Tag Archives: Boston Celtics

A Man With A Plan

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From 2008-2013, the Boston Celtics were always in contention to win the NBA Title which included them winning it all in 2008. However following Boston’s elimination in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in 2013, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge decided that it was time to start over. And instead of Ainge waiting for aging players such as small forward Paul Pierce and power forward Kevin Garnett to completely break down physically, he was able to ship them off to the Brooklyn Nets while receiving a litany of draft picks in the process. And as longtime Celtics head coach Doc Rivers did not want to participate in a rebuild in Boston, he was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers which resulted in more draft picks for the C’s since Rivers was still under contract with them.

Brad Stevens

Ainge would then raise some eyebrows when he pegged Brad Stevens to replace Rivers as the Celtics head coach. Stevens had never coached in the NBA as he was the men’s head basketball coach of the Butler Bulldogs. Stevens’ time at Butler was highlighted by him reaching the championship game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011, but how would he be able to fare in the NBA?

In Stevens’ first year with the Celtics, Boston would go 25-57 which was to be expected. However the following season would see the Celtics win total improve by 15 games and they earned the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics would continue to build off of that as they won 48 games during the 2015-2016 NBA season, and this past campaign would see them earn the best record in the Eastern Conference with a mark of 53-29. Boston would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2012, however after being eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was clear that the C’s still had a ways to go in order to close the gap on them and become legitimate contenders to win the NBA Championship.

Gordon Hayward

That gap closed somewhat on Independence Day when the Celtics signed small forward Gordon Hayward to a four-year deal that is worth $128 million. Hayward has spent his entire NBA career with the Jazz which included him averaging 21.9 points per game this past season while earning his first NBA All-Star Game selection. The acquisition of Hayward reunites him with Stevens who was his head coach at Butler, while it also displays that Ainge’s plan is coming to fruition.

Although that the Celtics 17 NBA Championships are more than any other organization in league history, no star player wanted to come to Boston when Ainge decided to rebuild. And instead of Ainge going for a quick fix in order to turn around the fortunes of the Celtics, he did it the old-fashioned way which required patience on his part, along with the ability to take some ridicule in Beantown.

Danny Ainge

Ainge has never been willing to give away draft picks as he has instead stock piled them like poker chips. In sending Pierce, Garnett, and shooting guard Jason Terry to the Nets, the Celtics received four, first-round picks in the NBA Draft. Ainge’s ability to sell water to a whale has been magnified as the trade with Brooklyn allowed the Celtics to select small forward Jaylen Brown third overall last year. This year the Celtics had the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets who earned the first overall selection in the NBA Draft. And with Ainge not blown away with point guard Markelle Fultz who was projected to be the top pick in the draft, he made a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers and moved down to the third overall selection. The Celtics would then select small forward Jayson Tatum and in the process they procured a first-round pick from the Sixers for next year. The Nets also owe the Celtics a first-round pick for next year which will more than likely be in the top five of the draft which means that Ainge can draft another quality player early, or find a sucker that is willing to give him a king’s ransom in order to move up as the rich simply get richer.

Ainge has also taken chances on bringing players to the Celtics that nobody else wanted. In 2011, point guard Isaiah Thomas went undrafted by the NBA. Thomas would begin his NBA journey with the Sacramento Kings. In three years with the Kings, Thomas’ numbers improved and in his final season in Sacramento, he averaged 20.3 points per game. Thomas was then traded to the Phoenix Suns where he averaged 15.2 points in 46 games. Thomas would then be traded to the Celtics in 2015 and he has gone on to become a household name.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas has averaged 24.7 points per game during his time with Celtics and this past season saw him become an MVP candidate as he averaged 28.9 points. And once you factor in the emergence of Thomas, along with the overall improvement of the Celtics, things are changing as far as this organization’s reputation around the NBA.

Now Boston is once again becoming a popular destination among free agents around the NBA which was illustrated by Hayward joining the Celtics, and there is more to come.

The draft picks that the Celtics are in possession of gives Ainge plenty of flexibility if he needed to get another star player to team with Thomas and Hayward. This past season saw Brown show flashes of his potential, while Tatum has gotten off to a hot start in the NBA’s Summer League as the Celtics now have one of the deepest teams in the league.

