Can Brad Stevens improve the Boston Celtics after the All Star break yet again?
The Boston Celtics have lost the first seed in the Eastern Conference for the second time this season, and with the way the Toronto Raptors are playing there is a good chance they will never get it back. If the Celtics want any chance of getting that home court advantage, they need to improve in a lot of ways and have to avoid so much inconsistent play.
The Celtics have already exceeded expectations since Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, so a lot of people may not think drastically improving after the All Star break is a realistic scenario.
The one thing the Celtics have going for them, that always has the potential to exceed any kind of realistic expectations, is Brad Stevens. Every year he has spent with the team, they have improved over the All Star break, and have gone into the playoffs as a better team than they were during the regular season.
Keep in mind, Danny Ainge has helped Stevens in the past. You cannot understate the role Isaiah Thomas had in propelling the Celtics to the playoffs that season, but Stevens has proven time and time again that the more time you give him the more he will have figured out.
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Obviously, Ainge did not help Stevens this time, and when you think of how difficult the Celtics have made it on themselves to get this many victories, this could be the toughest task of Stevens’ career. You cannot expect the Celtics to have as many comebacks and as many clutch victories after the All Star break, because what they have done so far is borderline impossible.
Even if the Celtics improve on the court, there is a chance they will not be winning as many games after the All Star break. Fortunately, Stevens will always focus on what the team looks like, rather than the standings. He has said on multiple occasions that they are not as good as their record would suggest, so it is possible that they become a better team that is not pulling through as many miraculous victories.
If you want to look at improving in the second half as the Celtics needing to win more games and get that home court, chances are you will be disappointed. If, however, all you look at is how the team is playing, and how well the fix the problems that have made them so inconsistent, they have a chance to be the most improved team in the league.
The Celtics still do not have a rotation that is set, and have all kinds of contributing rookies that should be getting better with every single rep. Stevens is not going to figure everything out, and get this team functioning at their absolute best, but we are at a point where we can expect Stevens to figure out enough to make sure this team is much better coming playoff time.
We are still waiting to see how much Jayson Tatum will be able to handle this year, without throwing him off. We know his role will only be increasing, but Stevens needs to make sure he still finds that ideal role. Tatum will be no where near his full potential, but if you look at the difference between Jaylen Brown in the regular season last year, to what he did in the playoffs, Tatum could become a completely different player as the playoffs come closer.
You will also look to Brown this season. He has been one of the most inconsistent players all year long, and the more time Stevens has figuring out how to put him in the best position to have a consistent impact, the better he will be on a nightly basis.
Those are the two players that Stevens will look to expand their role in order to become a stronger team in the playoffs. The next step will be figuring out that second unit rotation. They are going to need a special balance between Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier and adding Greg Monroe to Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes is going to take time to figure out.
Stevens has continually proven that he is more than capable of figuring these kinds of things out before playoff time comes around, and that is going to be the most important thing for the rest of the season. The Celtics certainly want that home court, but they will be willing to sacrifice the immediate results in order to make sure Stevens figures out as much as possible come playoff time.