It's early, so don’t take this post as me slamming my fist repeatedly on the panic button but I think it is safe to say that the Celtics have not started the season off as many, including myself had predicted. They are 1-3 and have an extremely tough schedule to begin the season. At this point being over .500 after the tough 11-game stretch to start the month of November seems much more unlikely.
In watching the first four-games of the year, and then checking the stats there are three-glaring issues this team needs to address.
The number one issue with this team right now is the rebounding, or lack thereof. The Celtics brought in David Lee and Amir Johnson in the offseason to beef up the front line. After last year’s playoff loss to the Cavaliers where Tristan Thompson single handedly out rebounded the Celtics (and also earned himself a nice fat contract), the front office knew it needed to be fixed. Unfortunately, in the four-game sample size, the Celtics are in the bottom third of the league in nearly every rebounding category.
They are being out rebounded by an average of 7.7 rebounds per game. That is second to last in the league. This is a huge problem and will need to be fixed because since the Celtics play at such a fast offensive pace, there are more shots, and more available rebounds. If they keep getting beat on the boards at this rate their playoff hopes for this team could even be in jeopardy. On top of just being out rebounded, they also are the fourth worst team in the NBA in allowing second chance points. It's like Tristan Thompson all over again, except every single game this year, not just a playoff series.
The Celtics have good rebounders, this is the maddening part about this. The only issue is Lee isn’t getting minutes to put his stamp on the game, and Sullinger is too busy wandering outside of the three point line to grab a single offensive board. If this continues, you can be certain Brad Stevens will have a plan for this as we can already see by Tyler Zeller's minutes dwindling into virtually nothing.
The second glaring issue this Celtics team needs to overcome is their struggles on offense. In particular, they need to shoot the basketball a lot better. They have been able to move the ball, find open guys, and play 'Brad Stevens basketball' but they just can't hit an open shot. As a team they are 28th in the league in shooting percentage at 40%, and are 25th in the league in 3-point shooting at 29% overall (ouch). In a nutshell, they are shooting about as well as Philly at this point in the season (That thought just made me throw up in my mouth a little bit).
Now the offense isn’t all bad, they play at a great pace and excel in getting out and scoring fast break points where they rank fifth in the NBA. The Celtics also are cranking out the assists so the negative shooting percentage actually is a lot easier to fix than rebounding. They just need someone other than Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley to hit some open jumpers. Also, limiting Jared Sullinger from watching tape of Ray Allen -- who Jared is trying to model his game after, would help significantly with the shooting percentage. Stay down low big fella, it’ll be alright.
The last and final issue the 2015-16 version of the Boston Celtics need to fix is the turnovers. The last game against the Pacers was a show in how not to take care of the basketball. The Celtics turned the ball over 19-times. 18 of those were ugly, careless turnovers. The other was Jae Crowder’s amazing full court shot that at the very least should have counted for one point, but that argument is for a different day. On the season the C’s are averaging 17.7 turnovers per game. THAT IS NOT A TYPO! That’s up nearly five on last year’s average of 13.2 per game.
Good news, since I have my green sunglasses on I’d like to point out that the Celtics lead the league in forced turnovers as well at 18.8 per game. If they could just be a little bit more careful with the ball they can easily make this a strength of the team.
The Celtics have good players, a great coach, and play in a week conference. They have plenty of time to right the ship and I'm not leaving my 50 win prediction just yet but they need to address these issues to be even thought about as a playoff team.
C's are back at home tonight taking on the Wizards, tip is at 7:30 PM EST.
Follow on Twitter: @Sean Dutra