As a fan of the Boston Celtics, the 2015 offseason has not played out anywhere near how I expected or wanted it to so far. First, Danny Ainge all but guaranteed that he would move up in the draft, but the team left draft night having used only the picks they entered with. Next, reports swirled about big names like Greg Monroe and Kevin Love potentially signing the dotted line in Boston, but the Celtics only managed to re-sign Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko while also adding power forward Amir Johnson on a two-year deal and trading for forward David Lee.
On the surface, it has been an underwhelming offseason to say the least for Celtics' fans. The team has essentially brought back the same team that went 40-42 and got knocked out of the postseason in four games by the Cleveland Cavaliers. They did add rookies and two nice players in Johnson and Lee, but were unable to land the superstar that the experts have said the team needs in order to get over the hump and back into Eastern Conference Finals contention. But if we step back for just a second and take the blockbuster 2007 Celtics offseason out of our minds, we realize that Danny Ainge and the team's front office have a plan, and a very good one at that.
While many are furious that we did not see a 2007 like offseason in which Ainge brought in both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the team may be using some of the same principles it used back then to build this team, just without the star power of the Big 3.
If you look back at that roster, and really all of the Celtics teams from the time the Big 3 joined forces until the time they disbanded, you see one common theme among both the stars and the role players: defense and determination. Their scrappiness is a large part of why they were able to be so successful for so long. It started with Kevin Garnett, and the rest of the team followed suit.
This team is not quite like those in that they do not have any star players, and they do not have an equivalent to what Garnett was for those teams. But they do have Brad Stevens, and they have players across the roster who have developed a reputation as someone who is willing to work hard and give it everything they have at any moment during a game. Let's take a look at pieces of the team's roster, as it currently stands, to see just how good this group of players could be.
First we'll start with second year floor general Marcus Smart. Even back in his days at Oklahoma State, Smart has been considered one of the best defenders in whatever arena he is playing in. He's a hard worker, a team player, is smart with the ball on offense but still willing to take risks, and can lockdown his matchup just about every night. As the point guard, his aggressiveness and energy on the defensive side of the ball should inspire others to follow his lead.
When the Celtics selected now starting shooting guard Avery Bradley in the 2010 NBA Draft, they did so for one reason: his defense. He was extremely raw coming out of Texas but the Celtics drafted him as a guy who could come in off the bench and lock up his matchup as Ray Allen got older. He has since developed into a nice offensive player, but his defense has never been better. Just like Smart, he's a scrappy guy who can easily take out the opposing team's shooting guard.
In all my time of watching basketball, I have never seen anyone who goes as hard as Jae Crowder does night in and night out. The team just re-signed him to a five-year deal that will see him get seven million dollars annually, and he's more motivated than ever to prove himself. Crowder is a guy who prides himself on his hard work and aggressive play, and that more than anything is why he was able to cash-in big.
We won't go through every player, but you see the point. The team has brought in the likes of Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Evan Turner who are all well-known as players who are going to give it everything they have no matter what. You then add the fact that Brad Stevens is coaching this team, and you have an even bigger monster. Stevens is a former college coach, and he prides himself on teamwork and hard work on both offense and defense. While they may not be the biggest names or the most talented players, Ainge and Stevens have brought in youth, energy, and guys who will follow whatever Stevens decides to do.
This team is going to play with heart, they are going to play with emotion, they are going to play as a team, and they will probably earn a lot of technical fouls, but at the end of the day they are going to earn a lot of wins and will be fun to watch in the process.
By Jacob Young, @DeflateThis