Ranking the New Celtics by Cult Status

Every year for the last couple of years, I have begun each NBA season by determining which incoming rookie I think will become the next cult sensation. (By cult sensation, I mean the players that will be the most fun to root for. They are the players who opposing fans may not know or may not like, but we love them because while they aren't the most skilled player on the team, they bring it every day.) This year, however, I’ll be doing things a little differently; I will be focusing on all the new players, both rookies and otherwise, on the Boston Celtics roster (and there are plenty of them!) and putting together a power ranking based solely on their cult status. I’m calling it the Cult Newcomer of the Year Award.

Now to give you an idea about the formula that is used to decide these power rankings, I have created a points system. It is as follows:

Two Points:

  1. If the candidate is a rookie. The less opposing fans know about a player, the better, and the best chance for that to be the case is if the candidate is a rookie.
  2. If the Celtics drafted the candidate. While players who began their careers at other teams are still eligible for cult status, it’s safe to say that we hold those players who we drafted ourselves a bit closer to our hearts.
  3. If the candidate went undrafted. This goes back to what I was saying about a player not being the most skilled player on a team, but they bring it every day. If a player went undrafted and still made the roster, that probably indicates that they’re hard workers.
  4. If the candidate was a college upperclassman. We all like players who stick around in college for that extra couple of years to hone their craft, so players who declared as juniors and seniors get extra points. It is also likely that these kids weren’t deemed superstars coming out of college, so that bodes well for their cult status.
  5. If the candidate is an international player or has played internationally. With so many points available for players who opted to take the college route, it’s only fair to award two points for those international players who decided to declare for the NBA straight away. Along with his, any American-born player who played internationally will also be rewarded a point because we all love a journeyman.

One Point:

  1. If the candidate was a second-round selection. While we love it when our first round picks end up being good pros, we love it even more when our second round selections turn out to be good. Being able to watch someone as they turn themselves from a second round pick to a legitimate NBA player is an exciting thing.
  2. If the candidate has a great name. Let’s be honest, a big reason why some players gain cult status is due exclusively to their name. Whether it’s former Alabama State player Chief Kickingstallionsims or 6-foot 9-inch Oklahoma alum Tiny Gallon, if I love your name, you get a point.
  3. If the candidate has a nickname. It’s one thing having a good name, it’s another if you’ve got a good nickname. These days, we don’t really see the caliber of nicknames as we saw in the 80’s or 90’s so we want to reward those players who do.
  4. If the candidate looks like they could kill a brown bear with his own two hands. This one doesn’t have to do much with how they play basketball, but rather how they look. Fans are drawn to players who look physically otherworldly and monster opposing players in the paint. It’s just fun all around.
  5. If the candidate has a signature hairstyle. This one also has to do with looks and not basketball matters, but if a player can differentiate themselves with a unique, signature hairstyle, then they get a point.

Negative One Point:

  1. If they've already been drafted in the lottery. Highly touted players have no business in these rankings. They’ve got MVPs and All-NBA teams to win.
  2. If they had at least one start on another NBA team last season. While we can still love these players, the fact that they made their NBA mark with another team does take away some of their cult gloss.
  3. If they have ever won an NBA Championship as a starter. This just takes the previous two points to another level. If you started on a team that won an NBA Championship, you’re too good and too well-known for these rankings.
  4. If they have ever been the leading scorer on an NBA team. Again, if you’re an established NBA scorer, you’re just too good and too well-known to be a cult player.

So now that we’ve established the point system for the Cult Newcomer of the Year award, we can now use it to determine the power rankings order.

#12: Kyrie Irving

Points: -3

Score Breakdown:

  • Was a lottery selection (-1 Point)
  • Started at least one game on an NBA team last year (-1 Point)
  • Won a championship as a starter (-1 Point)

It should come as no surprise that Kyrie Irving comes in last on the Cult Status Power Rankings considering his already existing and highly touted basketball superstardom. He’s not here to be a cult figure; he is here to be the man. And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

#11: Gordon Hayward

Points: -2

Score Breakdown:

  • Has a signature hairstyle (1 Point)
  • Was a lottery selection (-1 Point)
  • Started at least one game on an NBA team last year (-1 Point)
  • Was a leading scorer on an NBA team at least once (-1 Point)

Much like Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward is already a respected player (you don’t get a max contract in free agency otherwise) and doesn’t come under the category of a Cult player. 

#10: Marcus Morris

Points: -1

Score Breakdown:

  • He looks like he could kill a brown bear with his own two hands (1 Point)
  • Has a nickname (Beantown Bully) (1 Point) BUT it’s a self-given nickname and no one uses it (-1 Pont)
  • Was a lottery selection (-1 Point)
  • Started at least one game on an NBA team last year (-1 Point)

While he doesn’t come to the Celtics with as much cache as Irving or Hayward, Morris is still a developed player who is well-known throughout the league. He’s had some off-court troubles too which doesn’t help, but hopefully, he can find a solid role on this team and become one of our biggest contributors. 

#9: Shane Larkin

Points: 2

Score Breakdown:

  • Played Internationally (2 Points)

Shane Larkin has still yet to make a serious impact on the NBA landscape. He was highly touted coming out of college but, unfortunately, he just wasn’t quite ready for the rigors of the NBA. After a stint in Europe, however, he will be keen to prove his worth. 

