Did the Celtics find their pot of gold?
After the roughest of starts for the Boston Celtics this season, they have turned an 0-2 Gordon Hayward-less team into the top squad in the Eastern Conference with a 13-2 record. Many would attribute the Celtics' 13-game win streak to the impressive play of Kyrie Irving and the game planning of head coach Brad Stevens. While these things have undeniably had a huge impact on the early success for Boston, the list of note-worthy impacts does not stop there.
Defense and Rebounding
Last year, the Celtics finished twelfth in the league in defensive rating (105.5) and ranked 22nd in defensive rebounds (33.2 RPG). This year, the Celtics looked to get longer and better on the defensive side of the ball and so far, it has paid off. Boston currently has the best defensive rating in the league (95.8) and have made a jump up to 36.7 defensive rebounds per game, good for fourth in the league. The Celtics' backcourt went from a 5'9" Isaiah Thomas and a 6'2" Avery Bradley, to a 6'3" Kyrie Irving and a 6'7" Jaylen Brown. Adding Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum, and Daniel Theis to the roster this year has finally given the Celtics the boost in rebounding they so desperately needed.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum
There were some question marks surrounding some of the young core players on this Celtics roster coming into the season. Would Jaylen Brown be able to thrive on the starting lineup? How would Jayson Tatum fair in his rookie season, especially after Gordon Hayward went down opening night? So far, both have lived up to the hype in the opening month of basketball. Despite a mere 62% from the free throw percentage, Jaylen Brown has shown that he can be a starting shooting guard in this league. Before tonight's matchup with Golden State, Brown is averaging 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and has had some decent shooting numbers, going 37% from 3-point range and 44% from the field. Tatum has also had a solid start to the season, averaging 14 points per game and 5.7 rebounds while being tied for second on the team in blocks. With Brown and Tatum being 21 and 19 years old respectfully, these players have a lot of time to continue to develop into some very talented players for years to come.
Boston may not have the flashiest bench in the NBA, but there are some big time players that have helped a great deal during this win streak. Marcus Smart, despite some shooting woes, is a great spark plug and can be tough to deal with on both sides of the ball. He is averaging 9.6 points, a team high 5.5 assists, and 4.4 rebounds through the first 15 games of the season. Terry Rozier has stepped up his game from last year, increasing his points, rebounding, and assist totals from last year and showing that he is a viable option at the backup point guard spot.
Despite earning the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and making it to the conference finals last year, it was very apparent that the team had some serious holes that needed to be filled. Even with injury issues, this year's small sample size shows that the new-look Celtics might be one of the best all-around teams not just in the weak Eastern Conference, but the NBA.