OTG Team Awards: Boston Celtics
Double Clutch UK
With the 2018-2019 season coming to an end, Off the Glass is giving out the traditional NBA awards for each team in the league. Today we look at the awards for the Boston Celtics
This season of Celtics basketball was, in a word, messy. There were moments of despair and confusion, balanced with fleeting glimpses of promised glory. Players were listless, troubled, and challenged.
At the end of the day, however, Boston is still a force to be reckoned with as the postseason begins. Lofty, unmet expectations have precluded some otherwise honorable individual performances. Let’s look back on the 2018-19 Boston Celtics season and hand out some hardware.
Most Valuable Player: Al Horford
At first glance, the obvious choice for Celtic MVP is Kyrie Irving. He is, afterall, the team’s leading scorer and brightest star. His impact, however, is rivaled by another All-Star talent.
What Al Horford does for the Boston Celtics has been criminally overlooked since he landed in the Hub. And this season his ability to boost his team did not wane even a smidge.
As Chris Forsberg reported, Horford has been essential down the stretch for the C’s. In the month of March, the Celtics were a +9.8 with Big Al in the fold. When Horford was out or on the bench, the team posted a -11.6. That’s a dramatic swing.
Overall, Horford and Irving have oddly similar on/off numbers for the season. It’s Horford’s no-nonsense, composed leadership that earns him the MVP in my eyes. His intangible way to change a game without much noise or drama speaks volumes compared to his fellow Celtic star.
Defensive Player of the Year - Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart is Boston’s perennial Defensive Player of the Year. The longest tenured Celtic has long established himself as a pugnacious, hard-nosed beast in the NBA. This season was no different.
This recent play is one of a hundred times this season that Smart has combined great reads and instincts with tenacity and grit. Whether navigating the chaos or locking down an elite player, Smart is as reliable a defender as they come.
Smart has had a career year shooting the ball. Now he’s a respectable offensive threat, which should frighten the rest of the Eastern Conference. Still, Marcus hangs his hat on defense, and what a hat it is.
Rookie of the Year - Robert Williams
Robert Williams wins this award by default. The Texas A&M product is Boston’s lone rookie, and unfortunately for the C’s, has struggled with a back injury down the stretch this year.
Still, the affectionately named Time Lord showed some promise during the season. He has great athletic gifts, while two mean blocks against Anthony Davis back in Dec. had Celtics fans wondering just how high Williams’s ceiling might be.
Most Improved Player - Jaylen Brown
Few players in the NBA have had such as tumultuous a year as Jaylen Brown. Once a rising star in the postseason just a season ago, Brown found himself relegated to limited bench minutes to start the 2018-19 campaign. The young man took this exceptionally hard.
It’s how Brown rebounded from this low-point that has caught my attention. It’s his own improvements within the season that have earned him this nod.
Slowly and surely, Brown worked his way back both mentally and physically. He fought tooth and nail for more minutes, despite a relatively short leash from the Celtics coaching staff. Now he’s a reliable 3 & D wing in a crowded depth chart.
Brown can be aloof or can overcompensate on defense. He is, afterall, still just 22-years old. But his rebound and improvements this season cannot be overlooked, especially as Boston looks to finally get into gear for the postseason.
Sixth Man of the Year - Gordon Hayward
Like Brown, Hayward is a beneficiary of recency bias. Because the way Hayward is playing now looks very different than just a few months ago.
Hayward is still working his way back from last season’s horrific injury. He’s pretty transparent about his transgressions. As such, he’s come off of the bench for the majority of the season, with increasingly fantastic results.
In fleeting moments, Hair Gordon has looked like he did in Utah. More often, however, he’s performed as a solid role player for the Celtics. The team has a stellar record when Hayward performs well, and as of late he’s been doing so more frequently.
Moving forward, he could play a key role for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. There’s enough scoring coming from the starters anyway, what the team needs is a consistent punch from the second unit. That’s where Hayward comes in.