The X-Factors: Boston | Basketball Insiders

The NBA hiatus is coming to an in depth. With the season anticipated to renew July 30, simply over a month away, there would seem to lastly be a light-weight on the finish of this lengthy, lengthy tunnel.

That mentioned, we’re not fairly there but. However, within the meantime, we right here at Basketball Insiders will proceed to do our greatest to assist make that month-long lead as much as the NBA’s return really feel as quick as doable.

With that in thoughts, we flip to our X-Issue sequence. Over the previous few weeks, the BI crew has checked out every of the 22 groups with a shot on the postseason. Particularly, we’ve tried to focus on every “x-factor,” the sport changers that ought to give every crew some sway and make some big-time performs as they both head into the match or battle for one of many final spots within the postseason.

At this time, we’ll proceed that sequence with a have a look at the Boston Celtics, the Jap Convention’s third seed and, after the losses of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford from the season prior, one of many NBA’s greatest surprises. 

So, with out additional ado, let’s get to it.

Like each crew headed to Orlando, Boston’s roster has a number of gamers that, if given the chance, may sway any given play, recreation or perhaps a sequence of their favor. However not like each different roster, the Celtics have Marcus Good — as distinctive a participant as there may be within the NBA right this moment.

With Good, no single play is taken as a right. Sure, the 2019-20 common season was arguably the most effective of his profession — however, someway, the 13.5 factors, three.eight rebounds, four.eight assists and 1.6 steals per recreation field rating doesn’t do Good’s true game-to-game influence justice.

Good, within the clutch, has constantly demonstrated the flexibility to manifest the inconceivable. Have to pressure a turnover? He’s acquired you lined. On the lookout for a steal to seal the sport? No drawback for Good. How a couple of block? He can try this too. A well timed cost take? He’ll provide you with two.

On the entire, Good is an enigma. However he’s certainly one of only a handful of gamers that may critically alter a complete recreation and its trajectory on any given play. With that in thoughts, and regardless of a roster loaded with expertise, Good would be the Celtics’ greatest X-Issue come the postseason.

However, once more, Good isn’t their solely X-Issue. Given Gordon Hayward’s up-and-down Boston tenure — and regardless of the emergence of Jayson Tatum — the veteran swingman ought to show a significant component on their quest towards the NBA Finals, too.

In his third season with the crew, Hayward would seem like over his ugly ankle damage; in 2019, he averaged 17.three factors, 6.5 rebounds, four.1 assists and shot 50.2 p.c from the ground and 39.2 p.c from three, a season on par together with his finest in Utah. That mentioned, and regardless of that return to type, Hayward has continued to fade into the background from time to time — to not say that that’s all the time a nasty factor however, most often, the Celtics would need their $40 million man main the cost.

Whether or not extra aggressive or passive, whichever Hayward the Celtics discover in Orlando goes to have a critical influence on the crew and their shot on the title. 

If he’s passive, Boston, to its detriment, might must lean extra closely on a particularly inexperienced bench.

However an unleashed, aggressive Hayward on the street to The Finals? He simply is likely to be the Celtics’ swing piece and their ace within the gap when confronted with the most effective of the NBA’s finest.

Past these two, the middle spot might show the crew’s greatest X-Issue. 

Daniel Theis is a powerful (if underappreciated) choice that may do a little bit of every part when on the ground. That mentioned, to compete on the highest degree, the Celtics are going to want a bit extra oomph from the five-spot. In fact, Boston has no elite choice on the place whereas its depth, not like Theis, is a little more one-dimensional — to fabricate that oomph, they’re going to want to get artistic.

Enes Kanter ought to present a spark on offense and as a rebounder, one thing Boston has struggled with up to now, however might show to be a defensive legal responsibility. Semi Ojeleye and Robert Williams, in the meantime, may nearly be seen as a defensive foil to Kanter — each are sturdy defenders, however Ojeleye is a particularly streaky shooter (with a profession three-point proportion of simply 33.three p.c) whereas Williams is generally restricted to a lob menace on offense.

Then there’s Grant Williams, a rookie that managed to carve out a constant function in Boston’s rotation for a lot of the common season, who stands out as the first to listen to his title referred to as in reduction of Theis. That mentioned, and regardless of his sturdy common season play, the 6-foot-6 Williams is only a bit undersized and inexperienced to be relied on as a major participant in a postseason surroundings proper now. 

Fortunately, Boston has one of many NBA’s craftiest in head coach Brad Stevens — if anybody can Frankenstein a “true” heart out of their rotation, he can. And, as a bunch, if they will elevate their play to the purpose the place they can include, and even simply compete with, gamers like Brook Lopez and Joel Embiid, it could be a serious boon for the Celtics and their title odds.

In its fourth month and counting, it could appear as if the present NBA drought would possibly by no means finish. However each day we inch nearer and nearer and, earlier than we even realize it, the postseason shall be upon us.

So maintain looking out as we wrap up the X-Issue sequence and, in the event you haven’t already, ensure that to return and scope out its earlier entries. Keep tuned for the plethora of content material on the way in which between now and July 30, as nicely.

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