OTG's All-Decade Team: Boston Celtics Edition
With the past decade coming to a close, what better way to ring in the new decade by reflecting on the past. Off The Glass is taking a look at each NBA team and selecting their All-Decade squad, which is defined by one guard, one forward, one center, a role player (someone not selected as an all-star, or to an all-NBA team), and one wildcard.
Today we are highlighting the Boston Celtics.
Guard: With respect to Rajon Rondo, who spent half of the decade in Boston, the guard of the decade is Isaiah Thomas. While IT didn’t have the longevity in Boston that Rondo had, his peak was so much higher than any guard who has ever put in the green and white. Thomas’ 2016 campaign saw him average 28.9 points per game, the second-highest scoring average in the history of the franchise, trailing Larry Bird in 87. IT gave Boston a historic season and ushered in a post-Big 3 era of success, and for that reason, he’s the guard of the decade.
Forward: The forward of the decade is Paul Pierce, and it’s not close. The franchise legend averaged 18 points per game in his four Boston seasons this decade and provided the Celtics with clutch play and memorable moments throughout. His best moment of this decade cane when he hit the game-clinching shot on LeBron James in game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals (more on that series later), which really was his last big shot in a Celtics uniform.
Center: As the man that ended the “Boston can’t sign free agents” narrative and for being a defensive anchor on elite Celtics teams, the center of the Decade is Al Horford. While an argument could be made that Kevin Garnett had a better decade statistically, the edge was given to Horford due to him turning the Celtics from a group of scrappy underdogs to a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference with his arrival.
Role Player: When you think of the attributes that define Celtic words like “plays hard”, “defense-oriented”, and “hustle player” come to mind. These are the attributes of a great Celtics, and these are the attributes of the role player of the decade: Marcus Smart. Smart was the first-round pick the Celtics selected after the down year that was 2013, and he’s been a gem for Boston ever since. With the loss of KG and Pierce, Boston was looking for an emotional and defensive leader to replace them, and they found both in Marcus Smart, that alone makes him the role player of the decade.
Wildcard: The 2010s was a story of two halves for the Celtics. The first half was defined by veterans trying to close out their primes with one more title, and the second half was defined by young players with so much potential trying to develop into the stars of the next generation. While these two halves look like total opposites the thing that unites them is one man: Danny Ainge. Ainge built the Big 3 in the previous decade and spent the early part of this decade surrounding them with pieces to keep their championship window open, and when that was over he sent them to Brooklyn to kick start the next generation of Celtics Basketball. The best thing he did this decade was hiring Brad Stevens to lead this franchise into a new era, which has already resulted in two trips to the conference finals.
Team High: The Celtics had a few “this might be our time” moments this decade. The moment that I picked for the highest high was game 5 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. Those of you who are familiar with the Celtics’ decade of close calls would think that the obvious choices were either game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference or game 5 of the 2010 NBA finals. Both of those series involved Boston going up 3-2 with either a trip to the finals or a championship on the line. I picked 2018 because it appeared to be the culmination of all the asset hoarding and drafts by Ainge. Jayson Tatum goes for a team-high 24 in a home win to go up 3-2 and finally halt LeBron’s dominance of the East. Boston, unlike in 2010 or 2012, had the better team, the better coach, and home-court advantage, most Celtics fans were sure Boston had a date with the Warriors in the NBA finals.
Team Low: The lowest point of the decade isn’t easy, Boston had a lot of heartbreak in the 2010s. How I decided on which was the lowest was by asking “which of Boston’s three blown 3-2 leads hurt the most?”, once I did that the answer was obvious. The 2012 Eastern Conference Finals was the lowest point of the decade. This is the pick because it essentially closed the book on the Big 3 Celtics as title contenders, it was the series that sent Ray Allen to Miami, and laid the groundwork for the destruction of the most successful era of Celtics basketball since the 1980s. Watching LeBron and the Heat raise the East trophy was the lowest point of the decade.
Upcoming Decade Prediction: The 2020s will either be one of disappointment or one of enormous success. The fate of the franchise rests on the development of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum into superstars. Considering how good they have looked early in the season, I see the Celtics as a team that will win at least one NBA title this decade.