Ainge has built the Celtics into a contender simply off of the fact that there is always a sucker in regards to making a trade. Ainge was able to find that sucker in the mode of former Nets general manager Billy King who mortgaged the future for three washed up players. Pierce and Garnett are retired, while Terry is currently playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Nets are still on the hook for one more first-round pick to the Celtics.

Ainge learned from one of the best as far as making trades as former Celtics general manager Red Auerbach knew how to exploit loopholes in the NBA’s rule book, while also finding a sucker to make a trade with. And this ability by Auerbach allowed the Celtics to draft Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, while acquiring Robert Parrish to form one of the best front court’s in NBA history as the combination helped Boston win three titles in the 1980’s.

Now Ainge is writing his own chapter and as he doesn’t appear to be slowing down with making moves, the 18th NBA Title for the Celtics doesn’t appear to be that far around the corner.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0

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1. Philadelphia 76ers (via Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics)-Markelle Fultz-Freshman-Point Guard-Washington

The 76ers once again have the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and they will get themselves a quality ball handler.

2. Los Angeles Lakers-Lonzo Ball-Freshman-Point Guard-UCLA

It would not shock me to Lakers pass on Lonzo Ball here, but the fact that they brought him in for a second workout means that they’ll more than likely give in and select him.

De’Aaron Fox

3. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers)-De’Aaron Fox-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

The Celtics trade and still get themselves a quality point guard, while also stock piling more future draft picks.

4. Phoenix Suns-Josh Jackson-Freshman-Small Forward-Kansas

The Suns already have a solid young back court of point guard Eric Bledsoe and shooting guard Devin Booker, and now they can add another versatile perimeter player in Josh Jackson.

5. Sacramento Kings (via Philadelphia 76ers)-Jayson Tatum-Freshman-Small Forward-Duke

All signs point to small forward Rudy Gay leaving the Kings as a free agent and they can find his replacement right here.

6. Orlando Magic-Jonathan Isaac-Freshman-Small Forward-Florida State

For years the Magic have been without an impact player at the small forward position. Jonathan Isaac won’t be a superstar, but he could be a solid developmental project in Orlando.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves-Lauri Markkanen-Freshman-Power Forward-Arizona

If the Timberwolves don’t trade this selection they will be in a position to select the best athlete available.

8. New York Knicks-Malik Monk-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

Don’t look know but the Knicks could find the perfect player at the point guard position to compliment power forward Kristaps Porzingis.

Dennis Smith Jr.

9. Dallas Mavericks-Dennis Smith Jr.-Freshman-Point Guard-North Carolina State

The Mavericks could go in several directions with one of them being finding a floor general.

10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans Pelicans)-Frank Ntilikina-Point Guard-Belgium

The Kings are building towards the future which means finding a point guard to run their offense.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Luke Kennard-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Duke

The Hornets could go in several directions with this pick, but they need to find more perimeter scoring if they want to be a consistent playoff team.

12. Detroit Pistons-Terrance Ferguson-Shooting Guard-United States

If all the top point guards are gone, I would not be surprised to see the Pistons trade down. But at the same time Terrance Ferguson could fill a need in the Pistons back court if shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope elects to leave in free agency.

13. Denver Nuggets-Zach Collins-Freshman-Center-Gonzaga

The Nuggets are continuing to stock pile depth in their front court as they seek to make a playoff push next season.

Harry Giles

14. Miami Heat-Harry Giles-Freshman-Power Forward-Duke

The Heat were on the cusp of making the playoffs this past season. And with the selection of Harry Giles, along with what could be a busy summer for them in free agency, Miami could once again be a force in the Eastern Conference.

15. Portland Trail Blazers-Justin Patton-Freshman-Center-Creighton

If the Trail Blazers decide to retain this selection they could find a developmental project for their front court.

Justin Jackson

16. Chicago Bulls-Justin Jackson-Junior-Small Forward-North Carolina

The Bulls already have Jimmy Butler at small forward, but they could get some depth behind him, while also finding a player who fits perfectly into the system of head coach Fred Hoiberg.

