four point play….
1. A few years from now, we will look back at the 2018 playoffs as the beginning of the Jayson Tatum era. The 20 year-old already plays with a pace and technical skill that far exceeds his years. Like Dwyane Wade in the 2004 Playoffs, Tatum is showing a superstar level talent that only needs some time to marinate.
It’s easy to look at this Celtics team and think of them as a bunch of role players that are playing above their heads. Yes, it is true that had Gordon Hayward not been injured in the first game of the season, Tatum likely wouldn’t have had to shoulder his current responsibility. Regardless, the rookie’s mature floor game and budding offensive mastery were going to be on display at some point in the season.
Tatum already has a polished offensive game, great length, and a great head on his shoulders. He’s stronger than his wiry frame would indicate. He has a competitive streak.
Without a great coach, that skill-set might not see the light of day. Skill-set and talent or not, a rookie hasn’t had the time to see the NBA Xs and Os. Tatum is incredibly lucky to have Brad Stevens as his coach (and yes, Stevens is lucky to have Tatum as a player).
Stevens’s preparation and demeanor have given Tatum a chance to capitalize on his talent earlier than expected. Stevens has made the game easier for his players, allowing them to trust each other and “not think too much”.
Toss in Terry Rozier, and the Celtics are relying on three young perimeter players far more than they anticipated when the season began. Rozier’s confidence and spectacular ability to get around picks on the defensive end are more surprising than Brown’s and Tatum’s early development. But, he too is a gifted player that has the right mentality with which to succeed in the playoffs.
Long story short, the Cavs are playing an incredibly talented group of young players. Even without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics have superstar talent in Jayson Tatum, and All-Star talent in Jaylon Brown and Al Horford. This isn’t some “ragtag” group playing over their talent level. They are simply playing beyond their experience. That is due to their work as individuals and their coaching staff.
2. Contrast that to the Cavaliers’ coaching staff, and one gets a good idea of why Cleveland trails the series two games to none. Instead of building chemistry and confidence during the regular season, Ty Lue continued to experiment with limited veterans.
You can’t have it both ways. If regular season wins were mostly meaningless to the Cavs’ coaching staff, then why didn’t they “sacrifice” more potential victories by playing their young guys heavy minutes? We saw the team succeed when Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic got regular burn. Would it really have been a disaster to prepare them for potential playoff minutes by letting them play more during the “meaningless” regular season?
No, instead, Ty Lue applied the logic differently. He literally sacrificed wins and repetitions for talented young players by tossing out variations of old and/or bad. Jeff Green, J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson, Derrick Rose and Tristan Thompson continued to get minutes over potentially better players in Cedi, Ante, and Larry Nance Jr. The Cavs lost in the regular season because of Lue’s choice. They will probably lose in the Playoffs because of it as well.
It’s likely too late. Cedi has always been the tool in the toolbox that is most needed for this team. He can guard two to four positions depending on matchup. He plays hard at all times, pushing pace, moving bodies and dictating flow. Osman is also a talented Pick and Roll initiator if ever given a chance.
Dear Ty Lue, may I introduce you to Cedi Osman?
Before anyone says things like “it’s different in the NBA. Who’s he finishing over against Latvia?”, I’ll offer you the answer.
That would be Kristaps Porzingis. Thanks for playing.
Like I said, it is likely too late. You can’t expect guys to come in off the bench and save seasons after they have been jacked around all year. I believe in Osman as a player, but he is human and would need time to adjust. He needed regular reps before the Eastern Conference Finals.
Still, a potentially rusty Cedi Osman wouldn’t be worse than Rodney Hood or Jeff Green.
3. It’s now or never, Lue. Play the right guys or lose. Here, let me help you. Clearly you are incapable of constructing a rotation that makes sense.
Love, Bron, Cedi, Korver, Hill.
With that starting unit, the Love/Korver two man game is still intact from the jump. Hill and Osman can pop or dive on the weakside. Osman’s general activity and willingness to move the ball from side to side gives the Cavs more action to start the game.
The Celtics’ scouting report gets a little hazy because they don’t know exactly how much damage Osman can do off the bounce or as a cutter.
Defensively, Love checks Morris, LeBron guards Al Horford, Korver fights with Jaylon Brown, Cedi checks Tatum, and Hill hounds Rozier.
It will take some of LeBron’s offensive energy, but by checking Horford, the Celtics Pick and Roll game is cut off at the head. James doesn’t enjoy playing big man defense, but he has shown the ability to effectively guard screen-setters.
Brown would probably get it going a bit against Korver, but I still prefer that potential one-on-one damage to the constant four on three advantage that the Celtics have been playing with. Bron could shut down Horford at the start of the action instead of playing free-safety on the backend.
Cedi can guard everyone in the Celtics’ starting five except for Horford post plays. He might not shut those guys down, but he will make them work. Osman’s lateral quickness as been used this season on opposing point guards. That’s not where he is best suited, but that same quickness is necessary against a guy like Tatum.
Larry Nance, J.R Smith, Tristan Thompson/Jose Calderon
That’s it. I’m going Mike D’Antoni style and playing seven guys real minutes and maybe tossing a couple spare minutes to Jose Calderon.
End of 1st Quarter: Larry Nance, Kevin Love, Korver, Smith, Hill
2nd Quarter starters: Larry Nance, LeBron, Cedi, Smith, Calderon
Sub in Tristan for Larry if Larry isn’t playing with enough force.
Hill comes in for Calderon a few minutes into the second.
Kyle and Kevin come back a bit later.
LeBron and George Hill are going to have to play huge minutes unless J.R. can get it going from deep. There isn’t really a way around it.
Still, Cedi is a far better ball-handler than people realize. He is absolutely a more stable offensive player overall than Clarkson, Green, and Hood.
4. It’s always interesting how differently the national media looks at a coach’s reputation versus the home fanbase. I don’t know how many actual Cavs fans still believe in Ty Lue. The national media doesn’t put him in a good light necessarily, but he certainly has more respect around the country than he has in Cleveland.
I chalk that up to ignorance. The common fan still thinks guys like Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jordan Clarkson, and Iman Shumpert are serviceable NBA rotation players, thus Lue’s decisions don’t seem ridiculous. The problem, of course, is those guys aren’t winning rotation players anymore. Oh my. I just realized Ty Lue is a common fan.
Prove me wrong, Coach Lue.