The Boston Celtics were the trendy pick to win the NBA title last year, as it seemed like they had the most talented starting 5 other than the Golden State Warriors headlined by the prospect of Kyrie Irving coming back from injury. The squad never reached those heights, however, as they were ousted from the playoffs in only five games in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks in a series that wasn’t even that close. The disappointing finish and ongoing chemistry issues have resulted in the departures of Kyrie, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, and Terry Rozier.
But all of that didn’t stop the Celtics from trying to salvage the situation to the best of their ability. During free agency, Boston found their Kyrie-replacement in the form of all-star point guard Kemba Walker. Even with the bad situation he had with the Charlotte Hornets, Kemba emerged as one of the premier clutch perimeter players in the entire league, as his clutch player impact estimate of 22.7 ranks among the best. The tougher task for the Celtics will be replacing Horford, and as of now it looks like it will be a combined effort through the likes of Enes Kanter, Robert Williams, and Grant Williams.
While the process of replacing their lost stars is certainly important, the priority of this season for the Celtics should be to show off their talented wing duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. These two guys were the key to Boston’s success a couple seasons ago when they finished one game away from making the NBA Finals, but they each took a step back last season because of a decreased role with Irving back in the fold. It will also be interesting to see how Brad Stevens uses Gordon Hayward this year. Despite his struggles, Hayward actually had a very strong finish to the season, as he essentially took on the backup point guard role which really highlighted his playmaking abilities. With that being the case, perhaps Hayward can continue his climb back to the all-star level he was at with a large opportunity in front of him this year. Marcus Smart will look to show that his career high in win shares last season was no fluke. While he has always been impressive on the defensive end, it was his improved shooting that made last season different from the rest for Smart as he shot a career high 36.4% from downtown.
With all of that being said, don’t count out the Celtics heading into this season. The eastern conference is wide open and the Celtics are one of the few teams who can say that they are ready to take advantage of the moment.