Regardless of where you stand on the Kyrie Irving deal, Boston’s ability to bring in and sign Gordon Hayward is the predominant reason the Celtics had a positive and productive offseason. Going into the season, I had expectations for the new-look Celtics of Boston Garden; visions of Kyrie dazzling the crowd with his vast array of crossovers and spins before heaving a cross-court pass to a cutting Hayward for a devastating slam on a helpless defender, the Celtics on their way to the two seed in the East and a possible trip to the Conference Finals. Then tragedy struck. Going up for an alley-oop from none other than Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward came down hard on his left leg and the result was a gruesome dislocated and fractured tibia. For a few fleeting moments, it looked like all hope was lost for The Celtics.
But there was a reason the Celtics went out and got Hayward this summer, yes because he’s an elite level NBA talent, but more importantly, because they knew who he was when he signed. Like the rest of Boston’s roster, Hayward is a fighter, and he will be back.
With that being said, my vision for the Celtics has not changed much. After starting the season 0-2, the Kyrie Irving-led Celtics are now 6-2 and tied for first place with the Magic. Yes, you read that correctly, the Orlando Magic are on top of the Eastern Conference…for now. And while it’s true, the season is young, this Boston roster is an intriguing one with potential to seriously shake up a weak Eastern Conference.
Jaylen Brown’s ability to seamlessly switch between defending positions 1-5 is an exciting aspect of a young forwards game like Brown, especially in the position-less basketball system of Brad Stevens. In his second year, Brown has made a nice jump as an overall player, increasing all of his averages in every major statistical category and taking on a do-it-all role for Boston. Al Horford has been his usual consistent yet never flashy self, but has been surprisingly solid on defense, boasting the league’s fourth highest defensive win shares (0.6). Marcus Smart has been a slight disappointment after a summer of hype; he is still inefficient and his shooting hasn’t improved enough. I love watching Smart play for all of the little things he does in the game, but after a certain point I want to see him begin growing as an all around player.Terry Rozier has made a major jump this season, becoming a viable sixth man option with his improved efficiency and his elite defensive ability (Rozier leads the league in defensive rating).
As for the rook, Jayson Tatum has looked like I expected him to; a comfortable rookie with a knack for rebounding and a confident shooting stroke. Through the Blue Devil’s first eight NBA games, he’s averaging 14 points per game, a healthy six rebounds, an assist, and shooting a strong 51% from the field. While Tatum’s numbers may be slightly inflated due to an increased minute total as a result of the Hayward injury, his play is undoubtedly impressive. Quick side note, through his first eight games in the league, Tatum has made 50% of his three point attempts (11-22), a beautiful and vastly impressive rookie statistic that should be monitored.
Finally, Kyrie Irving has been a great leader for the Celtics, something I have found to be a nice surprise. In his eight games as a Boston Celtic, Uncle Drew has been balling; averaging 22 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, and shooting 44% from the field. Most importantly, Irving looks like a leader, he has been a more decisive passer this season than I have ever seen before, a stat noted by his four six plus assist games. While his point average of 22 is modest for him, this is a deceptive number as Irving has been scoring more as well as more efficiently for Boston of late, with a six game streak of 20 plus points still going strong. In these first eight games, Irving has also consistently displayed that Finals-caliber defense he played occasionally on Steph Curry in the good ol’ days. On a serious note though, Kyrie has been a dog on defense this year; Irving ranks second in the NBA in steal percentage (3.9), as well as second in the league in defensive win shares with 0.6.
I can honestly say that I see a partial mental shift in Kyrie Irving, a newfound focus perhaps in the same lineage as Mamba Mentality, but a positive shift nonetheless. I see this change becoming a deciding factor in the fate of the 2017-2018 Boston Celtics. This statement doesn’t mean how far can Kyrie carry the Celtics, but rather how far can he lead them. As of now, enjoy it at the top Uncle Drew, and good luck protecting the crown.
Thanks for reading.
All Stats via BasketballReference .com
All Stats via ESPN.com
All Images via Google.com