Forsberg's Mailbag: Could Sam Hauser be Celtics' biggest surprise? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics opened preseason play with a 41-point thumping of the Charlotte Hornets. We ripped open the mailbag in the aftermath expecting to find plenty of Green Kool-Aid-fueled overreactions, and ...
J.D. Davison. Hall of Fame worthy? -- @mbyrnes37
Is it possible that the Celtics win banners 18 AND 19 this season? -- @dom_inDurham
Is it important to go undefeated all year, including the preseason games? -- @Jjcgriff
If there was a little dark cloud hovering over the team just a week ago at Media Day given the calamity to close out the offseason, it lifted for at least one day.
There was certainly a lot to be excited about. The only real negative was 23 turnovers, and Boston still piled up 134 points despite them.
Celtics Talk POSTGAME POD: Celtics dominate Hornets in preseason opener | Listen & Subscribe
So let's take inventory of all the new hype trains and see what's on your mind after Game 1 of the preseason:
Do you think a guy like Sam Hauser can make the transition to a real bench role for the team this year? Looked great shooting the ball and the defense looked improved from last year, even if it was just a preseason game. -- @MattKlayman_15
When we sat down with all the Celtics players last week for Media Day we did an informal poll about the player who would surprise us most this season. The most common response: Hauser.
When Danilo Gallinari suffered the ACL tear that could sideline him the entire season, the spotlight shifted immediately to Hauser, who could get first crack at filling those minutes. Hauser doesn't have the post game of a Gallinari, nor the size to joust with 5s. But he can clearly shoot the ball and should get a whole bunch of good looks given the talent he'll be running with.
Even his teammates are excited to see what's next for Hauser.
"Sam, in open gym, didn't seem like he ever misses," said Derrick White. "He didn't miss much last year. And so just getting that year under his belt, being more assertive, and more sure of himself."
Added Luke Kornet: "I'm really excited for Samuel David Hauser. And hopefully just to see him continue growing as a player. Coming from last year, I think he just got better, every step along the way, and I'm hoping that more opportunity kind of opens it up so that he can continue to do that."
While Hauser can obviously shoot the ball, our favorite moment from the opener was him cutting behind a napping defender and finishing a layup in traffic for his final bucket of the game. Hauser needs to knock down open looks but punishing defenders for those sort of lapses is just as important.
Sam Hauser is better than Tyler Herro. Lol -- @archivalg
We're not ready to say Hauser is going to compete for Sixth Man of the Year. But his average annual value is roughly $30.5 million lower than Herro based on the long-term deals they inked this offseason.
Jaylen Brown, All-NBA first team? -- @CelticsWRLD17
I added a question mark here so that we could use it in the 'bag because the original Tweet was more of a declarative statement. One of the most encouraging aspects of Sunday's preseason opener was Jaylen Brown picking up right where he left off in the Finals.
First-quarter Jaylen remains a menace and Brown piled up 24 points in less than 24 minutes. He only had one assist but it was a left-handed laser beam over LaMelo Ball for an easy Al Horford dunk. Brown got to the line seven times and was rewarded for attacking the basket.
This is what Brown does every year. He comes back a little better and with a little something new in his toolbox. If he's healthy and Boston is successful, the individual accolades will come, whether that's All-Star or All-NBA consideration.
The most encouraging part is that, if anyone was worried about Brown's spin through trade rumors might impact his focus on the court, early indications suggest he's as locked in and motivated as ever.
Will Joe expand the regular-season bench enough that the starters don't blow 4 or 5 games late because of fatigue? (See: opening night vs Knicks) -- @thedeadromanovs
Even with the injuries to open the year, interim head coach Joe Mazzulla will have the luxury of more depth to lean on than maybe Ime Udoka was comfortable with at this time last season. I would suspect that Brown and Jayson Tatum will still play a lot of minutes early in the year when the real games start up, but one of the most encouraging aspects of Sunday was how good the bench performed.
If the Celtics can confidently lean on groups headlined by Malcolm Brogdon, White and Grant Williams for long stretches, that's going to take a whole bunch of stress off the starters. Too often last year, Boston's first five would thrive and the bench couldn't always take the baton.
We'd like to see Mazzulla find time for Payton Pritchard despite the logjam at the guard spot. If the Celtics can survive going small -- and that means everyone needs to be a little more committed to boxing out and rebounding -- then there's a real chance to lean into available depth.
Is Robert Williams tradeable now that Mfiondu Kabengele took his spot? Lmao -- @ParquetPride17
HOW DARE YOU!
We're only including this letter because Kabengele is a lot of fun to watch. He was already going to be a fan favorite with his above-the-rim play, but watching him dive on the floor for a loose ball (with an excited Marcus Smart in the background) and then exult (loudly) after muscling home a bucket in traffic left hype trains scrambling out of North Station in every direction. Given Boston's thin depth up front, Kabengele has a real chance to earn an early season role.
Given how well Kabengele and Davison played in the opener, I think the Celtics' two-way players are ready to take on any other team's two-way duo in an NBA Jam style tournament.
How do they stop turning the ball over?!? We waited all summer and they still do it. -- @Cmerc5
OK, so it wasn't all sunshine and puppy dogs on Day 1. Tatum struggled a bit (4-11 FG, 2-8 3PT, five turnovers). There were times when Boston's lack of size was a concern, defensively. But the biggest caution flag was the continued struggles with ball security.
You can certainly chalk some of that up to being the first game of the season. But, for anyone with PTSD from last year's playoff run (and especially the Finals), it was still jarring to watch Boston kick it around.
On one hand, we loved the pace and the byproduct of cranking the tempo at times might just be some additional turnovers. But there were too many sloppy mistakes that the team needs to clean up before the real game starts.
The positive spin: If the Celtics can turn the ball over 23 times and score 134 points on Day 1, what are they capable of when they actually take care of the ball and get more continuity moving forward?