The 3 Most Essential Players for the Boston Celtics
Owners of the most loaded roster in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are poised to dominate the regular season and eventually embark on a long postseason run this year. It’s a roster built on flexibility and depth.
In such a star-driven league, however, the total sum of a team’s parts ultimately depends heavily on its top players. As such, Boston’s best will have a disproportionate say in how far this team goes.
When it comes to the switchy defense and dynamic offense Celtics head coach Brad Stevens prefers, few players are as key as Al Horford. The five-time All-Star is as critical as he is undervalued.
On offense, Horford gives the C’s a new gear. The team can truly play inside-out, employing one of the best passing bigs in the league. Horford also shot a smooth 42.9 percent from three last season, further aiding Boston’s modern spread offense.
Likewise, the Florida-product can also play above the rim, creating a very effective pick-and-roll with fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving. A do-it-all big is among the most coveted assets in today’s NBA; Boston has one of the best in the business.
Horford also provides anchor on the defensive end. Many top clubs in the NBA rely heavily on the ability to switch against pick and rolls and opposing offensive action. Usually this provides a favorable mismatch, often taking advantage of big men. Horford is athletic and savvy enough to hold his own against smaller, faster players.
Horford is as cerebral as he is versatile. He may not be the most high-profile or exciting member of the Celtics, but if he was lost to injury, the Godfather would be impossible to fully replace.
Uncle Drew is equally irreplaceable for Boston. While it’s true Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart both proved serviceable point guards in Uncle Drew’s absence last season, Irving is undeniably essential, the head of the snake for the Celtics offense.
Last year the team scored 7.2 more points per possession with Irving on the court, and across the board, Boston’s offense was decidedly better with Kyrie in the mix.
Kyrie Irving’s scoring prowess simply can’t be ignored, forcing opponents to change tactics. He constantly embarrasses defenders. This often prompts double-teams or entirely new defensive schemes.
An elite defense should be able to manage Boston’s versatile offense, even when the C’s are fully clocking. Irving is a wrench in this machine, a hurricane of scoring that is tough to stop. He can push the pile even if the rest of his club is having an off-night.
Without Irving last postseason, the Celtics offense lacked a top gear. And the flipside of that coin, is that a healthy Kyrie is an immense trump card for Brad Stevens to play, a pair of pocket aces of epic proportions. This is why he’s so critical for Boston; he’s a unique and devastating competitive edge.
Boston Sports Journal
At just 20-years old, Jayson Tatum is the X-factor for the Boston Celtics. While Al Horford and Kyrie Irving have established the baseline for the C’s, it’s Taco Jay who will dictate the team’s ceiling.
A few caveats pop up right away. Gordon Hayward, of course, is critically important in deciding just how good the Celtics can be. And Tatum is several years from reaching his prime. Surely Hayward is more worthy of the “essential” label.
With no love lost, Jaylen Brown’s redundant skill-set makes Gordon Hayward slightly less crucial for Boston. Both players will figure heavily into the club’s success, but they are rather similar.
Tatum, meanwhile, is already his own offensive force, drawing comparisons to Kobe Bryant that aren’t all that unreasonable. Like Irving, Tatum can initiate his own offense, and with spectacular results.
The marriage of a deep, well-coached team and Kyrie’s unrelenting offense is a special combination. In a vacuum, this would make for a very competitive team on its own. If Tatum expands on his impressive rookie campaign, the sky’s the limit for the Celtics.