The Boston Celtics were one game away from reaching the NBA Finals for the second year in a row; however, they lost by 19 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. The Celtics have now reached the Conference Finals in five of the last seven seasons, but that’s produced only one NBA Finals berth. Can Kristaps Porzingis finally get them over the hump? Check out below for a projected starting lineup, how Porzingis fits, and the championship odds impact.
Boston Celtics Projected Starting Lineup
Celtics veteran Marcus Smart was shipped off to Memphis, so Boston will trot out a new starting point guard. Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon are vying for the role, but it’s likely that White gets the nod because Brogdon is the superior ball handler and playmaker. That seems counterintuitive, but Boston’s bench badly needs an orchestrator while the starting lineup doesn’t. White’s shooting, defense, and secondary playmaking are perfect complements to the Brown-Tatum duo.
Therefore, White-Brown-Tatum-Porzingis form 80% of the starting lineup with the center position still undetermined. Al Horford is a lethal shooter and quality defender, while Robert Williams III provides rebounding, screens, rim protection, and rolls to the basket. Based on recent history, Horford remains the favorite to secure the final spot.
Given their roster’s flexibility though, these roles are fluid and a bit archaic. White, Brogdon, Brown, Tatum, Porzingis, and Horford can all play numerous positions, so Boston’s lineup will be a case by case scenario based on exploiting matchups.
Kristaps Porzingis’ Fit With Boston Celtics
Porzingis quietly had a career year by averaging 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 blocks on a fantastic 49/38/85 shooting split. He snuffed out anything at the rim while holding his own as a mobile big on the perimeter. He’s comfortable playing power forward, but Porzingis can also play center due to his 7’3” frame. He immediately slides in as the Celtics’ best option down low.
Boston’s big man rotation of Horford and Williams III was too one-dimensional. Horford’s three-point shooting horizontally spaced the court to the highest degree, but he contributed no rim pressure or self-creation. On the other hand, Williams III crashed the glass and acted as a lob threat, yet he couldn’t hit a jumper outside the paint or create for himself. Therefore, opponents (especially Miami) were able to adjust their defensive plan once they knew which player was on the court.
Enter Porzingis, who is lethal from all areas of the court, can shoot over anyone, and can create for himself off the dribble. From 0-3 feet from the basket, he replicated Gobert’s efficiency. He also matched Deandre Ayton from 3-10 feet, De’Aaron Fox from 10-16 feet, Donovan Mitchell from 16 feet to 3PT, and James Harden from deep.
The chart below via BBall Index clearly displays Porzingis’ two-way value. Rim Points Saved per 75 possessions measures how effective a player was at protecting the rim. Overall Shot Making measures how efficient a player was based on their shot quality for every attempt. The chart contains all power forwards and centers who logged at least 600 minutes.
As you can see, Porzingis dominated both categories unlike any other big man. He contributed the rim protection of Jaren Jackson Jr while adding the shot making of Bojan Bogdanovic. Overall, he’s a legitimate third option while also defending at a high level. The Celtics absolutely won this trade!
Boston Celtics Championship Odds Aftermath
Once the trade news broke, Boston jumped the reigning champs Denver Nuggets and snagged the championship favorite slot. They now hold the shortest odds to win the NBA Finals at around +460 to +475 depending on the sportsbook. Denver is right there though with the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns not far behind.
Although Porzingis certainly boosts their championship equity, a huge factor in their championship favorites designation is the unequal conferences. The West was absolutely loaded this past season, and they just added Bradley Beal, John Collins, Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Taylor Hendricks, Cason Wallace, and Dereck Lively II to name a few. Plus, it’s rumored that James Harden may return to the Rockets.
As a result, there are 11-13 teams that could realistically convince themselves that a deep playoff run is possible. Compare that to an Eastern Conference that holds perhaps 6-7 teams with similar expectations. Overall, a path through the East is far more desirable than the bloodthirsty West, which assuredly aids Boston’s chances.