The Memphis Grizzlies are inching closer and closer to their playoff fate, thank God. It’s been agonizing to watch as a Grizzlies fan, from the injuries to Jaren Jackson Jr. and others, to the close losses, to Dillon Brooks mid-range jumpers. Though the adversity has hit, the Grizzlies have fought hard to keep that 8 seed. They have two daunting opponents in the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks these next two games, but as Celtic legend Kevin Garnett once said, anything is possible.
With the 3rd seed out East wrapped up, do the Boston Celtics rest their starters today and decide to play through Grant Williams and Romeo Langford? Or will they look to ride a wave of momentum into the playoffs with the starters?
Nonetheless, I’m excited to do this “5 Questions” with Keith Smith of Celtics Blog to talk about the Celtics and today’s game against the Grizzlies.
1) Congrats on hitting on the bubble concept! What do you think of the NBA bubble thus far?
Ha! Just proves a stopped clock is right twice a day! I think the bubble has been great. It’s impressive how seriously (minus a couple of hiccups) everyone has taken it. The level of effort, care and thoughtfulness that went into the planning and execution may have provided a framework for what sports should look like for at least the next little while. Nothing but respect to the NBA, NBPA, coaches, players, staffers and Disney for pulling this off the way they have.
2) Barring a wild lottery jump, the Grizzlies are conveying their pick to Boston. Is there disappointment around how this pick shaped out? Or do you hold optimism over getting a key piece?
There is definitely disappointment. Folks were banking on Memphis staying bad for a while longer and getting either a pick in the 5-10 range in 2020 or at least the unknown of a fully unprotected pick from a bad team rolling over to 2021. Now, the Grizzlies are good and who knows what will become of that pick? At this point, a key piece is such an unknown. If the pick does convey this year, it’ll be right in the middle of the first round in a very flat draft. If it’s next year, at least there is a chance everything goes wrong for the Grizzlies and the Celtics get a great pick. One other thing for Boston: they are rapidly running out of roster spots. They’ve got a lot of guys under contract for next season and as many as four picks incoming in 2020.
If the Grizzlies pick conveys, it’s likely Danny Ainge moves a couple or goes the “draft and stash” route with a pick or two. If the pick doesn’t convey, that helps with building out the roster greatly moving forward.
3) Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are awesome. What’s the ceiling you have for each of them?
I’m just glad you didn’t ask me to choose between Tatum and Brown! That’s a popular, but unnecessary, question, considering Boston does and can have both for a long time. I think Tatum will be a multi-time All-NBA player who can eventually be in the MVP conversation. He’s already a lethal scorer, terrific defender and the rest of his game is just rounding into form, especially his passing.
Brown should be a multi-time All-Star and occasional All-NBA player. He has the talent on both ends of the floor to get there. He’s just a tic below Tatum in most ways. But he’s a wonderful Robin to Tatum’s Batman. Most important? They enjoy playing together and sharing the spotlight. That’s huge for the future of the Celtics.
4) What else does this team need to contend?
At the trade deadline Danny Ainge said he didn’t make a deal because what the team needed most was health. That seems to have been spot on. Could the Celtics use another consistent bench shooter/scorer and one more big? Sure. But that’s something that can be said for almost every contender. If Boston plays their game on both ends, they’ll be a tough out. They’ve proven they’re at the level of Toronto. That puts them just below Milwaukee. The big thing is that the Celtics have no fear of the Bucks. They believe that they can beat them. The key is actually doing it.
5) Which playoff matchup are you looking forward to the most?
It feels like we’ve been begging for the Celtics and Raptors to play in the playoffs for years now. This goes back to the Isaiah Thomas years when the teams had classic regular season matchups, but that pesky LeBron guy kept bouncing Toronto before they could get to Boston. With the Raptors likely to cruise past the Nets in the first round, all it will take is the Celtics winning a series they should be favored in to finally deliver.
It’s such an exciting possibility because of the way the teams match up. Toronto has the size advantage up front, but Boston has a size advantage on the wing. Both teams are led by veteran point guards who have all the craft. And the benches are pretty even. Despite the Celtics winning 3-of-4 in the regular season, this one would probably go the full seven games, with tight contests throughout.