A look at five important issues facing the Celtics as the team tips off their 2017-18 campaign on Tuesday night:
1. How much has the defensive rebounding improved? Death, taxes and the Celtics struggling on the glass are three things fans have been able to count on during the Brad Stevens era. Of late, Danny Ainge has focused more on having better all-around bigs that can spread the floor offensively, even if it comes at the expense of cleaning up the glass. However, the Celtics did well this offseason to make some improvements in this area from a length perspective. Aron Baynes is the best natural big-man rebounder the team has had in years. Jayson Tatum is an above-average defensive rebounder for his size. Gordon Hayward has added size on the wing that should translate into better support for Boston’s bigs on the boards. Will these additions be enough to pull Boston out of the basement in defensive rebounding rate (28th last season)? The preseason returns were encouraging, but we’ll find out this week.
2. Which young guys can hit open jumpers? After chatting with several members of the front office over the course of training camp, this was the issue that came up most often. The Celtics lost a lot of reliable elite shooting last year (Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Isaiah Thomas) and replaced the majority of it with unproven youth. There will be a bevy of open looks available all year long for role players, thanks to creators like Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. But the mystery remains: Which Celtic(s) will prove themselves as trustworthy from beyond the arc? We saw hot hands from Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier this preseason, but defenses won’t respect their iffy track records until they prove they can hit those shots in the regular season. Brown (18 percent in preseason) and Tatum (33 percent in preseason) will be put to the test immediately on the perimeter with the starting five as defenses sag off both. Mystery contributors (Semi Ojeleye?) could emerge as factors as well if he proves to be capable from deep. Stevens is going to have to find someone to trust in this department to maximize the offense and that process might take a little while.