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BOSTON –Boston’s preseason is over, but Opening Night is still five moons away. We’re all stuck in basketball purgatory.
So that got me thinking: What can we take from the seven games we just watched the Boston Celtics play? History has taught us that the preseason is not an accurate indicator of what’s to come during the regular season. However, we did just watch the C’s play 336 minutes of basketball against other NBA teams. Some of what transpired during those minutes has to matter.
So without further ado, here are my takeaways from the exhibition schedule in my first edition of It Was Only the Preseaason, But…
It was only the preseason, but... Al Horford looks great in green
In fact, it’s a bit shocking just how great Al Horford has looked in green. He fit in seamlessly with the Celtics during exhibition play and has made a massive impact. How great of an impact? Take this into consideration: Boston outscored its opponents by 64 points during Horford’s 83 minutes of preseason action. That is an astounding number. The C’s pitched to Horford that he would be a perfect fit in their system with his basketball IQ, shooting ability and defensive mindset. They appear to have been correct.
It was only the preseason, but... Jaylen Brown looked like a top draft pick
Oftentimes, rookies begin their careers by looking like deer in headlights during the regular season, let alone the preseason. Jaylen Brown? He looked like he belongs. Brown didn’t exactly tear up the stat sheets with 30-point games, but he certainly looked like a top draft pick. He is fearless off the dribble and has showcased great instincts with the ball. But what will earn playing time this season is his defensive versatility. He proved to Brad Stevens that he can play both the 3 and the 4. That’s a whole lot to have shown in only seven preseason games, but the fact of the matter is, Brown did it.
It was only the preseason, but... the Celtics finished tied for the best record in the East
Do preseason records matter? In the long run, no. But guess what? Winning is winning. The Celtics went 5-2 during the preseason (including a loss during which all of its starters, save for nine minutes from Amir Johnson, did not play) and head into the regular season with positive reinforcement that their system works if they execute. They finished with a .714 winning percentage, which would translate to 58-59 regular-season wins. Upholding such a win rate is not out of the question for this team.
It was only the preseason, but... Marcus Smart’s shot was cleaned up
There is no doubt that Marcus Smart invested quite a bit of time this summer in cleaning up the mechanics in his shot. It has paid off, at least in the form of him re-creating his release. His new release features much less movement than his old release, which will decrease his opportunity for error while shooting. His new release didn’t exactly translate to great shooting numbers during the preseason (42 percent from the field, 13.6 percent from long range), but I’m confident those numbers are not indicators of what’s to come from Smart during the regular season.
It was only the preseason, but... James Young looked like a different player
That James Young we saw during the preseason wasn’t the same guy we saw the previous two seasons. The previous version was timid and afraid to make mistakes. This version was confident in his game. Young averaged 5.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game during the preseason while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from long range. He showed legitimate potential, something we had yet to see from him during his young career. He appears to be on the right track in terms of development. Which leads us to our next observation…
It was only the preseason, but... Boston’s youngsters have made it tough on Ainge
There’s no hiding from the fact that Boston has 16 guaranteed contracts and only 15 roster spots for the regular season. Someone has got to go. Typically in these cases, someone plays their way out of town. However, during this preseason, the logical Celtics who were on the chopping block have all made a case to remain on the team. As detailed above, James Young has started looking like the guy the Celtics thought they drafted 17th overall in 2014. R.J. Hunter and Jordan Mickey have progressed as well. Meanwhile, Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil have had their moments as rookies. All of these guys have given Danny Ainge a tough decision to make. He’s going to wind up cutting or trading a guy who the C’s believe is an NBA player.
It was only the preseason, but... Terry Rozier looks ready to be a legit rotational player
Remember Draft night last year, when observers appeared befuddled by Boston’s selection of Terry Rozier at 16th overall? Well, those observers are now beginning to understand why the Celtics made that selection. Rozier has developed at an accelerated rate over the last year and appears poised to be a regular in Boston’s rotation this season. Beginning in Summer League and continuing throughout preseason play, Rozier showcased the ability to be a reliable scorer and defender, all while running the offense. Those are qualities that earn regular playing time in the NBA.