The Celtics may have lost their two best players this offseason, but this preseason they proved they still have a winning squad. Preseason means more in basketball than in football, as starters still play valuable minutes. So the fact that some players showed that they are as good as we expect, with others even surprising us, is definitely encouraging. Narrowing it down to a few players is difficult, but the players here ultimately deserve it.
If preseason was any indication, Tatum has finally found his groove. Per 36 stats aren't always the best stat to look at. But the fact that Jayson is averaging four more points this preseason than last year is encouraging. This has not gone unnoticed, as even the Celtics new star Kemba Walker has noted his scoring ability.
“For his age, he has the ability to score with the best of them," Walker said. "I think as long as he keeps putting in the work, the sky’s the limit for him.”Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's scoring ability
He was also lights out on the defensive side of the ball, averaging two steals and almost one block per preseason game. But scoring and defense aren't the only things he excelled at. He also averaged six rebounds, which would tie his career-high in per season average. Remember, this was all with about 33% less playtime. He will have to continue this play into the regular season if the Celtics want to make a run for the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.
Jaylen is another player who may have finally turned his career in the right direction. This preseason he staked his case for a large contract extension after displaying great two-way abilities. He was a great scorer, averaging 18 points per 36 minutes on great efficiency everywhere except three-point range. He also rebounded very well, with well over eight rebounds per 36 minutes.
His defense was possibly even better, with two steals and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes. His overall play was enough to reportedly get offered a contract extension by the Celtics, but it was declined. Danny Ainge is quite hopeful on a deal being reached, as he made clear just days ago.
“Jaylen doesn’t seem to be too stressed about it,” Ainge said. “He seems to be good and playing well and in good spirits and working hard. It’s hard not to think about it at all. I think every player would, but I think we’re in a good place.”Celtics GM Danny Ainge talking on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s "Toucher and Rich" Thursday
If Ainge, one of the best GM's in the league, really did offer Brown over $20 million per year, then that would cement Brown's recent improvements and play in the preseason.
Carsen Edwards is a pleasant surprise for a Celtics squad which lost one of the best backup point guards in the league in Terry Rozier. He was spectacular in the NBA Summer League, but many were wondering if it would continue in preseason ball. Not only did he continue with great performances, but he performed even better.
His offense was electric, averaging roughly 30 points per 36 minutes on insane efficiency from three(45%). The simplest stat to sum up his offensive impact was eight three-pointers against the Cavaliers. In one quarter. Many went crazy, including Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens, as well as future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade.
He was solid all around, as the only other area he was above-average in was defense. Thanks in part to his aggression, Edwards averaged one block and .4 steals per 36 minutes. That doesn't exactly capture his impact, as he was pretty good at keeping up despite his small stature. But overall, Edwards looks like the steal of the draft this preseason.
The biggest surprise of the preseason, Waters displayed skills we didn't even know he possessed. In the final preseason game, Waters took a leading role after the starters were rested. He dropped 24 points, seven assists, and two steals in under 30 minutes.
Throughout the whole preseason, he averaged over 23 points per 36 minutes, as well as almost nine assists. His defense wasn't as spectacular, but his ability to pressure the ballhandler and create turnovers was still impressive. At first, he wasn't expected to play at all this season, but now it looks like Tremont could compete for a roster spot. As with Tatum, Walker has also commented on Water's and his abilities.
“He’s really, really smart,” Walker said. "I’m a huge fan, I love his game, love the way he works on the court. And yeah, he always asks me questions just trying to get better. You’ve got to appreciate stuff like that.”Kemba Walker on his respect for Tremont Waters
Wanamaker had a limited role for the Celtics in his first year in the NBA. But this preseason shows what he could bring to the table in a larger role. While he probably won't be in that larger role, due to Edwards and Waters, he proved he could succeed there. Brad averaged almost 19 points and 7.5 assists per 36 minutes, showing off an improved offensive ability.
In fact, he appeared to show improvement in all skills. His rebounding was great, while his defense appeared to show a new type of aggression. If there was one issue with his game, it would be ballhandling. But he wasn't terrible in that department either, he just needs to gain some confidence. It will be interesting to see how improved he is over the actual season, but we don't know how much he will be used next year.