This blog is dedicated to the current state of all four Boston teams.
Once upon a time, the Celtics engineered a strategy built around “The Big 3”. Danny Ainge had the foresight and ability to pull off trades to acquire all-stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to combine with Paul Pierce which led to a 17th championship for Boston.
Shortly thereafter, Miami followed suit with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and arguably the Spurs were the originators with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Golden State certainly carried that torch last season with MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green who is great as your third best on both ends of the floor.
When evaluating the current Celtics roster, not only is there not one player who is a top three type player, there isn’t one that has the upside to being one. The Celtics are a lunch pail team that will be effective in the regular season because they will outwork and outhustle opponents that simply aren’t invested over an 82 game season. They will fight with teams like, Milwaukee, Washington, Detroit, Orlando and New York I suppose for one of the final two playoff spots.
Isaiah Thomas is a big part of the problem. He is off to the worst start of his career shooting 38% from the floor, 29% from three-point territory (almost six percentage points lower than his worst season) and his 21 points per game are resulting from volume shooting. He is a great sixth man but at 30 minutes per night he is playing starter minutes which are exposing his deficiencies.
Marcus Smart is oft-injured with nagging injuries, has poor shot selection and looks like he will be a solid NBA player but more as a defender and not the upside of a number six pick. The Celtics will regret passing on Julius Randle who after missing last season with an injury is almost averaging a double-double nine games into his NBA career. The Celtics drafted Smart to fill Rajon Rondo’s shoes and should have taken the best player available.
Smart is now one of four Celtics players who is being mentioned in trade rumors to acquire Sacramento Kings malcontent DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is an uber-talent with an uber-bad attitude that could poison just about any locker room. He makes current teammate Rajon Rondo look warm. Yes Danny has the quantity and the draft picks to trade, but buyer beware.
As for the rest of the roster, Amir Johnson is a leader, hustler and another Jae Crowder type. Kelly Olynyk is a different player this season and is much more active and aggressive with his shot and on the defensive end although he has a long way to go. Avery Bradley plays great defense and his offense stink or he shoots the ball well and his defense suffers.
With Brooklyn off to an embarrassing start and high draft picks from Minnesota and Dallas in the mix, the Celtics need to free up roster space and give consistent playing time to deserving players.
Simply put, no one can shoot on this team. Boston is 27th in the league with a 41% field goal percentage and 29% three point percentage. Late first round pick R.J. Hunter provides some hope, but organizational hustle and smarts can only take you so far.
How many times can you stomach Bruins coach Claude Julien declaring after a loss “We had trouble sustaining an effort for 60 minutes?” Julien has done a good job during his tenure in Boston, but it was a mistake to bring him back and the inconsistency of the team indicates that his message has gotten stale and it’s time for General Manager Cam Neely, I mean Don Sweeney to make a change.
At least the Celtics have a host of draft picks, salary cap flexibility and some bodies to trade. The Bruins cupboard is bare. But the problems for the Bruins go much deeper than a recycled approach of focusing on grinders by upper management and a coach whose message has fallen on deaf ears.
The defense is too old and too young and too stationary. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg anchor the defense at 38 and 34 years old respectively and to say they have a lot of mileage on those skates would be an understatement. Young defenseman like Zach Trotman or Joe Morrow have some upside but Julien doesn’t trust them enough and since the Bruins are still trying to pretend they can contend for something, they are in a state of no man’s land. If you were Julien and you knew your job was on thin ice, who would you trust on the blue line? And that brings me to management’s favorite type of Bruins defenseman “The stay at home defenseman”. See Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid.
Torey Krug is one of the few puck moving defenseman the Bruins have developed in this century and Colin Miller has some legitimate potential, but defensive mistakes occur on a nightly basis which brings us to the goaltending.
Tuukka Rask’s biggest flaw is that he makes too much money. He relies on his defense to be successful like most NHL goalies today with their inflated equipment. Rask is currently 55th in goals against average and 57th in save percentage among NHL goalies. He is also the third highest paid goalie in the NHL. With that said, Rask won the Vezina Trophy two years ago and was excellent last season despite a multitude of injuries on defense. If Rask made four to five million, he wouldn’t be under such a microscope, but he makes seven million.
On offense, the Bruins are like the Celtics. A bunch of steady Eddies. Yes David Krejci is playing like the player the Bruins hoped and at over seven million annually, it’s a good thing. Loui Eriksson is having his best year as a Bruin and even some of the player acquisitions like Brett Connolly and Jimmy Hayes have been reasonably productive. But aside from Krejci and maybe Bergeron, who is the other team game-planning against. Where are the elite offensive talents to build around? I know they need to be grinders and as long as fans can see a big hit, scoring is overrated.
Ironically all four players the Bruins jettisoned have been disappointing thus far. Milan Lucic has four goals and nine points through 16 games, Reilly Smith has eight points through 15 games, Carl Soderberg has two goals through 16 games and is -6, and Dougie Hamilton has two goals and four points through 16 games and is a -9.
The Bruins need to try and trade Rask and Chara but not out of desperation. See if any team will offer a package they can’t refuse. Boston should commit to playing its young defenseman and build for the future. Being stuck in the middle is where they are earmarked to be.
Boston Red Sox:
Great start by Dave Dombrowski by acquiring San Diego Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. He is an elite closer and due to his baggage of bullpen issues in Detroit, if it was the last thing he did, Dombrowski was going to make sure he didn’t repeat history. Uehara could be okay as the setup man although no assurances at 41. Junichi Tazawa has pitched in 203 games in the last three years and in many high-pressure situations. He also finished at 2-7 with a 4.14 ERA and really labored at the end of the year so the bullpen fix is far from complete.
A Mookie Betts – Matt Harvey swap has made the rounds this week. What is harder to find an elite leadoff hitter or an ace pitcher? Harvey is 26 years old, and is arbitration eligible but has a long injury history. When healthy though, he is one of the top five pitchers in the game and will only get better. If I could sign Harvey to a long-term deal prior to making the trade, I would do it even though I am a big Betts fan.
Offensively, the Red Sox are going to rely on Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to have bounce-back seasons and they don’t have a lot of choice. I think Rusney Castillo will improve and if Jackie Bradley doesn’t get traded, I think he will be reliable for a .250 BA and decent pop.
As for starting pitching, Zack Greinke would be my first choice and David Price second although I just don’t see him signing in Boston. With all the focus though on the Sox acquiring an ace, I think it will be the number two or three type pitchers they sign that could be a big determinant in next season’s success. My vote would be for Jordan Zimmerman or someone like Doug Fister or Wei-Yin Chen.
New England Revolution – Just kidding. Okay, they need to score more and stop using the word nil when shutout suffices just fine. Although nil-nil does have a nice ring to it. And there needs to be a penalty box.
New England Patriots:
Stay healthy dammit!
In the Boston Globe today, Gil Brandt was cited with the statistic that the last two times the Patriots have had 10-game winning streaks or longer, the NY Giants ended them. We all know the Pats are playing with house money on the offensive line right now and losing Dion Lewis will hurt moreso because his replacements aren’t going to run the ball and Lewis kept the defense honest.
The Patriots aren’t infallible and they win more than anyone else simply because they are more prepared and execute better than everyone else regardless of the personnel they put on the field. The Giants are not a good defensive team and the Patriots should overcome even if it is ugly. I predict the Pats win by 10 or more.