Celtics Lead

The Top 10 Celtics of the Decade

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The Celtics took a bit of a step back during the 2010s. They remained competitive, outside of the 2013-14 season, but tasted a championship just once in 2010, losing in seven games to the Lakers. The roster has changed a great deal over the past 10 years, but who made the biggest impact on Boston during their tenure with the team in that span? Let’s have a look.

10. Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown entered the league full of potential. The third overall pick in 2016 NBA draft, Brown hasn’t disappointed. Over the course of his first four seasons, Brown has continually progressed in almost every part of his game.

The biggest question marks surrounding Brown when he entered the league were about his shooting. This year, Brown has managed a 51/40/75 clip, all career-highs. He’s averaging over 20 points per game (PPG) for the first time in his career, and it’s resulting in wins. Brown, along with fellow youngster Jayson Tatum, have given the Celtics hope when they needed it most.

9. Kyrie Irving

This pick might not be a popular one. There are plenty of arguments to leave Kyrie Irving off of this list, but the fact of the matter is he’s the most talented player the Celtics had this decade. Irving is an exceptional individual talent, and that paved way to countless highlights at TD Garden.

Irving failed to come through on promises to the city of Boston, but as we enter a new year and a new decade, we should choose to focus on the positive. His arrival, though bittersweet due to the departure of Isaiah Thomas, gave Celtics fans plenty of hope. He excited and motivated the city of Boston in a way it hadn’t been for a while.

In his two seasons in Boston, he averaged over 24 PPG, 6.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. He helped Boston win 55 games in 2017-18, the second most in any season this decade. His ability on the court is undeniable, and that earned him a spot on this list.

8. Al Horford

Al Horford’s arrival was supposed to spark a new era in Boston. His signing was a statement to the rest of the league that Boston meant business. The Celtics could go out and sign big-name free agents, and they were serious about contending right away.

Horford’s defense and leadership helped shape many of the young players who still remain on the Celtics’ roster today. He was an integral part of Boston’s back-to-back Conference Championship runs and opened the door to other talents, like Gordon Hayward, choosing Boston in free agency. Horford’s time in Boston was invaluable and he won’t soon be forgotten.

7. Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley played a full seven seasons in Boston, the most of any player this decade. That alone is enough to make this list. Bradley’s hustle and heart in Boston were much needed mainstays in a decade that saw plenty of turnover.

Bradley made his biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball. He was constantly matching up on opponents’ best ball handlers and was responsible for 446 steals in 413 games. He was a reliable starter in 2016-17 on a team that everybody doubted, but made the Conference Finals regardless. His defense on Irving in that series was inspirational, and his heart went a long way for fans.

6. Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum is in just his third season in the league. Boston embraced the young star from the moment he entered the league and he’s run with it. In his rookie season he averaged 13.9 points and five rebounds per game, shooting an impressive 47/43/82.

Since then, he’s only continued improving. His scoring jumped in his sophomore season despite the hindrance of Irving’s play (this feels safe to say given how this season has gone so far with Kemba Walker), and this year he’s made even larger strides. He’s scoring over 21 points per game, a career high, and he’s pulling down just under six boards per game.

When Tatum was drafted he gave a new spark to the city of Boston. The performance he put forth in the playoffs during his rookie season is one of the most memorable postseasons for any Celtic this decade. His dunk over LeBron James in Game 7 of the Conference Finals is printed on t-shirts and burned into the memory of fans across the country. His future is bright, and next decade might place him higher on this list, but in the past 10 years there are others who superseded his case for a higher spot.

5. Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo has made plenty of stops around the league since he last played in Boston. Still, his five and a half seasons in Beantown this past decade were memorable.

In Jan. 2014, he was named the Celtics’ captain, the first since Paul Pierce after his departure. With this honor he joined the company of Pierce, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and other Celtics legends. His 3,125 assists are far greater than any other Celtic this decade.