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Jarrett Allen-Freshman-Center-Texas

The Bucks are already one of the most athletic teams in the NBA, and they can get better here with a player in Jarrett Allen who can clean up on the glass, while also blocking every shot in sight.

18. Indiana Pacers-Donovan Mitchell-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Louisville

In a last ditch effort to possibly keep small forward Paul George happy, the Pacers must hit on this selection.

19. Atlanta Hawks-John Collins-Sophomore-Power Forward-Wake Forest

There is a chance that power forward Paul Millsap will leave the Hawks this summer which means that it’s more than likely time for them to start over at that position.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers)-Ike Anigbogu-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

For the Trail Blazers it’s all about finding players in their front court that can compliment point guard Damian Lillard.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder-Tyler Dorsey-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Oregon

I would not be surprised to see the Thunder either trade down, or attempt to get more picks for next year.

T.J. Leaf

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington Wizards)-T.J. Leaf-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

With the Nets not having a first-round pick next year, they need to hit a home run with this selection.

23. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks)-Caleb Swanigan-Sophomore-Power Forward-Purdue

If the Raptors are going to be a serious contender in the Eastern Conference, they will need more offensive production from their front court.

24. Utah Jazz-OB Anunoby-Sophomore-Small Forward-Indiana

This could be an interesting selection for the Jazz as all of their hopes will rest on whether or not that small forward Gordon Hayward will re-sign with them.

25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors)-Jonathan Motley-Junior-Power Forward-Baylor

Aside from Aaron Gordon, the Magic currently don’t have any power forwards on their roster which would give Jonathan Motley the opportunity to come in and be an immediate contributor.

26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers)-Bam Adebayo-Freshman-Center-Kentucky

With a trio of first-round picks I expect the Blazers to trade at one of them, but if they draft Bam Adebayo, I see him staying in the Pacific Northwest.

Tyler Lydon

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics)-Tyler Lydon-Sophomore-Small Forward-Syracuse

Tyler Lydon could provide the Nets with some quality perimeter shooting that they lacked last season.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)-Josh Hart-Senior-Small Forward-Villanova

Josh Hart might possess a second round grade, but he has plenty of intangibles which includes knowing how to win.

29. San Antonio Spurs-Ivan Rabb-Sophomore-Power Forward-California

If Ivan Rabb left school last year he could have been a top-five pick. However Rabb’s loss could be the Spurs gain.

30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)-Dwayne Bacon-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Virginia

In watching the Jazz this season, their lack of depth in the back court was a glaring weakness.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

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Markelle Fultz

1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)-Markelle Fultz-Freshman-Point Guard-Washington

If the Boston Celtics do not trade this pick, they will be stumbling on some more talent for thier back court.

2. Los Angeles Lakers-Lonzo Ball-Freshman-Point Guard-UCLA

The Lakers are the only team that Lonzo Ball is working out for, and if he isn’t picked here, he will drop on the draft board.

3. Philadelphia 76ers (via Sacramento Kings)-De’Aron Fox-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

If the Lakers mess things up for themselves with the second overall pick, it won’t take the Sixers that long to pick up the pieces.

4. Phoenix Suns-Josh Jackson-Freshman-Small Forward-Kansas

The Suns already have a young and exciting back court with point guard Eric Bledsoe and shooting guard Devin Booker; now it is time to get more players in the front court who can produce.

5.Sacramento Kings(via) Philadelphia 76ers Kings-Jayson Tatum-Freshman-Small Forward-Duke

A selection here of Jayson Tatum all but signals the end of small forward Rudy Gay’s run with the Kings.

6. Orlando Magic-Jonathan Isaac-Freshman-Small Forward-Florida State

The Magic could raise some eyebrows here by taking a youngster that has plenty of upside.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves-Lauri Markkanen-Freshman-Power Forward-Arizona

The Timberwolves continue to stockpile young talent and you have to wonder if some of it will be used in a trade to acquire a veteran player.

Malik Monk

8. New York Knicks-Malik Monk-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

Don’t look now but the selection of Malik Monk would be the best thing that the New York Knicks did at the NBA Draft in a very long time.