#8: Jayson Tatum

Points: 3

Score Breakdown:

  • Is an NBA rookie (2 Points)
  • Was drafted by the Celtics (2 Points)
  • Was drafted in the lottery (-1 Point)

We’re all looking very forward to seeing how Tatum fairs in the NBA and whether his Paul Pierce-like offense will translate against stronger defenses. While he is still an unknown commodity, however, a lot of people already have him tagged as a future star. He has enough accolades already; this award isn’t meant for him. 

#7: Daniel Theis

Points: 6

Score Breakdown:

  • Is an NBA rookie (2 Points)
  • Was born AND played internationally (2 Points)
  • Went undrafted (2 Points)

We don’t know too much about the German big man yet, apart from his ability as a shot blocker (Ante Zizic is still having nightmares about him). He played well for Germany in EuroBasket last month so Celtics fans will be hoping that he can bring that form to the NBA court this season. 

#6: Kadeem Allen

Points: 7

Score Breakdown:

  • Is an NBA rookie (2 Points)
  • Was drafted by the Celtics (2 Points)
  • Was an upperclassman in college (2 Points)
  • Was a second-round selection (1 Point)

Kadeem Allen is a player that we probably won’t see a lot of this season after he signed a two-way contract with the team (meaning that he can only spend up to 45 days with the team this season). You’re probably more likely to see him play for the Red Claws, which isn’t a bad thing at this stage of his basketball development. 

#5: Aron Bayes

Points: 7.5

* He won the tie-breaker against Allen because he’s Australian and Tommy Heinsohn checked him out in the shower

Score Breakdown:

  • Went undrafted (2 Points)
  • Was born AND he played internationally (2 Points)
  • Was an upperclassman in college (2 Points)
  • Looks like he could kill a brown bear with his own two hands (1 Point)
  • Has a signature hairstyle (1 Point)
  • Started at least one game on an NBA team last season (-1 Points)

Although the casual NBA fan might not know who Aron Baynes is, the championship-winning big man has made quite the impression on the league since his rookie season in 2013. He’s the big body that the Celtics craved last year. He may never be the flashiest player on the roster, but he’ll do the dirty work and play harder than anyone. He’ll be fun to watch, but he’s still not worthy of a top-four position in the Cult Status Power Rankings.

#4: Jabari Bird

Points: 8

Score Breakdown:

  • Is an NBA rookie (2 Points)
  • Was drafted by the Celtics (2 Points)
  • Was an upperclassman in college (2 Points)
  • Was a second-round selection (1 Point)
  • Has a great name (BIRD IS BACK!!) (1 Point)

It’s fair to say that most of the hype surrounding California’s Jabari Bird has to do with his name, and I can understand why. While Celtics fans aren't overly familiar with his game, bringing the Bird name back to Beantown could be the catalyst for Bird to become our next cult hero.

Tied at #1 

With 9 points each: Guerschon Yabusele, Semi Ojeleye & Abdel Nader.

So here is where we face a problem. We can’t have three players all claiming the No. 1 rank, so here is how I’m going to sort them out: Whoever I like as a cult figure more, I will award extra points too. Because, you know, it’s my list and I can do whatever I want. So here is the top three: 

#3: Abdel Nader

Points: 9

Score Breakdown:

  • Is an NBA rookie (2 Points)
  • Was drafted by the Celtics (2 Points)
  • Is an International Player (Egyptian/American) (2 Points)
  • Was an upperclassman in college (2 Points)
  • Was a second-round selection (1 Point)

Abdel Nader earned a spot on the Celtics roster this off-season by playing very well in the D-League (now G-League) last season (he even claimed the D-League Rookie of the Year award). He isn't the most athletic player on the roster (definitely NOT a pre-requisite for cult hero honors), but he plays hard, and he wants to win. Not many non-Celtics fans and Iowa State fans will know who he is, and that’s precisely what we want. While we shouldn’t hope that Nader features too much this season, Nader could certainly be a fun role player to watch and root for in the coming years.

#2: Semi Ojeleye

Points: 9.5

Score Breakdown:

  • Is an NBA rookie (2 Points)
  • Was drafted by the Celtics (2 Points)
  • Was an upperclassman in college (2 Points)
  • Was a second-round selection (1 Point)
  • Has a great name (1 Point) NOTE: The name “Semi Ojeleye” is good enough as is, but his birth name - Jesusemilore Talodabijesu Ojeleye - is even better!!
  • Looks like he could kill a brown bear with his own two hands (1 Point)

Semi Ojeleye is a rookie who looks like a marine. He has an incredibly imposing figure and will make good use of that in the NBA. Not only is he a physical specimen, but he is also an incredibly flexible defender. If he can prove to be an above-average defender in the NBA, that will go a long way to making this second-round gem our very own cult hero.

#1: Guerschon Yabusele

Points: 10

Score Breakdown:

  • Is an NBA rookie (2 Points)
  • Was drafted by the Celtics (2 Points)
  • Was born AND played Internationally (2 Points)
  • Has a great name (1 Point)
  • Has a great nickname (1 Point)
  • Looks like he could kill a brown bear with his own two hands (1 Point)
  • HIS NICKNAME IS THE DANCING BEAR! (1 Point)

The man with one of the best nicknames in the business (The Dancing Bear) has Celtics fans very excited to see what he can do this year. While we shouldn’t expect too much from the rookie, his form last season in the D-League and in China was promising. Some have already dubbed Yabu as the French Draymond, and if he could live up to even a quarter of that moniker, then we have found ourselves a very solid player and a legitimate cult hero.


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