The Boston Celtics may end up looking to boost their front court through free agency, because as it stands now there is very little for Stevens to work with. Tyler Zeller regressed in a awful way this season, Jared Sullinger never became the shooter that they expected and Amir Johnson did not show any game changing potential. Unless the Celtics completely revamp their front court this offseason, everything could come down to Kelly Olynyk.
Jordan Mickey will certainly get more opportunities this year, but he still needs to prove that he can immediately be a difference maker when he is given significant minutes. The Celtics may also look to draft Dragan Bender, but it may be unrealistic to expect the 18 year old to be the difference maker for the Celtics’ front court in his rookie season.
With what he did last year, Olynyk was a great secondary contributor. He was the best and most reliable three point shooter and having that come from the five created multiple matchup difficulties for defenses. Olynyk developed a shot fake and found ways to be more effective with what he knows he is good at.
Olynyk shot over 40% from three point range and over 65% from within three feet from the rim and those are the only areas he ever looked to attack. The Celtics do not need Olynyk to be attacking in the mid range game, and he focused everything on the two areas he can be the most effective, and it worked incredibly well.
Even if Olynyk does not improve this offseason, he will continue to be important, and even moreso than last season when the front court was much more cluttered than it should be this coming season. The Celtics desperately need Olynyk’s floor spacing, especially in their front court. The Celtics need the openings that are created by a much improved shot fake and they need to be able to rely on Olynyk to be a main offensive contributor.
Olynyk was a much improved player last season and proved that he should be a part of the Celtics’ future. Fortunately, Olynyk has just three years in the NBA and should continue to improve and expand his game. It may be unrealistic to expect Olynyk to have a better defensive impact than he did a season ago, but he has an opportunity to help transform what Stevens is able to get out of the Celtics’ front court and the offense as a whole.
The next step Olynyk needs to take is finding more ways to create for his teammates and himself, on top of the floor spacing that he provides. Olynyk averaged just 1.5 assist per game, and while that is not terrible for a center, that is the area where Olynyk needs to improve in order to take another step this offseason.
Isaiah Thomas had the best season of his career because he managed to find a better balance between attacking and creating. In his first half season with the Celtics, Thomas put his scoring on full display and made it clear that he could and would attack the defense in multiple ways. Then, this season he came out with a different mentality. Thomas did not lose any of his aggressiveness but focused a lot more on creating for his teammates, becoming the number one distributor, on top of being the number one scorer.
Olynyk already has the scoring that the Celtics need with his three point shooting but he remains their best bet to supply some of the playmaking that Thomas continually provides in the back court. Stevens has never has an opportunity to run his offense around the front court, and he has never been abel to look to his front court players to generate offense in a system that flourishes with balance and ball movement.
If Olynyk can find ways to become more of a play maker, for himself and his teammates, then it will completely expand how the Celtics are able to attack defenses. The Celtics will certainly look to find front court players that can be that difference maker in free agency and the draft, but they cannot count on that. Olynyk was reliable a spaced the floor but lacked an aggressive attacking mentality. Even if Olynyk does not improve his distributing he can become much more of a difference maker if he adapts a more aggressive attacking mentality.
Olynyk is the only hope currently on the roster to take the kind of leap that Thomas took this season. Olynyk has always been a willing passer that never forces his own shots. Olynyk will expand his game if his passing becomes more about creating good offensive opportunities, rather than avoiding bad offensive opportunities. If Olynyk remains a three point specialist and never becomes a true play maker then he will continue to be an important piece for the Celtics. The hope, however, is that he can be more than a great three point specialist. The hope is that Olynyk can be the beginning of a deadly offensive front court.
The Celtics proved that their back court can make them a dominant defensive team. That gives them additional freedom to focus on offensive difference makers in their front court. We already know that Olynyk will provide a huge boost with his three point shooting but now the Celtics should be looking for more in order to become a more balanced team. The Celtics have the defense they need and if Olynyk can continue to improve he can go a long ways in securing the offense they need, especially in a front court that was a disaster shooting the ball last season.