9. Dallas Mavericks-Zach Collins-Freshman-Center-Gonzaga

With an aging power forward in Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks need to have themselves a youth movement in their front court.

10. Sacramento (via New Orleans Pelicans) Kings-Dennis Smith Jr.-Freshman-Point Guard-North Carolina State

The Kings have the opportunity to do something that they have not done in years which is to select some talent.

Justin Jackson

11. Charlotte Hornets-Justin Jackson-Junior-Small Forward-North Carolina

The Hornets could go in several directions with this pick, but I don’t see Michael Jordan passing up on a fellow North Carolina Tar Heel.

12. Detroit Pistons-Frank Ntilikina-Point Guard-Belguim

The one thing that is holding the Pistons back from being a consistent playoff team is their lack of a true point guard.

13. Denver Nuggets-Justin Patton-Freshman-Center-Creighton

The Nuggets barely missed on making the NBA Playoffs this year, and they could get there next season as they are stockpiling solid big men.

14. Miami Heat-Harry Giles-Freshman-Power Forward-Duke

By putting Harry Giles alongside center Hassan Whiteside, the Heat could be building a young and formidable front court in the Eastern Conference.

15. Portland Trail Blazers–John Collins-Sophomore-Power Forward-Wake Forest

As the Blazers have three first-round picks, they could either move up, or focus on improving their front court.

Luke Kennard

16. Chicago Bulls-Luke Kennard-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Duke

Dwyane Wade is still the Bulls starting shooting guard, but as he is 35-years of age, it is time to look towards the future.

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Jarrett Allen-Freshman-Center-Texas

The rich get richer here as the Bucks can develop another athletic big man.

18. Indiana Pacers-Terrance Ferguson-Small Forward-United States

If the Pacers want to retain the services of small forward Paul George they need to put some more talent around him.

19. Atlanta Hawks-Ike Anigbogu-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

With power forward Paul Millsap scheduled to become a free agent, the Hawks need to get themselves some insurance in the front court should they lose him.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, and Cleveland Cavaliers)-OG Anunoby-Sophomore-Small Forward-Indiana

The Trail Blazers focus for the NBA Draft must be focusing on upgrading their front court.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder-Bam Adebayo-Freshman-Center-Kentucky

For the Thunder it’s all about guys who can play off of point guard Russell Westbrook as Bam Adebayo is a player that can crash the boards.

Caleb Swanigan

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington Wizards)-Caleb Swanigan-Sophomore-Power Forward-Purdue

The Nets will have to wait until they can pick in the draft, but they’ll get the chance to draft a quality big man.

23. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks)-Tyler Lydon-Sophomore-Small Forward-Syracuse

The Raptors are going to have their hands full as far as retaining the services of point guard Kyle Lowry this summer when he hits free agency. However they’ll at least find a solid shooter to play alongside shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.

24. Utah Jazz-Donovan Mitchell-Sophomore-Point Guard-Louisville

The Jazz need to upgrade the point guard position after George Hill led the team in assists last season with only 3.6 per game.

25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors)-T.J. Leaf-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

As the Magic only have one power forward currently on their roster in Aaron Gordon, they need more depth at the position.

Ivan Rabb

26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers)-Ivan Rabb-Sophomore-Power Forward-California

If Ivan Rabb had left school last year he could have been a top-five pick. But Rabb’s loss could be the Trail Blazers gain.

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics)-Rodions Kurucs-Small Forward-Spain

For a team that didn’t have a ton of hope entering the draft, the Nets could emerge and save face.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)-Josh Hart-Senior-Shooting Guard-Villanova

New Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has an eye for talent and Josh Hart is a leader that can fit into their ball movement offense.

29. San Antonio Spurs-Isaiah Hartenstein-Power Forward-United States

It wouldn’t be the Spurs if they didn’t draft a guy that has played overseas.

30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)-Edmond Sumner-Sophomore-Point Guard-Xavier

I expect an open competition at point guard for the Jazz this summer.

 

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A Chance To Dance With The Prom Queen

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Will Isaiah Thomas have enough to lead the Boston Celtics past the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James?

