The Boston Celtics are 9-7, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference, and await their first matchup against the Miami Heat tonight at American Airlines in Miami. The Celtics are currently sitting in year four of their on-the-fly rebuild, and as of right now, I consider this rebuild an epic failure.
1. Time and Time Again, Danny Ainge Drafts Poorly
Looking at the current situation the Celtics are in, what has really hurt them in a few games (notably the Bulls and Spurs games) was their rebounding. Their current rebounding leader is Avery Bradley, who is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game. Flashback to the first draft of the official Celtics Rebuild: The Celtics were coming off a season in which they went 25-57, and landed the sixth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Their draft selection was Marcus Smart.
Now I love Marcus Smart, especially on the defensive end. But the man is only averaging 3.8 rebounds per game for his career, and is a liability on the offensive side due to his unbelievable and unwarranted confidence in his 3-point shot. With the pick following the Celtics, the Lakers drafted Julius Randle out of Kentucky. Randle had that fluke injury in his rookie season, when he fractured his leg in the opener, but since then he is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game for his career and is starting to come around as a decent big man on offense. He has the potential of being part of a big four forming in LA (Russell, Clarkson, and Ingram with him). I love Marcus Smart, but there are just too many guards on the Celtics that he isn't being used at his maximum value.
Combine that with shying away from the paint again and drafting Terry Rozier last year, adding another guard to a backcourt dominant Celtics roster.
2. They Still Lack a Superstar
If you pay enough attention to the games the Celtics are losing, they are often losing to teams that have star players. The Bulls have Wade and Butler, the Cavs have Lebron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love, the Wizards have Wall and Beal, and the Spurs have Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. The Celtics have Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. Now while both of those guys are great players, in fact Al Horford has exceeded my early expectations, neither of those guys should be considered superstars. Isaiah Thomas, who Green Teamers have labeled as a superstar, isn't even the most valuable Celtic. Now I love IT, but the man needs help in order to succeed, which is why non-superstar Al Horford is the most important Celtic. The Celtics still lack that "it" factor and game-changing player... which is SO vital in today's NBA.
3. They've Already Topped Out
The Celtics have made strides towards becoming a threat in the Eastern Conference. But given the rosters they've been putting out there every year, it seems like they're, at best, a 4 seed in the East and MAYBE an ECF contender. Al Horford was a GREAT addition, but he's NEVER been the man in charge of anchoring the offense and being a menace on the boards. They are basically what the Wizards are: The Wizards had a brief run at success, but aging vets wanted to leave because they weren't a title contender. Great regular season team, but aren't even remotely close to winning an NBA Finals.
Look at the other rebuilds that have occurred in the NBA, specifically the Lakers and the Sixers. Both teams tanked for multiple seasons and, because of that, were able to draft guys who have superstar potential. The Celtics rushed their rebuild and relied too heavily on the Brooklyn picks to bring them superstar talent. Jaylen Brown, for example, is NOT a third overall pick. I love the guy as a player and as an athlete, but he seems too much like Jeff Green to satisfy me. He'll be effective for 2 weeks, absent for a month and a half. The Sixers' last four first round picks were Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Ben Simmons. All four of them have through the roof potential, and Noel might be the worst of the bunch. What type of player is Noel? A rebounding big man, EXACTLY what the Celtics need.
Last three Lakers picks: Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell, and Brandon Ingram... with Jordan Clarkson as well. With Julius Randle being the worst of the 4. What type of player is Randle? A rebounding big man, EXACTLY what the Celtics need. The Sixers and Lakers knew what they were doing, and they're currently reaping the benefits of that. Watch them flourish within the next 2 or 3 seasons.