Rondo is a Celtic legend. His battles with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the Miami Heat at the beginning of the decade will be remembered forever. His knuckle push-ups in Game 6 of the 2012 Conference Finals ignited the Boston crowd, and his team-leading 21 points and 10 assists helped force a Game 7. Rondo’s contributions to the Celtics this decade are immeasurable, but there are still four players who outrank him.

4. Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas is one of the most unique players on this list. He isn’t here just for his stats or his impact on the court. Still, he managed some incredible feats in his 200 games in Boston.

His 4,422 points in just over three seasons were the third most of any Celtic this past decade. In 2016-17, he led the Celtics to their lone No. 1 seed this decade and first Conference Finals since 2011-12. His untimely hip injury and subsequent trade from the Celtics broke the hearts of Celtics fans everywhere.

But beyond the court, Thomas became one of the most beloved Celtics in the franchise’s long history. NBC Sports Boston commentator and former Celtic Tommy Heinsohn dubbed Thomas “the little guy,” and seemed to call games with more passions when the ball was in his hands.

When Thomas’ sister Chyna tragically died during the 2017 playoffs, the citizens of Boston rallied around their superstar. He dedicated one of his best performances to his sister, and the fans embraced and encouraged him through his difficult time. His returns to Boston always excite fans and get the city amped up. During his first visit to Boston after he was traded, he played pickup basketball at Emerson College in Boston with students. The legacy that Thomas left in Boston still lives on today and it earned him a high spot on this list.

3. Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett has been immortalized in Boston history for the same reasons as Thomas. It wasn’t just what Garnett accomplished on the court, but the relationship he formed with the city of Boston. His on court accomplishments this past decade aren’t eye popping, but they’re still impressive.

He’s the only Celtic to surpass 2,000 rebounds this decade, notching 2,161 in his four seasons in Boston from 2010-2014. He scored 3,997 points as well, three shy of joining Bradley, Paul Pierce and Thomas as the only Celtics to surpass 4,000 points this decade.

But Garnett is so high on this list because he truly embodies what it means to Bleed Green. Every night he took the court for the Celtics, he did so with a sense of pride few players ever have. He realized the tradition and history of the Celtics franchise and didn’t take it lightly. He was honored to have been a part of the Boston organization, which helps make his stats look just a little bit more meaningful.

2. Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart is the longest tenured Celtic at the moment. His six years in Boston represent each stage of the Celtics’ decade. He entered the league two years after Pierce and Garnett were shipped out to Brooklyn. His heart and soul represent the championship pedigree that exists within the Celtics organization, and he upholds the values of the most recent championship roster.

Smart’s hustle is matched by few, if any, across the league. He’s a pesky player that gets under the skin of his opponents, and it often translates into wins. Nobody needs to be reminded of his game-winning defense on James Harden, especially Harden himself.

Smart has given his everything to the Celtics, which helps him on this list. He’s one of, if not the best, defender the Celtics have boasted on their roster in a long time, let alone this past decade. His steady development on the offensive end is helping to shape him into a more complete player. As his time in Boston grows, so too does talk of a potential jersey retirement one day.

1. Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce at number one may shock some people, but he still played nearly half of the decade in Boston. His four years with the Celtics this past decade were some of the most thrilling in recent memory. He started the decade with a bang, carrying the Celtics all the way to the NBA Finals, where they lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

His 5,418 points were the most by any Celtics this decade. He also finished second in assists, third in steals and fourth in blocks. His early-decade battles against LeBron James and the Miami Heat live in the memories of fans across the league, not just those in Boston. Sure, he didn’t manage to come out on top after the turn of the 2010s, but he gave James some of his toughest battles.

The Celtics retired Pierce’s No. 34 to the rafters on Feb. 11, 2018, where it will hang forever. Pierce’s impact on the Celtics is indescribable, and that’s what earned him the number one spot on this list.

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About Jared Penna

Jared was born and raised in central Massachusetts and is currently studying journalism at Quinnipiac University. Currently writes for TLSM's Celtics Lead branch.

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