The Boston Celtics underachieved last season falling short to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. The road to the Finals doesn’t get any easier in 2021 with the Brooklyn Nets coming to full strength with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. What can we expect from Boston during the upcoming season?
Key Additions: Tristan Thompson, Jeff Teague, Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith
The offseason was pretty easy to explain the thinking of Danny Ainge. Boston obviously believes Tristan Thompson is an upgrade over Enes Kanter. Ditto when it comes to Jeff Teague over Brad Wanamaker. In a vacuum, that probably feels correct. Will it transpire on the court?
Thompson figures to split time in the front court with Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. Thompson has two distinct advantages over Kanter; pace and defense. For years the Celtics have needed someone to guard the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Even Bam Adebayo torched Boston down low. If Thompson can provide plus defense, this move should work out well.
Jeff Teague should also stabilize the backcourt. When Kemba Walker went to the bench, the Celtics offense usually plummeted a year ago. Teague has been in the league for a long time gaining a reputation as an above-average ball handler. Teague can also distribute the ball and hit shots from deep.
Unless you’re picking in the top 5, rookies rarely make an impact in year one. In this instance, Boston probably got two guys that can contribute right away. Aaron Nesmith fills a big void. Boston hasn’t had a true 3-point artist since Ray Allen. Nesmith was revered as the best long-range shooter in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Payton Pritchard is also a 4-year player at the University of Oregon. Given that Kemba will miss the start of the season, Pritchard will also be counted on right away. Pritchard can score, dribble, and shoot the hell out of the ball. He also plays his ass off. Boston will count on him right away.
Key Departures: Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Brad Wanamaker
Losing Gordon Hayward for nothing sucks. Hayward was quietly one of the best distributors the Celtics had too. His scoring efficiency and unselfish play will be missed. However, Boston did gain a trade exception worth $28.5 million. Could that exception be used on someone like Buddy Hield to put the Celtics over the top?
Enes Kanter may not be a world beater but he did his job to perfection. Give the man credit; Kanter can rebound the hell out of the ball and score down low. He’s an A+ at both of those skills. Everything else? Meh…
Let’s be honest; the entire city of Boston threw a party when Brad Wanamaker left. God does that guy suck! If Vegas were to set an over/under for travels per game, the line is at least 1.5. The guy literally can’t dribble. Good riddance.
Starting Lineup: Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis
The departure of Hayward moves Marcus Smart into the starting 5. It won’t be a huge difference as Smart usually closes games with the starting unit anyway. It will basically be like any time Hayward was hurt (which felt like all the time).
The Celtics feel like a piece away from winning a championship. Are Kemba’s knees shot? If so, the season is probably over before it begins.
Can Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum continue to ascend? That’s really the question here. Are Brown and Tatum just All-Stars or truly elite level superstars. JB and JT will define the ceiling of the Celtics.
The Celtics feel like they need one more guy. Is the season riding on a trade exception? As weird as that sounds, it feels true.