5 Questions For The Celtics Post All-Star Break?

The Celtics have been dominant this season and remain extremely focused on their goal of winning a title. With incredible talent and results many consider the Celtics title favorites. However, even great teams have questions and uncertainties attached to them. Let’s dive into 5 questions surrounding the Celtics post all-star break. These questions will be key factors for the Celtics’ ultimate goal of a championship.

 

 

 

While the Celtics’ clutch time stats are quite solid, closing out games remains a real concern. For years late-game scenarios have been Boston’s fatal flaw. Forcing up three-point shots, poor timeout management, iso-heavy possessions, and going completely cold offensively have been central problems for the Celtics down the stretch. These have been on display in several losses this season including against the Nuggets, and Warriors. Late game breakdowns need to be improved upon especially come playoff time. With a roster this talented, these problems are unacceptable improvements start with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown finding better shots. Furthermore, Joe Mazzulla needs to implement a little more offensive structure late in games. Ultimately the Celtics’ ability to close out games will be one of the most important factors for their title chances.

 

 

 

Joe Mazzulla’s improvements from last season are clear. He has implemented a new versatile defensive attack, activated Kristaps Porzingis’ two-way game, and gotten more player buy-in. Mazzulla has clearly benefited from a year of experience and an improved coaching staff. However, are these improvements enough come playoff time remains a fair question. There is no denying that Mazzulla’s lack of experience hurt the Celtics last year and his end-of-game management is still an issue. A possible rematch against Erik Spoelstra is where Mazzulla’s experience would be the biggest factor. For the Celtics to win a title Mazzulla needs to continue being the coach he’s shown us this year and not revert back to bad habits.

 

 

 

It feels like I am beating a dead horse here but the Celtics shot diet is one of the most important stories of their season. Currently, the Celtics rank first in 3-pt frequency but last in 2-pt frequency while ranking 27th in shots at the rim. Personnel-wise the Celtics have elite finishers throughout the roster so generating more rim pressure would be logical. The Celtics don’t need a massive change but closing the gap between 2 and 3-point shot attempts would greatly benefit the team’s offensive balance. A balanced attack will help the Celtics be less predictable, especially in the playoffs. However, we are 56 games in and the Celtics’ shot diet has stayed the same so it’s possible it won’t change at all. Regardless, monitoring if the shot diet changes and how it impacts the Celtics winning will be interesting.

 

 

 

Tatum’s improved playmaking has been a noteworthy story this year. Tatum is averaging a career-high 4.8 assists per game. While his raw numbers show slight improvement as a playmaker the eye test shows that Tatum has taken a huge leap. He has gotten much better at reading the floor, kicking to the corner, and passing out of the pick-n-roll. In February Tatum is averaging 6.6 assists a career-best number for any month. If Tatum’s playmaking stays at this rate or improves more the Celtics will become an even more dangerous matchup. Tatum will also earn more individual recognition and awards.

 

 

For years the Celtics have been on the verge of a title and Porzingis has proven to be the perfect fit. Porzingis unlocks a new element for the Celtics on both ends of the floor. He gives the Celtics an elite post-up and lob threat as well as incredible versatile defense. Porzingis has proven to be immensely valuable and the Celtics aren’t the same team without him. The question isn’t about Porzingis’ impact which has been stellar and more about what series will he flip in Boston’s favor. Furthermore, health always remains a question with Porzingis. From what we’ve seen a healthy Porzingis makes the Celtics the best team in the league but will it all come together in the playoffs? If the Celtics can win it all Porzingis will be viewed as the ultimate game changer who finally allowed Boston to get over the hump.

 

 

The Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans starred in one of the scuffles (yes, there were more) on Friday night in the NBA, shocking everybody after a play between Zion Williamson and Kevin Love. Following the game, Jimmy Butler sent a clear warning to the Pelicans, stating that New Orleans would lose in their next duel with Miami too. The veteran swingman reminded everybody that the Heat have gotten used to improving their level during the season and this was about to be another example of that. “We’re so together, playing some incredible basketball. I don’t think it matters who we go up against right now. It’s that time of the year,” he added. Butler is one of the best ambassadors of the so-called ‘Heat culture’ and he embodies that whenever and wherever is needed. Zion Williamson clarified that the play with Kevin Love was nothing like people assumed, but now it’s too late to change what happened. With the 105-95 win, the Heat now boast a 31-25 record, which ranks seventh in the Eastern Conference. As for the Pelicans, they’re 34-23 after Friday’s loss, ranking fifth in the West. The Heat and Pelicans are scheduled to meet again on March 22 in a game that surely will be entertaining to watch.

