Despite Youth, Celtics Boast Plenty of Experience at this Stage
Youthful teams often don’t last long in the NBA Playoffs. The Boston Celtics, however, have proven to be an exception to that rule this summer, having made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals despite having the youngest roster of all 16 playoff teams.
What has helped Boston prevail in this situation is the fact that its collective youth does not in any way coincide with its overall experience as a group. Even though the average age of its 17 players comes out to just 25.09 years, many of those guys have already been through the postseason grind multiple times, making their youth insignificant.
Take, for example, starters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. At age 23, Brown is about to play in his third conference finals and his 11th playoff series overall. At 22, Tatum is about to embark on his second conference finals and his eighth postseason series overall.
Many players in their thirties don't even have that much playoff experience on their resumes.
“There aren't very many guys at 22 and 23 who have done what Jayson and Jaylen have done, especially in meaningful moments in playoff games ever since they arrived here,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Monday afternoon, one day before opening up the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. “So we're really lucky that those guys are here. They do have a ton of experience in this moment, more so than a lot of other guys that are a lot older that are really good.”
Not only have they played in meaningful games, but they have also held significant roles throughout their postseason careers. Brown has been a starter in 35 out of his 55 playoff games, while Tatum has started all 39 of his postseason appearances. That means that by Game 2 of this coming series, Tatum will have already started half of a regular season’s worth of games in the postseason alone, while still being younger than many college players.
Gaining such extensive experience has allowed Tatum to learn exactly what it takes to win at this stage of the season – a knowledge base that continues to develop with each game he plays.
“Just building winning habits,” Tatum said of his experience. “I’ve gone to the Playoffs every year. It's my second time in the Eastern Conference Finals, so just grateful for the opportunity. It doesn't happen often. Just a testament to some great players I've played with, guys that are all about just winning.”
Ironically, it’s the Celtics’ older players who generally have the least amount of postseason experience. Twenty-nine-year-old Kemba Walker, for example, entered this season with just 11 playoff games under his belt. On Friday night, he clinched his first-ever berth into the conference finals, after never even making out of the first round throughout his first eight seasons in Charlotte.
“I've never made it this far, so I thought it was definitely meaningful for me to kind of enjoy it that night,” Walker said.
The All-Star point guard is also enjoying the opportunity to feed off of his younger teammates who have been through this grind before.
“They just love the game of basketball,” Walker said of Brown and Tatum. “They love to play, they love to compete, they love to win, and I love to be a part of it.”
The next part of Boston’s journey will be played against a Heat team which has the sixth-oldest roster in the league. For the Celtics, however, age is just a number. The more important factor at this stage is experience, and that is something they already have plenty of.