Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Brad Stevens Rules The Celtics & NBA Preview

The Brad Stevens Era took a big leap from Year One to Year Two, jumping from 25 wins to 40 wins and a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

So, Brad, what's the plan for Year Three?

There are high expectations for the Celtics in the 2015-16 season.  Stevens has established himself as one of the best coaches in the NBA and Danny Ainge has cobbled together a roster, that while lacking a legitimate All-Star, is deep at every position.

Stevens will be tasked with juggling the expectations of Boston while developing a rotation.  A typical NBA rotation has its five starters with three or four bench players playing significant minutes. The Celtics will likely not have such a traditional rotation this winter.

The Celtics have quality players at every position.

They have five traditional post players with David Lee, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger.  Rookie Jordan Mickey could factor into this group as well.

At small forward the Celtics feature Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko, who can both moonlight as post players, as well as Evan Turner, who can also be a ball handling point guard.  Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, although ball handling guards by trade, can handle the duties of a small forward if Stevens goes with a small-ball lineup.

That makes eight traditional forwards.

At guard Stevens can choose from Isaiah Thomas, Smart, Bradley, Turner, R.J. Hunter, and Terry Rozier - as well as Crowder and Jerebko - to play any of the wing positions with Thomas, Smart, Bradley, Turner, and Rozier all serving as potential primary ball handling point guards.

Good luck trying to sort out the minutes.

Stevens has shown himself to be shrewd in devising game plans and rotations so I expect him to craft a rotation based on the opponent.  Some nights he will need to go big and he has the weapons to do so, same as the nights when he'll need a smaller and quicker lineup on the floor.

His biggest challenge will be getting  such a large group of players to buy into playing limited minutes or having their roles dictated by the opponent but communication is also one of his biggest strengths.  Lee, acquired in a trade from the Warriors, said during the preseason that Stevens, "... has a great way of teaching and getting his message across to everybody."

Anticipating the challenge of finding roles for so many talented players, Stevens said in the preseason that, "It takes special players to be willing to be one of 12 as opposed to one of eight."

I expect Stevens to figure it out long enough for Ainge to package a few of his player assets, along with a few of the many first round picks the Celtics possess over the next few years, and land the team an impact player that can get them from a middle-of-the-pack team in the East to a legitimate championship contender.

Stevens coaching abilities and the talent he has at his disposal will be enough for the Celtics to increase their win total again.  I see them challenging for a division title and winning between 45-48 games this season.

For his efforts, Stevens will take home the NBA Coach of the Year trophy.


My predictions for the season include a Final Four of the Bulls and Cavaliers in the East and the Thunder and the Spurs in the West with the Spurs ultimately prevailing of the Cavs for the sixth, and final, title of the Tim Duncan era before he retires.  I think we will also see Carmelo Anthony dealt to the Bulls, Kobe Bryant end his NBA career with a shot at the scoring title, and the news that Kevin Durant is putting off free agency by signing a one-year extension with the Thunder that will give that franchise another shot at winning a title before Durant and Russell Westbrook cash in as free agents in the summer of 2017.

As for the individual awards:

MVP - LeBron James, Cavaliers
Rookie of the Year - Jahlil Okafor, 76ers
6th Man of the Year - Isaiah Thomas, Celtics
Defensive Player of the Year - Anthony Davis, Pelicans
Most Improved Player - Otto Porter, Wizards
Coach of the Year - Brad Stevens, Celtics

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