Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can’t do it all on their own

Jayson Tatum #0 and Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Jayson Tatum #0 and Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

For every step forward the Boston Celtics take, they usually follow it up with two steps backward. And lo and behold, after reeling off three straight wins, the Celtics followed it up with an uncompetitive loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers last night. Big surprise.

Just when it looks like Boston is figuring things out and putting together the beginning stages of a win streak, it all comes crashing back down before it can really get started. Last night, the 76ers went on a 28-2 run in the first quarter, effectively ending the game before it ever started. The final score of 111-99 doesn’t truly indicate how much of a laugher this one was.

And now it’s back to the drawing board for head coach Ime Udoka and the Celtics. Once again, they struggled to generate any sort of offense on the night, which is starting to become a recurring theme for this team. They shot 47 percent from the field, but committed 20 turnovers that ended up leading to bushels of points for Philly.

The immediate response to a loss like this is to point fingers at Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but they both scored 20+ points, albeit on some poor efficiency. After them, nobody really showed up. Payton Pritchard and Rob Williams combined for 29 points, but nobody else did anything of note. This game was a microcosm of the the Celtics season so far, and if they don’t do something to get Tatum and Brown some help on offense, their struggles will only continue to grow.

The Boston Celtics need to add another scorer to help out Tatum and Brown

A quick look at the Celtics roster would give you the impression that there is more than enough talent to help out Tatum and Brown on offense. But this season, that has proven to be quite false. You know you are going to get 20+ points a night from Tatum and Brown, but then you have to pray and hope that someone else is going to step up and help out.

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And on some nights, they do. But considering this team’s record is 21-22, I shouldn’t have to tell you that that doesn’t happen as much as they should. Pretty much every move made this offseason hasn’t panned out for the team so far, and it’s left them in virtually the same spot they were in last season.

Last season, once Kemba Walker turned into a shell of himself, the Boston Celtics became far too one-dimensional, and relied heavily on Tatum and Brown for all of their offensive output. The thought process this past offseason was that adding veterans such as Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford would give the young superstars the help they needed to win more games than they lost.

So far, that thought process has been very, very misguided. Schroder is averaging 15.7 points per game, but he has absolutely no consistency (he scored just one point against Philly last night) and is a turnover machine. Horford has been almost worthless offensively, and he’s shooting just 28 percent on threes this season. Richardson has actually been pretty good, but he’s not nearly involved enough offensively to make a consistent impact

All three were brought onto the team this offseason, and haven’t really done much of anything to help this team win. Other additions, such as Juancho Hernangomez and Enes Freedom, basically just warm the bench on a nightly basis. Youngsters like Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, and Grant Williams show flashes of potential, but can’t seem to carve out consistent roles for themselves.

That leaves Rob Williams and Marcus Smart as the two other top contributors to this team, which isn’t a good sign. The Celtics extended Williams this past offseason in what was easily their best move of the offseason. He’s a vertical presence on both sides of the court that gives this team a different dimension when he’s on the floor, and so far he’s proven he can handle the big increase in minutes that comes with a starting role.

Then there is Smart, who was also handed a lucrative extension this past offseason. At the time, I was not in favor of Smart’s extension, and nothing he has done this season has changed that. He’s been good defensively, yes, but that’s not what this team needs. This team needs a point guard that can distribute the ball to Tatum and Brown, and knock down open shots when they get them.

For whatever reason, Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens seemed to think Smart could somehow fit that role. Smart’s ceiling is really as a three-and-d type player, but even that was constantly marred by his inability to consistently hit threes. And yet Stevens thought it was a good idea to extend him and anoint him the starting point guard despite his numerous offensive issues.

Smart was a mess offensively last season, and he’s been even worse this season. He’s shooting just 30.4 percent from behind the arc, and has seen his assists per game fall slightly despite the fact he’s been put in a playmaking role pretty much every night. The Celtics front office had to have known he wasn’t the answer at point guard coming into the season, and if they didn’t, they certainly do now.

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Pretty much everything around Tatum and Brown is a mess, and even sometimes they are a mess themselves too due to the state of this team. Boston has a pair of talented wings, and you can throw in a dynamic young center in Williams if you want to as well, but they have virtually no production from their guard positions. You can make an argument that Pritchard could start over Smart and Schroder at this point, which isn’t a good sign.

A floor spacing guard who can get Tatum and Brown open looks would be an ideal addition for Boston, but finding one midway through the season is going to be easier said than done. Simply put, the Boston Celtics didn’t do enough this offseason to support their star tandem, and it’s come back to bite them throughout the first half of the season. Hopefully the front office can make some moves in an attempt to salvage the second half of the season, or things could get ugly.