaukee Bucks, as well.
It is going to take them time to mesh with each other and a new head coach, so patience will be key. But it isn't too hard to see them playing entertaining basketball down the road a little bit.
Some Problems May Be Fixed by Rondo
The Boston Celtics are averaging just 14.3 assists through three games, compared with 20.7 turnovers. Those are disastrous numbers.
The good news is a guy on their bench has led the league in assists per game for the past two seasons. He has also been in the top 10 of assist-to-turnover ratio each year since 2008. Rajon Rondo will help this team distribute and maintain possession.
Avery Bradley has been struggling in particular. The Celtics shooting guard has slid into a point guard role in Rondo's absence. He has nine assists and 14 turnovers thus far. When Rondo returns, Bradley can fill a role more suited to him, playing off the ball.
Rondo will also help the team score in the paint, a spot it has lost in all three games. Rondo's abilities distributing from the top of the key will help the Celtics' spacing, which has been somewhat directionless so far.
Brad Stevens will also benefit from having a leader on the floor who can control the ball. Right now he is divulging orders but has no way of assuring the results are framed to his requests.
Interior Defense Is Going to Be Painful
Watching the Boston Celtics lose to the Detroit Pistons, the most glaring takeaway was simply how much bigger the opposition was.
Greg Monroe completely dwarfed anyone in Boston's frontcourt. Andre Drummond's backdoor cuts were totally unguarded, and Josh Smith was able to out-leap anyone in green and white. The trio hauled in 11 of Detroit's 15 offensive rebounds, with Monroe grabbing seven.
The Pistons poured in 54 points in the paint, to just 38 for Boston. Luckily none of the three are particularly great free-throw shooters, combined 3-of-11, but Detroit got to the line 29 times.
That wasn't just their bigs, though. Detroit was able to penetrate with ease, and since the Celtics were lax with their rotations, fouls were necessary. Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass picked up five each, many coming as a result of poor interior defense.
This is a problem that might now get better. Brad Stevens has his work cut out for him in that regard. Kris Humphries, the team's best rebounder, received a DNP in a game where Boston was badly beaten on the glass.