Last season, the Celtics were one of the biggest disappointments in the league and had a disappointing end to their season as well. The problems had started popping up several times throughout the season, and the team was plagued by inconsistency. Their issues came to a forefront in the second round where they got demolished by the Bucks in 5 games. A lot of things have changed in the offseason. Kyrie, like most people expected, left in free agency. What people weren’t expecting however, was Al Horford’s departure as well. The Celtics did manage to add a high profile piece in Kemba Walker, jettisoning Terry Rozier in a sign and trade for Kemba with the Hornets. The new look starting lineup for the Celtics has potential, but also has several questions to be answered.
|Point Guard PG|
|Shooting Guard SG|
|Small Forward SF|
|Power Forward PF|
Despite all of the problems Kyrie may have created, he was still the Celtic’s best player and their go to guy down the stretch. It’s hard to replace a player of his caliber but the Celtics may have just done that by signing all star point guard Kemba Walker. Kemba had to carry an enormous load for a struggling Hornets team last season, so its not to surprising to see him jump ship to a team where he won’t have to completely carry the offense. The question for the Celtics is whether this swapping of point guards is a net benefit for the team. Comparing the two, Irving is probably a slightly better scorer and playmaker. He also brings much more playoff experience than Walker, and their defense is both pretty mediocre. Basketball wise Irving likely has a slight edge but there’s another factor to consider. Unlike Irving, Walker is unlikely to throw his teammates under the bus and will probably be a much better locker room presence. For that reason alone, Walker is probably an upgrade by fostering better chemistry.
Although Irving was their most notable departure, the one that may end up being the most damaging may very well be Al Horford’s. Al Horford has long been one of the most underrated players in the league and has often been overlooked by many. In fact, during the Celtics playoff run in 2018, he was probably their most valuable player, although Jayson Tatum, Jaylen brown, and Terry Rozier got the glory. It doesn’t help that unlike Irving, the Celtics haven’t found a suitable replacement. They signed Enes Kanter, who’s a solid player, but Kanter doesn’t space the floor like Horford and he’s nowhere near as good defensively. The fact that Horford went to a division rival in the Sixers makes this a tougher pill for the Celtics to swallow, as Horford was their solution to Sixers star center Joel Embiid. Overall, it’s likely this starting lineup sees a big drop in their defense without Horford leading the way.
The Celtics will likely start Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown together as the 2 and the 3. It’s not a perfect fit but they’re both talented enough to make it work. Both have flashed star potential in their young careers, but they’ve been unable to consistently sustain that high level of play. The Celtics are expected by most to be a second-tier team in the east, but that may change if just one of them breaks out. At just 22 and 21 respectively, a breakout for Brown and Tatum this season is very much in the realm of possibility. Right now, the Bucks and Sixers do appear to be a step ahead of the rest in the East, but the Celtics starting lineup is still in a great position for the future. Kemba provides a safety valve for the offense and will ensure the starters remain respectable. It’s up to the Celtics youngsters to take them to new heights.