by Brad Botkin
Welcome back to our NBA Star Power Index — a weekly gauge of the players who are most controlling the buzz around the league. Reminder: Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you’re capturing the NBA world’s attention. Also, this is not a ranking of any kind. The players listed are in no particular order as it pertains to the buzz they’re generating. This column will run every week for the rest of the season.
Being that this column is devoted to the players, before we get into this week’s list I would be remiss to not at least mention the job Brad Stevens is doing with the Celtics. I mean, wow. Earlier this week, Boston became the first team in history to win 10 straight games with six rookies making an appearance in at least one game. Two of those rookies, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis, are playing major roles, and Semi Ojeleye is logging real minutes.
There are coaches in this league who hesitate to play rookies at all, let alone in crunch time. Stevens’ Celtics have now won 13 straight with an almost brand-new team, including four new starters that look as though they’ve been playing together all their life. That is not an accident. Stevens puts every one of his guys in a position to succeed. He designs around strengths, but doesn’t hide from weaknesses. This is a guy who has helped turn Marcus Smart into a really good player despite being one of the worst shooters at the guard position in NBA history. And remember when everyone said Kyrie Irving couldn’t play defense?