 

 

With Filip Chytil (concussion) out for the season and on LTIR, there has been plenty of speculation that the Rangers would look to make a move to add to their center depth heading into the playoffs. It appears they’re looking to do just that as Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported earlier this week that the team has shown some interest in Kraken middleman Alexander Wennberg. The 29-year-old is in the third and final season of a contract that carries a $4.5M AAV. Considering he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, he’d fit New York’s plans of a short-term addition while keeping their cap space open if Chytil can return as planned next season. Wennberg has recorded eight goals and 14 assists so far this season in 56 games, a level of production that is slightly below his first two seasons with Seattle. However, Wennberg isn’t known for being a true offensive threat but rather more of a two-way secondary option. He’s a frequent member of their top penalty killing unit which could help what is already a strong Ranger penalty kill that sits sixth in success rate heading into Friday night’s action. Of course, it’s worth remembering that the rental center market is quite thinned out following the trades of Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan so this will be a case where more teams are looking for one than there are rental centers available. That means the cost for Wennberg’s services could be relatively high should Seattle opt to sell closer to the trade deadline; as they’re three points out of the last Wild Card, there’s no guarantee GM Ron Francis will move out his rentals. At the moment, the Rangers have a little under $4.4M in full-season LTIR space, per CapFriendly. While they could add a bit more to that by sending a player down which would then free up enough space for Wennberg, it stands to reason that New York — or pretty much any interested team — would want the Kraken to retain up to the maximum 50% of that. Of course, that should only increase the asking price from Seattle’s end. The trade deadline is now just two weeks away so teams still have a bit of time to decide what direction they’re going to go from a buyer and seller perspective. It’s safe to say that the Rangers and several other teams will be keeping an eye on Seattle to see if they make Wennberg or any of their other expiring veterans (including Jordan Eberle, Tomas Tatar and Justin Schultz) available. If they don’t sell, that thin center market is going to get a whole lot thinner.

 

 

 

The college football offseason has quieted down after a whirlwind month since Michigan won the national title. Last week, we shared five teams who’ve had plenty to celebrate as eyes shift toward the 2024 season. Here are teams on the other end of the spectrum, those that have the most to jeer about with spring practices gearing up around the country over the next few weeks. 5. Michigan We hope the Wolverines took Advil because they’re due for an intense hangover in 2024. Head coach Jim Harbaugh, quarterback J.J. McCarthy, running back Blake Corum and wide receiver Roman Wilson are the biggest names heading the NFL, but the program must also deal with a depleted offensive line and departures of key defensive players, including cornerback Mike Sainristil, linebackers Junior Colson and Michael Barrett and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. Making matters worse is a much more difficult schedule in 2024, which includes an out-of-conference game against Texas and games against Big Ten newcomers USC, Oregon, and Washington, plus the regular season finale at Ohio State. 4. Washington After losing to Michigan in the national championship, Washington’s offseason got off to a rocky start when coach Kalen DeBoer left for Alabama. The Huskies lost quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and wide receivers Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk to the NFL Draft, creating a massive vacuum on offense for first-year head coach Jedd Fisch to fill. 3. UCLA The Bruins aren’t even an official member of the Big Ten, but they’ve already been burned by the conference. Former head coach Chip Kelly resigned and took the offensive coordinator role at Ohio State after months of speculation that Kelly and UCLA were headed toward a divorce. It’s rare for a coach at a major college program to willingly leave for a demotion; usually, those moves occur when a coach gets fired and is in need of image rehabilitation. Instead, it’s the Bruins that need to be built back up. 2. Alabama Nick Saban’s retirement sent the Tide into an early tailspin this offseason. Per On3, Alabama ranks last in the site’s transfer portal team rankings. The Tide lost 28 players who are either five-, four-, or three-star recruits while only gaining seven. Offensive lineman Kadyn Proctor, defensive back Caleb Downs and wide receiver Isaiah Bond were the biggest defections, while DeBoer also watched previous 2024 five-star high-school recruit Julian Sayin de-commit and choose Ohio State. 1. Oregon State Nowhere was the 2024 offseason more catastrophic than in Corvallis. The Beavers are bracing for the implosion of the Pac-12 at the end of July which will leave them and the Washington State Cougars as the conference’s only members. Before the ship capsizes, multiple members of Oregon State’s eight-win 2023 team have found a life raft to their next destination. Former coach Jonathan Smith became Michigan State’s head coach in December, while 2023 starting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei left for Florida State, as did edge-rusher Sione Lolohea, who was second on the team last season with 8.5 tackles for loss. The team’s leading wide receiver, Silas Bolden, left for Texas, and tight end Jack Velling, who led the team with eight touchdown receptions, joined Smith in East Lansing.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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