For the past year, the Celtics have been praised for its dynamic young core that has blossomed under the tutelage of Brad Stevens. From top three picks Jaylen Brown to Jayson Tatum, to breakout star “Scary” Terry Rozier, the Boston is poised to be a force in the NBA for many years. These players have also been subject to trade rumors as the Celtics are a team in on acquiring every star available. Assuming the Celtics hold on to its youngsters, let’s look at some comparisons for the young Celtics:
Best Case: Kevin Durant at his false height
Going into last year, Jayson Tatum was viewed as a smooth scorer who could blossom into a perennial 20 point per game wing. However, few envisioned Tatum to have the impact he did so quickly considering the role into which he was thrust following the Gordon Hayward injury. Tatum has always been a midrange assassin, but he proved in his rookie season he can score at all three levels efficiently. Tatum has also shown the length and athleticism to be a solid defender in the league. Kevin Durant is listed at 6’9, but most believe he is 7 feet. Tatum has all the skills to a slightly shorter version of Durant if he can progress at the rate most Celtic fans expect.
Worst Case: Tobias Harris
A player has had quite a successful rookie season when his worst-case scenario is becoming Tobias Harris 2.0. Harris is coming off a season in which he averaged 19 points per game on 41% shooting from deep at only 25 years of age. Tatum and Harris have very similar games and can both score at a high level. While Harris is a very good player who may even make an All-Star team in the future, he does not have the “it factor” Tatum appears to have. Tatum’s athleticism is what sets him apart, but if Tatum were to suffer an unexpected injury or doesn’t continue to make strides, he could be the next Harris.
Best Case: Jimmy Butler
Jaylen Brown and Jimmy Butler have been connected since Brown was rumored to be packaged in a deal for the All-Star on the Draft Night of 2016. Unlike Brown, Butler was not a top pick in his respective draft, but he has still blossomed into an elite two-way star that can impact the game in many ways. Brown and Butler share physical similarities, and Brown has improved immensely on his three-point shooting. The last frontier for Brown is to improve his handle and playmaking which is what separates the good from the great players in the NBA. Brown has shown he can create for himself and knock down the open three, but unlocking his true potential depends on whether he can put the ball on the floor and create for others the way Butler does.
Worst Case: Jeff Green
The worst-case scenario for Brown would be Jeff Green who many have compared him to given his athleticism and raw skill set. People are quick to point out that Brown’s numbers are similar to Kawhi Leonard’s in his second year, but looking at Jeff Green’s statistics, he surpasses both Brown and Leonard. Green put up 16.5 points while shooting 45% from the field compared to Brown’s 14.5 points on 46% shooting, they also both shot 39% from deep. Don’t forget Ainge drafted both Brown and Green, and just because Jaylen has made strides does not mean he can not regress like Green did.
Best Case: Eric Bledsoe
Ironically enough, Terry Rozier’s best case scenario is none other than Eric Bledsoe. People are quick to forget Bledsoe was one of the better point guards in the NBA who excelled as a two-way guard who could score and defend. Like Rozier, Bledsoe was a shaky shooter to start his career, but he became a more consistent scorer as he developed. Rozier has shown flashes of brilliance offensively while taking the reins as starting point guard in the absence of Kyrie Irving and is also a feisty defender whose tenacity shows every night. If Rozier continues to improve his shot he can become an excellent point guard like Bledsoe who has averaged 18.6 points and 5.8 assists per game over the past four seasons since becoming a full-time starter. Jalen Rose also made this comparison for Rozier in 2015 when the Celtics selected the Louisville product in the first round.
Worst Case: Mario Chalmers
If Rozier’s development stalls, he could end up being just a run-of-the-mill backup point guard who can start on bad teams who don’t have a franchise player at the position. Chalmers was an important piece for the Heat in their championship run with their Big 3. Chalmers was a competent scorer who could handle the ball occasionally, but he is an easily replaceable player who is not worth the contract Rozier is likely to receive in free agency in the summer of 2019. Rozier has shown flashes that he can thrive as a starter, but he has yet to demonstrate the consistency that merits the trust an organization will need to have to attain his services next year. 2019 will say a lot about Rozier and whether he can become Eric Bledsoe or will be mired in mediocrity like Mario Chalmers.
Photo: Associated Press/Ben Margot