Opening Statements: Wizards at Celtics, Game 5 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Celtics, Game 5

Updated: November 6, 2015

Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics - Nov. 7, 2012 - Truth About

Teams: Wizards at Celtics
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Television: CSNHD
Radio: WNEW 99.1
Spread: Celtics fav’d by 1.5 points

The Boston Celtics are quietly one of the most interesting teams in the Eastern Conference right now. No, they aren’t very good. And no, they almost certainly won’t be very good at any point this season. But they’re worth keeping an eye on, because they have so much going for them that they could pull off a flurry of moves at any point to launch them into contender status.

Marcus Smart, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft, is probably the team’s most important player. He has been inconsistent throughout his brief NBA career, his efficiency is atrocious (having shot just .367 from the field as a rookie), and it remains to be seen whether he’s built to be a point guard at the highest level or a shooting guard.(1) But he has games where he puts it all together and shows what he can do, such as the 23 points on 14 shots he put up against the Wizards last December, or the 25 points (on 14 shots, including 7-for-12 from 3-point range), nine rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two blocks he put up on the Oklahoma City Thunder in March. He’s a solid defender and plays hard, and I do vaguely remember another Celtics point guard who excelled on defense, played hard, couldn’t shoot worth a damn and often got into spats—the Celtics paired him with a trio of stars and won a title.

Avery Bradley isn’t much for efficiency, either, shooting just .434 in his career, but he does drain 3s at an impressive rate; he’s made 210 of his 572 attempts (36.7%) since the start of the 2013-14 season. Isaiah Thomas has thrived as a volume shooter since coming to Boston, scoring 26.7 points per 36 minutes on .412 shooting over his 25 games in a Celtics jersey. Jared Sullinger has averaged 16.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes in his career, and he’s improved his 3-point shot each season he’s been in the NBA.

And then there are all those draft picks Danny Ainge has stockpiled. The Celtics could have as many as four first-round draft picks in 2016, two in 2017, three in 2018, and plenty of second-rounders each year.

Say Boston tanks this season and gets a top-5 pick. The Brooklyn Nets will almost certainly be bad this season (0-5 so far) and their first-rounder goes to Boston, as well. That will likely be a top-10 pick and could easily be top-5. The Celtics also own the Dallas Mavericks’ first-round pick if it doesn’t fall in the top seven; I expect the Mavs to linger around the top of the lottery or bottom of the playoff hunt all season, meaning the Celtics likely get a pick in the 12-20 range. Boston could also get the Minnesota Timberwolves’ pick if it falls outside the top 12, which is possible but the least likely of the bunch.

With a little luck, Boston could have four top-20 picks in the 2016 draft, and its roster is already full of quality role players who could easily be sold off for more picks around the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Celtics are set to have a bunch of room under the cap for the 2016 free agency period(2) and could easily obtain a star looking to get out of his current situation by pawning off some role players and a draft pick or two.

Ainge seems to be priming himself for a coup much like the one he orchestrated in 2007 to steal Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who he added, along with a few important role players, to a roster that already featured Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Brad Stevens, Smart, Thomas, Bradley, Sullinger, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson don’t look like much now, but add a few lottery picks and a bona fide star (#KD2Boston doesn’t have the same ring to it, but…) and that group could be respectable really quickly. After all, the Celtics won 24 games in 2006-07, then won 66 and the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2007-08.

As for now, the Celtics are 25th in Offensive Rating at 95.7 and 10th in Defensive Rating at 97.3. On one hand, they average 104 possessions per 48 minutes, the fifth most in the NBA, and they’ve assisted on 67.4 percent of their baskets so far this season, the second-best percentage in the league. On the other hand, their effective field goal percentage is fifth-worst in the league at .446, so they aren’t doing much with all those possessions.

They have virtually no shooting, and they don’t really have a leader. Thomas puts up the most points, but a team built around Isaiah Thomas isn’t going very far. Bradley and Smart have shown flashes, but neither looks even close to ready to lead a team. Boston basically just looks like a team of role players desperately in need of a star (or two or three), and nobody on the roster appears to fit the billing.

Last season, Washington won two of the three games against Boston, with the most notable being the aforementioned Miyah game. Rondo started in the first two, but Smart got the nod down the stretch in the double-overtime classic and mostly impressed while trying to contain the uncontainable John Wall. The Wizards offense will face a worthy opponent in the Celtics defense, but it’s tough to see where Boston will muster enough offense against a Wizards defense that has been inconsistent so far but is overall a quality unit.

Enjoy the out-of-place Celtics wandering around without direction now, Wizards fans, because Boston could be back in a contending position as early as next season.

  1. Basketball-Reference lists him at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. For comparison’s sake, John Wall is listed at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds.
  2. They have about $1.6 million on the books less than the Wizards, and they’ll have 11 players on the roster compared to Washington’s eight.
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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.