Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
4. Boston Celtics
Key addition(s): Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter
Key departure(s): Frontline defense, Kyrie Irving
Key question: What’s the ceiling for Brown and Tatum?
The loss of Horford and Aron Baynes will obviously hurt the Celtics’ defense more than the swap of Irving for Walker hurts the offense, especially because Kanter gives them more interior scoring than they’ve had in a long time. His 308 baskets in the restricted area were almost exactly the same number as Horford, Baynes and Daniel Theis had total (309) last season and more than any Celtic has had since Rajon Rondo had 308 in the 2009-10 season. If Gordon Hayward regains some explosion while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum take steps forward, the Celtics’ best offensive lineup — Walker, Brown, Hayward, Tatum and Kanter — will be tough to stop. Brown or Hayward will need to come off the bench again (behind Marcus Smart) to provide some balance.
(Yes, it’s summer – power rankings are what passes for NBA news in late July.)
One year ago, the NBA.com mid-summer power rankings had this headline: “Boston Celtics set to rule Eastern Conference for years.” As we all no doubt remember, that was the prevailing opinion of most observers, the conventional wisdom of NBA fans and media.
It did not age well.
Soooo much has changed. The no. 1 ranking is long gone and the Celtics are now placed at no. 4 in the East by NBA.com. A case could probably be made that they’re no. 3, but really, fourth feels about right.
Ahead of Boston in the rankings are the Bucks at no. 1, the Sixers at no. 2, and the Raptors no. 3. Milwaukee on top makes sense; they lost Malcolm Brogdon but still have the MVP in Giannis, and they re-signed Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez and added Robin Lopez and Kyle Korver.
Philly was hurt by the loss of Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, but Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will continue to improve and Al Horford will be a huge addition (dammit!).
It’s a little surprising to see Toronto ranked third. They lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green and replaced them with… (checking notes) …nobody. They will still be good, but have no hope of defending their crown.
Just to be petty, we’ll note that the Nets are slotted no. 5 in these power rankings, behind the Celtics. Ha!
For Boston to move up on the list, we’ll assume that Kemba Walker repeats as All-NBA and Jaylen & Jayson both take big strides. The opportunity for additional impact comes from that Kanter stat above – he scored 308 baskets in the restricted area last season, as many as the top three Boston bigs combined. A lot of those came from putbacks, as Kanter averaged 3.8 offensive rebounds per game (fifth in the league) and 3.5 points off those opportunities (second). The Celtics, who traditionally are not strong on the offensive glass, averaged just 9.8 ORebs (20th in the league) and 12.5 second-chance points (23rd). Kanter’s effectiveness in these categories will add a new dimension to Boston’s offense.
One other factor with the potential to elevate the Cs is Hayward’s performance. By opening night it will have been two years since the catastrophe. His body is healed, but has he regained the physical ability to dominate a game? Just as important, does he have the confidence to do so?
The Celts will miss Horford much, much less if Gordo is out there playmaking and swishing threes like when he was a Western Conference All-Star. We haven’t seen that yet in a green uniform, at least not consistently, and it has to appear soon or we might never see it. But if the old Hayward does show up, that will literally be a game-changer.
On Page 2: Smart art
When Marcus Smart last year signed a new contract to stay with the Celtics, he memorably declared, “I love Boston and Boston loves me.”
That was never more obvious than this week, when Marcus engaged with the people of Weird Celtics Twitter.
If you have Twitter, check out the thread for literally hundreds of clever takes and Photoshops from the wild and amazingly artistic fans. The deserving winner of the contest was this biblical image of Marcus created by Frasier Ramon, a prolific producer of Smarf memes and artwork.
It’s true: we love you, Smarf, you absolute legend.
And, finally… Erotic City
And there’s more about Weird Celtics Twitter. No idea how this happened, but enjoy Carsen Edwards giving a shoutout to WCT.
If you don’t know what Erotic City is, get educated.
The Rest of the Links:
Boston Sports Journal: Bradley Beal’s decision on extension offer is worth watching
NBC Sports Boston: Celtics exec lauds Tacko Fall’s IQ, says he still has ‘long way to go’ | Marcus Smart gives Team USA’s 2019 World Cup team Celtics-themed nickname | Congressman Joe Kennedy III trolls Kyrie Irving in photo with Celtics’ Enes Kanter