 

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Rebuilding Celtics Style

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When the Boston Celtics were eliminated in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs by the New York Knicks, it marked the end of an era. After the Celtics won the NBA Championship in 2008, they were still title contenders, but they were showing signs of age. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge saw this and would broker a pair of blockbuster deals. Ainge would trade power forward Kevin Garnett, small forward Paul Pierce, and guard Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets in a deal that would see the Celtics receive first-round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018, along with the ability to swap first-round picks with the Nets for the upcoming NBA Draft. Doc Rivers was the head coach who led the Celtics to the NBA Championship in 2008 didn’t want to be a part of a potential rebuilding process in Boston. And since Rivers was still under contract with the Celtics, Ainge was able to trade him to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013 for a first-round pick.

Brad Stevens

Ainge would pull off another shocker in finding the new head coach of the Celtics when he went to the collegiate ranks to talk Brad Stevens into leaving Butler University. Stevens was an up and coming head basketball coach at Butler as he led the school to a pair of Final Four appearances.

Stevens’ first NBA season would be tough as the Celtics were only able to win 25 games, but you could see the writing on the wall that he was on to something.

By Stevens’ second season, the Celtics were back in the playoffs and they’ve continued to build since then. More than anything Ainge has been selecting projects in the draft, or using players for trade bait. Ainge’s best move flew under the when he acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns in February 2015.

Isaiah Thomas

With the Celtics, Thomas is developing into a star as he’s second in the NBA this season in scoring at 29.8 per contest. And with Thomas leading the way, along with key role players such as guard Marcus Smart and small forward Jae Crowder, the Celtics are in the first place in the Atlantic Division, while they are breathing on the necks for the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

At Butler, Stevens’ system relied on ball movement on offense, while having players that were not selfish and willing to do whatever it takes to win at both ends of the floor which is something that he has quickly established with the Celtics. And whereas Ainge’s rebuild was expected to take several years in order to once again turn Boston into a contender, the Celtics are once again in contention in the Eastern Conference.

Thomas has helped to once again make the Celtics relevant, but he alone won’t be enough for Boston to have a legitimate chance to get past the Cavaliers in the playoffs. Last summer Ainge signed center Al Horford to a four-year deal that is worth $113 million. And although that Horford and Crowder have combined to average 28.9 points per game this season, the Celtics still need more production from their front court in order to become a title contender.

Danny Ainge

Ainge has tried in the past to broker deals to get star players to come to Boston, but that was when things were looking bleak for the Celtics, and thus he was rebuffed. However with the fortunes of the Celtics on the upswing, Ainge’s chances of pulling something off have increased.

With the Nets zeroing in on getting one of the first three selections in this year’s NBA Draft, that right to swap picks is money in bank as far as the Celtics are concerned. Thanks to the Nets, the Celtics had the third overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft which they used on small forward Jaylen Brown. Brown is only averaging 15.5 minutes per contest this season, but he is someone that the Celtics see as a project, while he could also be used in a future trade. And with the Celtics excess picks, those could also be enticing to another team as far as a trade goes.

The Celtics have been rumored to be set to pursue Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Hayward played for Stevens at Butler and he is in the midst of his best NBA season as he’s averaging 19.7 points per game which has led to his first nod for the NBA All-Star Game.

But regardless if the Celtics are able to land Hayward or a star player this summer, this organization has flexibility due to Ainge’s knowledge of knowing how to play the system. Aside from Horford who will be set to earn $27.7 million next season, no other Celtics player will earn more than $8.8 million for the 2017-2018 NBA season. Since Thomas was a relative unknown upon coming to Boston, the Celtics have him for a bargain rate as he’ll only earn $6.2 next season which gives Ainge cap space flexibility.

