By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
The Boston Celtics have made about 28 trades this season and are re-building their team. They have one of the best sets of young players in the NBA, a pile of cap space and about 10 1st round picks in the next 3 draft, so they are the richest team in the NBA when it comes to assets. They can sign any free agent and make any trade, but for the season it seems as though they are going to just trade their veterans, collect assets, lose a lot of games and play their young talent. Well, they are doing well in the 1st 3 re-building aspects, but what is Brad Stevens thinking when it comes to playing his young players?
Like I said, they have one of the best sets of young talent in the NBA; Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, James Young, Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller, and Jae Crowder, but let me start with their rooking point guard, Marcus Smart. Because of Smart’s talent (ridiculous), his draft status (6th in an excellent draft) and the Celtics trading Rajon Rondo, you would think that Marcus Smart would be starting and playing 30+ minutes per game, as he is their best talent. However, Stevens is only playing Smart 22.2 minutes per game and he is starting shooting guard Evan Turner who may just be a short-term rental for the team at point guard. Smart is an elite NBA talent and although is numbers aren’t going to win him the Rookie of the Year Award, he is just 20, is the most talented player on the roster and can become Boston’s franchise star. They should be starting Smart and Turner together so that Turner who is the team’s best distributor can help him run the offense, but regardless, Smart should be starting and playing about 10 more minutes a night.
As for their big men, Jared Sullinger is their best, is just 22, is averaging big numbers and is starting, but he should be playing more than just 28.7 minutes per game, as he can be an 18-10 power forward with 34-36 minutes per game. Kelly Oynyk is second on this list and despite having a very strong 2nd season, he is just averaging 24.5 minutes per game. He is best in a Ryan Anderson, stretch 4 bench role, but can someone tell me why Brandon Bass is taking legitimate minutes from them? Yes it increases his trade value if he plays well, but he is a proven commodity and he shouldn’t be playing 19.8 minutes per game, while Sullinger-Olynyk aren’t getting the minutes they deserve and the talented Tyler Zeller is playing just 20 minutes per game. Yes, there are just 96 minutes per game for big men to play, but Sullinger, Olynyk and Zeller should be getting about 90 of them.
We are now to the perimeter players, where they have Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and James Young. Bradley starts, plays more than 30 minutes per game and is their 3rd best talent after Smart and Sullinger, so at least Stevens is being smart with him. Turner isn’t part of their core and is a veteran, however as I mentioned when talking about Smart, he has a place on this team this season and should be playing, however what is with Tayshaun Prince? Why is he getting 21.8 minutes per game? How is a guy whose only value is his expiring contract and veteran experience playing about half the game, when James Young hasn’t played 90 minutes this season (he was excellent in 8 games in the D-League)? Why isn’t Jae Crowder, a young player who can be their starting small forward for years playing less minutes per game than Tayshaun? Their perimeter minutes should be going to just Bradley, Turner, Crowder and Young.
Isn’t Stevens’ job this season and while they are re-building to develop their young talent, as Danny Ainge makes the trades and gets the franchise the assets? It seems that he lacks that memo, but it is a big problem for the Celtics. They aren’t making the playoffs this season, they have one of the best sets of young players in the NBA and they actually have a chance this season to give these players ridiculous amounts of minutes, but only Avery Bradley is getting 30 minutes per game. The Celtics have the assets to be an elite NBA team in 2-3 years if they are smart with their cap space and draft picks and they develop their young players, but as for this this season, Brad Stevens is making a lot of big mistakes.