The Boston Celtics’ season didn’t get off to a good start following the gruesome injury fans witnessed during Tuesday’s opening game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although losing Gordon Hayward to a fractured ankle and tibia will hinder the team’s high expectations this season, there may be a silver lining that comes with the injury. The team currently lacks another star to complement Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, but has a chance to develop some of their young talent into future stars. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are expected to step in to replace Hayward in the starting lineup, which opens up more opportunity for development. As inexperienced small forwards, there will be some growing pains along the way, but with more exposure to playing in the NBA, both players have a chance to develop quicker than first expected.
Losing a player of Hayward’s caliber will be difficult to replace. especially with the team’s high expectations for him in Brad Steven’s system. However, even though the team could potentially take a step back this season, as it will be difficult to compete with a loaded Cavaliers team, the Celtics are in good position to jump-start the development of their young talent. Brown is entering the second year of his career in the NBA, and has shown some improvement from an inconsistent rookie year. He has lead the Celtics through three games averaging 17 points a game on 44% shooting to go along with six rebounds. Although it is only three games into the season, it is impressive numbers for a player who has been known to struggle on offense. He has also fared pretty well on the defensive end; a part of his game that comes along his NBA-ready body. He will need to prove to be consistent guarding up against the top players in the East, but with more opportunities to guard team’s top players, Brown can learn to develop into a successful defender. With Hayward’s scoring ability out of the team’s picture this season, other players will need to step up, and it already looks like Brown has taken the initiative to provide the Celtics with another scoring option.
Heading into the new season, rookie Jayson Tatum was expected to give the Celtics some scoring ability off the bench, but was immediately thrown into a starting role on opening night to fill in for the injured Marcus Morris. The injury to Hayward only added to the adjustments the former Duke star would have to face so early into his NBA career, which he has proven to handle pretty well. So far Tatum has showed an ability to rebound the ball, as he finished his first start with a double-double. Leading the team in rebounds, Tatum has shown an ability to play at the 4; a position he excelled at during his only year at Duke. His efficiency must go up in order to be considered a reliable scoring option in the Celtics’ offense, but he is still only 19, and will get more opportunity to improve his game. As a player who can run the fast-break, take advantage of mis-matches in the post, and finish at the rim, Tatum has proven to be a versatile scorer; something that will be beneficial to team that lost a lot of scoring ability with the injury.
After requesting a trade from the Cavaliers, Irving seeked a chance to lead a new team to the Finals, much like LeBron James has done throughout his career. Although they Celtics are currently 1-2 after playing in some close games, Irving has made big shots for the team already; something Irving must continue to do consistently. He hasn’t looked like the Irving we’ve been accustomed to, as it will still likely take some time for Irving to get comfortable with those around him. The team’s chemistry is not very high due to the roster-overhaul the Celtics went through over the off-season. However, with Hayward no longer around, Irving will get his opportunity to take over the Celtics’ offense. He has proven to more of a distributor so fat this season, and has the experience to lead a young Celtics team. As the main focal point of the offense, Irving will get even more opportunity to develop into the all-around player he is working to become. He is still only 25, surprisingly, and still can grow into an even better player with more control of the offense.
The loss of Hayward has put a dent into the team’s contending hopes, but it will allow the team to develop some of their young talent as well as help a future franchise player develop into a leader for his new team. There will still be plenty for the team to work on to replace Hayward’s production, but the team is still set up to at least make a short playoff run. A lot can change from now and the end of the season, but Hayward’s injury could help the team’s future in the long run even though it is currently hurting the team’s Finals aspirations.
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