By Jason Hafley
The 2017-18 Boston Celtics ended on a promising note for the upcoming season as they reached the Eastern Conference Finals and took Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers to a Game 7 all without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. The playoff run was a positive sign for the development of the team, especially for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Now that Irving and Hayward are back in the lineup, ESPN’s Power Rankings have the Celtics 3rd in the NBA.
The Celtics are starting slower than expected with a 2-2 record. Following Monday’s loss to the Orlando Magic on Monday night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens addressed the media:, “I’ve said it from day one, we’re not as good as everyone thinks we are.” Whether or not he is serious, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown are struggling to score the ball. Each are shooting under 35 percent from the floor, well under their career averages. Since it is still early in the season and the Celtics are moving the ball well, each player’s numbers should return to normal as the season develops.
Forward Jayson Tatum is just the opposite, averaging around 20 points per game and emerging as the team’s top scoring option thus far. The 20 year-old proved his potential with a strong rookie season and playoffs, but the question now is whether Tatum’s numbers will stay constant when Irving, Hayward and Brown return to normal. While early-season struggles are common even for the best, Irving and Hayward need a greater role for the Celtics to live up to their championship expectations. There is no doubt coach Brad Stevens will work with his team until the early-season jitters disappear. The team is moving the ball well as usual, though the lack of scoring from Irving and Hayward resulted in an unusual amount of isolation plays for Jayson Tatum. Once the lineups settle and the Celtics start playing a more balanced, team-oriented game of basketball they should be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference and beyond.
Jason Hafley is a Staff Writer for The Comment