Boston Celtics Need Improved Frontcourt for Next Level Success


Last year’s edition of the Boston Celtics, a team that had a revolving door of players, surprised many in finishing the season at 40-42. This record allowed the Celtics to sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs, ultimately being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.

Between the arrival of Isaiah Thomas, an up-tempo offense, and a gritty, never-give-up style of play, there was plenty of good coming out of Boston to inspire hope for the upcoming season.

One thing missing in 2014-15, though, was consistent play from the frontcourt of the Celtics. This is an aspect that will need to improve on both ends of the floor if Boston is to take the next step in securing a winning record this year.

After the trade of Jeff Green last season, the interior game of the Celtics on the offensive end took a hit. Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller had stretches in which they shined, but it was anyone’s guess as to which version of these two would show up from game to game.

Take Zeller for instance. The 7’0 center from North Carolina took a giant leap in progress last season, his third year in the league and first with the Celtics. He played in all 82 regular season games, averaging a career-high 10.2 points per game.

Zeller would have games in which he’d score ten points in the first quarter and pull down four rebounds. He’d be well on his way to a double-double, but by the end of the game his stats hadn’t changed since the first quarter.

External circumstances (foul trouble, game tempo) sometimes played into Zeller’s final stats but too often the case was that his level of play had too many ebbs and flows. Playing at a high level from start to finish by Zeller this year, on both ends, will give the Celtics frontcourt an edge needed to succeed.

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Bass, a long time fan favorite in Boston, is gone. To improve the frontcourt, the Celtics brought in David Lee and Amir Johnson to help find more production in the post.

Lee is the x-factor on offense that is needed in the interior. He is a former all-star that had seen his minutes in Golden State diminish. Having a threat in the post will open up the perimeter for the sharpshooters of the Celtics.

Lee has his liabilities on defense but he has proven to be consistent in collecting rebounds on the defensive end, something that hurt the Celtics immensely in last year’s playoffs.

Johnson will help in that regard as well. Despite not being the “flashiest” of free agent signings, Johnson is a solid player on defense and, true to the Celtics style, is a power forward who can knock down shots from beyond the arc.

Johnson averaged 6.1 rebounds per game last season in Toronto and shot 41% from 3-pt range.

Two players that are entering pivotal years in their careers are Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Both came out of college with huge expectations placed on their shoulder, with both having failed to live up to the hype.

Sullinger has battled injuries and weight issues throughout his career in Boston. He averaged 13.3 points per game last year but only played in 58 games. Even taking a look at his per 36 minutes average, Sullinger averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, numbers that the Celtics would happily accept from Sullinger in a full season.

Olynyk has shown flashes of what made him such a great player in college. Entering his third year, Olynyk, like the others, needs to find a consistency in his game to stay on the floor. His ability to stretch the floor gives the Celtics an added dimension on their offense when he’s in the game. Opposing teams having to worry about a center shooting three only clears the lane for Thomas to do what he does best.

Sullinger and Olynyk maybe very well fighting for minutes this season. The key to which player gets more time is on the defensive end. Both players have struggled to provide consistent defense so it will be interesting to see who steps up and gives the Celtics what they need.

Coach Brad Stevens has a lot of options to mull over as the Celtics continue their exhibition games. One thing’s for sure: frontcourt play needs to improve or it’s going to be a long season of games with the final score ending up 110-107. Fun, high-scoring games, yes, but not ones that are good to be on the wrong end of. A result that will happen more often than not unless the big guys come to play.

Next: What Does Future Look Like for Kelly Olynyk?

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