Joe Murray

Joe Murray

The new look Boston Celtics wrapped up their preseason with another dominant performance, beating the Charlotte Hornets 127-99 last night. The Celtics finished the preseason 4-1 and looked like a juggernaut throughout most of it. With Marcus Smart and Grant Williams departing, the new additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday have been impressive and have fans excited for the regular season.

Now with the preseason officially wrapped, I wanted to give my 6 biggest takeaways from watching/listening and working the preseason.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - MARCH 13: Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics in action against the Houston Rockets during the second half at Toyota Center on March 13, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Derrick White of the Boston Celtics in action against the Houston Rockets on March 13, 2023. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

1. Defense

My first takeaway from watching the Celtics in the preseason is their clear emphasis on getting back to their defensive ways of a few seasons ago. Led by Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, Jayson Tatum and Kristaps Porzingis, the Celtics have the chance to be the best defensive team in the league. Joe Mazulla wants to get back the defensive mindset of the 2022 NBA finals Celtics team,

“Defense is what gets you in the door, defense is the admission ticket,” he said. “You just have to do it, you don’t really have a choice. That’s how I can get better as a coach. When something is obvious to me, I have a tendency to not emphasize it as much. Maybe because I sucked at offense, so I had to play defense, nobody had to remind me because I couldn’t do anything else.”

The Celtics should have no problem scoring with all their offensive firepower, but if they can get their defense back to the level it was a few years ago, they should walk to the Eastern Conference finals.

  • 2. Kristaps Porzingis

    New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Kristaps Porzingis #8 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the first quarter of the Celtic’s preseason game against the New York Knicks at TD Garden on October 17, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    The biggest change to the Celtics this off season was trading Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis and Porzingis has been a stud so far in the preseason. Now I get it, it’s only preseason, but Porzingis has been everything the Celtics hoped for so far, stretching the floor getting wide open looks because of Tatum and Brown, while impacting the game defensively around the rim.

    The biggest question mark around Porzingis will always be his health, but if he stays healthy the Celtics will be almost impossible to stop offensively and a pain to play against on the defensive end.

    Read Previous Content From Joe & Scaz 

  • MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 19: Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics reacts to a play during the second quarter against the Miami Heat in Game Two of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 19, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 19: Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics reacts to a play during the second quarter against the Miami Heat in Game Two of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 19, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    3. Payton Pritchard 

    Another takeaway from the Celtics preseason is Payton Pritchard’s great play after getting a new 4 year 30 million dollar deal. Pritchard was stellar in the preseason, averaging 15.6 points per game and shooting 36% from 3. The Celtics will need bench scoring this year, as their options off the bench offensively are somewhat limited.

    If Pritchard can continue to build on his play from the preseason, he’ll be a crucial rotational piece for a Celtics team looking to make a deep playoff run. Pritchard still leaves something to be desired defensively, but if he shoots like he did in the preseason it outweighs his defensive deficiencies.

  • MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 19: ESPN Analysts, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mike Breen look on prior to Game Two of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics at FTX Arena on May 19, 2022 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mike Breen of ESPN look on prior to Game 2 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    4. Celtics Coaching Depth

    One of the biggest question marks after their brutal loss to the 8 seeded Miami Heat last season was Joe Mazzula and the Celtics coaching staff. Even with the additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, the additions the Celtics made behind Joe Mazzula on the bench could be just as important to helping this team get over the hump.

    The Celtics added Charles Lee a defensive minded assistant, Lee was with the Bucks from 2018-2023 won a title and is viewed as one of the up-and-coming head coaching prospects in the league. Former Celtic and 3 time NBA champion Sam Cassell was also added to the staff after spending 2020-2023 with the Philadelphia 76ers. Cassell gives the Celtics a veteran NBA champion player/coach on the end of their bench who can help show them how to get over the hump from his own experience.

    I still believe it’s Joe Mazzula’s team and I expect him to have a great year after being thrown into an unprecedented situation last year. Mazzula seems to have an emphasis on defense and proving doubters wrong this year. With the help of Sam Cassell and Charles Lee in the game, the Celtics also added former NBA head coach and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy to their staff as a consultant. Van Gundy eats, breathes and sleeps basketball and can be a valuable resource to Mazzula and the rest of the Celtics coaching staff.

  • Boston Celtics v New York Knicks

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 09: Neemias Queta #88 of the Boston Celtics reacts during the first half of a preseason game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on October 09, 2023 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    5. Celtics Bench Depth

    Another question mark heading into the season for this Celtics team was their bench and its depth. With already mentioning Payton Pritchard’s great play this preseason, I wanted to take a deeper look at some unfamiliar faces. The Celtics have the best top 6 of any team in the league, but their bench depth has been a concern heading into the season. We may have got a few answers to those questions during the preseason, but I still think there’s room to improve on the bench.

    The biggest winners of the preseason on the bench were Neemias Queta, Dalano Banton and Oshae Brissett in my opinion. Queta is a 7-foot defensive specialist who spent last year in Sacramento. Queta is only 24 years old, and his fresh legs and defensive mindset might have earned him a rotational spot over Luke Kornet.

    Dalano Banton another player I was impressed with this preseason came over from Toronto and could help the Celtics with their ball handling issues when some players need a rest. Oshae Brissett came over from the Indiana Pacers after being undrafted in 2019 and spending a year with the Raptors. Brissett is a 6’7″ swing forward who can give Tatum and Brown a break when needed.

    As for losers of the preseason on the Celtics bench, it’s hard not to see the way Luke Kornet played and worry that his spot could be in jeopardy. I still believe Kornet could be a solid asset to this group because of his rebounding and smart play, but he didn’t have a good preseason at all. He didn’t even play in the Celtics’ final preseason game, so it’s up in the air what his future could be.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 25: Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla speaks with Jayson Tatum #0 against the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 25, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla speaks with Jayson Tatum during Game 5 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    6. Jayson Tatum’s MVP Ascension 

    My last takeaway from Celtics’ preseason is Jayson Tatum continuing to ascend into the MVP caliber player we all expect him to be. Tatum added 12 pounds of muscle this offseason and was showing it off in the preseason, getting wherever he wanted and toying with defenders on a nightly basis.

    Tatum is no slouch on the defensive end either, and adding 12 pounds of muscle is sure to help him lock guys down. Now that Al Horford will be coming off the bench at times and Rob Williams was traded, the Celtics will need Tatum to step up at times in the paint and on the post slowing down who ever happens to be in front of him.

    Tatum started off last season in the MVP conversation, but his campaign faded as the year went on. This year I think he’s going to be an MVP candidate throughout, as the Celtics have the best roster in the league, and he’s their best player. As he goes, the Celtics go, and if they are going to be the dominant team we all expect them to be. I expect Tatum to lead the way and have his best season so far, being a top 3 MVP candidate throughout the year and leading the Celtics to the NBA Finals.

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