Ainge took a page from former Celtics head coach/general manager Red Auerbach who always knew how to find a “sucker” when it came to making a deal. Ainge accepted the fact that his Celtics would have to rebuild and thus he has stockpiled draft picks as if they were currency. There’s a reason why the Celtics organization has won more NBA Championships than any other, and they are once again on the right track to being in the mix as one of the league’s better teams.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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Hard To Overlook

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At 5’9″, Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas might be slight of stature for NBA standards, but this doesn’t mean that he cannot ball. In three years collegiately with the Washington Huskies, Thomas helped them reach the NCAA Tournament in each season, while also being a two-time Pac-10 Tournament MVP. Thomas would be the final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings as he went 60th overall, and in his rookie season he would average 11.5 points per game. By Thomas’ third season with the Kings, he was averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists. But Sacramento was ready to give up on Thomas as in July 2014, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns.

In 46 games with the Suns during the 2014-2015 NBA season, Thomas would average 15.2 points per game. But Thomas would only make one start for the Suns due to the fact that they had a very crowded back court. However Thomas would get a reprieve as just prior to the NBA’s trade deadline in 2015, he was sent to the Celtics. And the Celtics have been able to do something that the Kings nor Suns could not do which was to give Thomas a home in the NBA.

Thomas would appear in 21 games that season for the Celtics as he would average 19 points and 5.4 assists while coming off of their bench. But last season Celtics head coach Brad Stevens decided to make the move to put Thomas into the starting lineup and it worked.

Thomas averaged 22.2 points, 6.2 assists, and 3 rebounds in helping Boston reach the playoffs. Thomas showed the Celtics that he could be a building block for them, but no one could have envisioned what he would be doing this season.

This season Thomas is averaging 29.7 points per game which is second in the NBA to go along with 6.4 assists and he is a big reason why the Celtics currently find themselves in first place in the Atlantic Division. Thomas is also flirting with doing something that no other Celtics player has done in the history of this illustrious franchise which is to average 30 points per game for an entire season. And for all of those who have overlooked Thomas on his basketball journey, he is proving his worth while playing on the big stage, in a big market, on a big franchise.

Thomas has not scored less than 18 points in any games this season as he has been in the zone. On December 20, Thomas scored 44 points in a 112-109 win over the Memphis Grizzlies and he would finish out the month by dropping 52 points on the Miami Heat. The new calendar year has not seen Thomas slow down as for the month of January he averaged 32.9 points per contest which included him dropping 41 points and 8 assists on the Detroit Pistons this past Monday during the Celtics 113-109. Thomas would go on to be named as the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Month for January. And when the Celtics needed Thomas the most, he was front and center this past Wednesday against the Raptors when he got them for 44 points and 7 assists as Boston overtook Toronto for the top spot in the division.

Slowly but steadily the Celtics brain trust of Stevens and president of basketball operations/general manager Danny Ainge are developing Boston into a title contender with Thomas as one of the key pieces. There are rumors that the Celtics could go after Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent due to his familiarity with Stevens whom he played under collegiately with the Butler Bulldogs as he could potentially form a nice duo with Thomas in Beantown. Boston also has the right to swap first-round picks with the Brooklyn Nets ahead of the 2017 NBA Draft. And that is money in the bank for the Celtics as the Nets currently have the worst record in the league which could lead to the top pick in the draft Boston. The Celtics will also receive the Nets first-round pick outright next year which gives them the opportunity to build a dominant team which is enticing to potential free agents and Thomas alike.

Thomas is under contract with the Celtics through next season and they’ve gotten off light as he is only earning a little north of $6 million over the next two seasons, but he should be cashing in real soon.

What makes Thomas so tough to defend is that he is a versatile player. Thomas is not afraid to drive to the basket in order to mix it up with the bigger players, and he’s also shooting close to 39% from behind the three-point line. Thomas has scrapped and clawed to get to where he currently is at and the sports fans in Beantown can relate to that.

At first when the Celtics acquired Thomas, he appeared that he would merely be with the franchise for a cup of coffee. But in a very short stretch Thomas has turned into a franchise player for Boston, while making Ainge look like a genius for acquiring him from the Suns. Thomas is heading to his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance later this month. And although that Thomas was snubbed as he won’t be starting in the contest, he’ll still make his presence known as one of the league’s most dynamic players.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets point guard James Harden are garnering most of the interest as far as being the NBA’s MVP this season. But if Thomas continues on the pace that he’s currently on, it will be impossible to not have his name included in the discussion as well.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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