After defeating the defending NBA Champions on their home-court convincingly, it is clear that the Boston Celtics are as good as their potential All-Star trio–one that is fair to say is the best in the entire association.
It can’t be denied any longer. After another breakout performance from Jaylen Brown, on a national stage nonetheless, the Boston Celtics can stake their claim to having not only a legitimate “Big 3”, but the best basketball trio of any team in the entire association.
If you check out the landscape of the league, it is filled with a bunch of dynamic duos. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the most gaudy stat-stuffers, but the Lakers are in free-fall. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are leading the Clippers up the standings, but that Los Angeles franchise relies heavily on a bench unit that includes perennial sixth man of the year candidate Lou Williams and potential Boston Celtics 2020 free agent target Montrezl Harrell.
Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are taking their turns domineering the Rockets offense, with little in the way of support outside of easy Clint Capela buckets down low. Luka Dioncic and Kristaps Porzingis are likely a year away from making any significant dents out west but remain an intriguing dark horse playoff sleeper.
In the east, there’s the 76ers’ somewhat ill-fitting duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid surrounded by fringe stars in Al Horford–whose role is further marginalized in Philadelphia than it was with Kyrie Irving‘s Boston Celtics–and scoring specialist Tobias Harris.
In Miami, Bam Adebayo has become a legitimate #2 option (and potential All-Star compliment) to Jimmy Butler. Toronto has Kyle Lowry and Paschal Siakam leading the charge with over 20 points per game each.
The Boston Celtics hold something unique over every singe team just listed however: they feature three players averaging 20 points per game or more. Better yet, two of those players are 23 years old or younger.
We knew what the C’s were getting into when they inked Kemba Walker to a four-year max deal this off-season. Walker is an All-NBA point guard who, for years, carried an underwhelming Charlotte Hornets franchise to mediocrity. Only once during that period was the 3x All-Star provided an All-Star running mate: Al Jefferson in 2013-14. Otherwise, Dwight Howard–who the Hawks needed to attach to draft picks to offload in a deal that brought back Myles Plumlee–was the closest thing to a dynamic duo Walker had.
Now, he has Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum rapidly ascending to All-Star status on a Celtics team that looks like it could channel their inner 2018 playoff run and go further than last year’s toxicity-stricken outfit ever could.
Having three guys that could take over a game at any time puts the C’s in unique territory. Jaylen Brown, who scored 30 points yesterday against the Raptors at the Air Canada Center, is having the most surprising season of anyone in the NBA. After being handed a $115 million extension before the season started, many (including myself, regrettably) thought the deal was undeserved and could age into an albatross.
Instead, Brown is having a reverse-contract year. His counting stats (points, assists, rebounds, blocks, steals) are all career-highs and he is finishing at the rim at a near 60% clip. His ceiling once seemed to be that of a role player but it’s clear that Brown is capable of being one of the best players on a playoff contender.
Then there is Jayson Tatum. On some nights, Tatum can shoot himself out of games. It hasn’t always been easy for the third-year forward. That said, Tatum has already recorded three 30-point games this season, including a 39-point, 12-rebound performance against the Hornets this past Sunday.
Easily the most notable part of his performance was his 22 fourth quarter points. He outscored Charlotte by himself. As impressive as Walker’s all-around game and Brown’s efficiency are, it could be Tatum’s “Mamba Mentality” that could come in handy in late-round playoff match-ups.
In a league dominated by super-two’s, the Boston Celtics are buoyed by a trio that can interchangeably take over games. Having Gordon Hayward as the team’s fourth best player and Marcus Smart as a sixth man is the kind of perks that a true contender possesses.
The games still need to be played though. From my vantage point, playing those games with three superstars is what will ultimately separate them, and ideally, propel them to banner #18.