Boston Celtics: A Blueprint for Sustainable Success

Apr 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36), forward Kelly Olynyk (41, guard Evan Turner (11) celebrate with team mates after beating Toronto Raptors 117-116 in overtime at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36), forward Kelly Olynyk (41, guard Evan Turner (11) celebrate with team mates after beating Toronto Raptors 117-116 in overtime at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics are drawing attention from around the league and have the tools in place to be a contender for years to come.

Just two seasons ago, in Brad Stevens’ first year as the Head Coach of the Boston Celtics the team finished 25-57 and many questioned how long it would take for this team to once again contend. The C’s now sit near the top 5 of the NBA power rankings and have established themselves as a team to fear in the Eastern Conference.

GM Danny Ainge has completely rebuilt the roster in recent years, and has stock piled young talent along with valuable draft picks that have the Celtics on track for long term success. Ainge has had to make some extremely tough decisions including trading Celtics legend Paul Pierce and future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, along with all star point guard Rajon Rondo. Moves that may not have been very popular among Celtics fans at the time, have proven to have been the right moves and have put the team in a position to once again compete at a high level.

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At the All-Star break last season, the Celtics sat at just 20-31 and all signs pointed to the team missing the playoffs for a second straight year. However, trader Danny made a string of moves that helped elevate the teams level of play as well as their morale in the locker room.

The Celtics acquired Jae Crowder from the Dallas Mavericks, in a deal that – after so many rumors year in and year and year out – finally sent Rajon Rondo packing. The team also received a first round pick and Branden Wright in the deal.

Following the Crowder trade, Danny Ainge continued his roster shake up and we saw players and draft picks flying around everywhere in the month of January.

You can see a list of all the Celtics transactions during the 2014-15 season here. (quite the extensive list)

The most pivotal move of last season came at the trade deadline, when the Celtics traded for now All-Star point guard, Isaiah Thomas. Thomas along with Crowder provided a huge spark for the team in the second half of the season and the Celtics finished 20-11 after the All-Star break and found themselves as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.

While there is no question that the roster has been completely overturned over the last 3 seasons, many in and around Boston will argue that the most important move this Celtics team has made over that span was hiring Brad Stevens as the Head Coach.

Related Story: Brad Stevens: Coach of the Year?

It’s hard to do what Stevens has done here in Boston. It’s not everyday that a 36 year old college coach from a mid-major school can step into one of the biggest sports markets in the world, with the most storied franchise in NBA history, and garner the respect that he has in his first few seasons in Boston.

Stevens has already established himself as one of the best coaches in the game and he hasn’t even turned 40 yet.

Now in his 3rd season as Head Coach, Stevens has the Celtics at 45-32 and competing for the 3 seed in the East. The Celtics have remained in the playoff picture all season long and have been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA. While many expected this team to at least make the playoffs, I don’t think many anticipated what the Celtics have been able to do this season. And now, a shot at the Eastern Conference Finals may not be all that far fetched.

Yes I said it, the Eastern Conference Finals. Why not? Outside of Cleveland who else in the east is a sure-fire lock to make the conference finals? Sure, Toronto has had a great regular season, but I’m still not sold on them being a dominant playoff team. As proved by this past weeks’ victory over the Golden State Warriors, the Boston Celtics can play with anybody in the league.

Not only are the Celtics going to be an exciting playoff team this season, but they will be for years to come. The team is already a top team in the east, and heading into this offseason they will have plenty of cap space and a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. Not to mention the amount of assets Danny Ainge has in his back pocket if he decides he wants to make some trades.

Not taking the lottery into account (because it seems to never play out in our favor) the most likely scenario right now is that the Celtics will probably draft in the 4th spot. With Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram set to go 1 and 2, and Dragan Bender penciled in at number 3 in most mock drafts, the Celtics still may have a shot at landing a player at number 4 who could really make a difference.

Boston Celtics
Apr 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) before the game against the Villanova Wildcats in the 2016 NCAA Men /

Personally, I’m pulling for Buddy Hield at the 4 spot. I think the kid has an assassins mentality and he can shoot from anywhere on the floor. He is a pure scorer and someone who can stroke it from the three point line on a consistent basis, something the Boston Celtics drastically need. But if the team doesn’t draft Buddy, there are still other prospects who I believe can develop into solid players. Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, and Jakob Poeltl are all players I wouldn’t mind seeing the Celtics take at that spot.

The Celtics could also decide to turn around and trade that top 5 pick. Sounds familiar right? That’s because it’s the same exact thing the team did when they landed Ray Allen from Seattle. A trade that ended up being Jeff Green for Ray Allen, I’d say the Celtics won that one.

Whether the Celtics make the pick or trade it one thing is certain, the team is only going to get better. The Celtics will have the cap space to add multiple top level free agents, something that is easier said than done, but still a possibility nonetheless.

Although the team hasn’t been able to lure many big name free agents to Boston in the past, this offseason could prove to be different. The Celtics are the only team in the NBA that the Warriors have failed to beat by more than 5 points over the last two seasons. In two games this season against what may end up being the best team in NBA history, the Celtics took them to double overtime and then beat them. Now, one game isn’t going to be the deciding factor for a free agent, but being able to beat the most unbeatable team in the last decade will sure play a part.

Free agents may also be enticed by Coach Brad Stevens. He is a players coach and he seems to be well liked by everyone he comes across, there is no doubt that many players around the league would love the chance to play for one of the best young coaches in the game. The C’s also have young talent that can appeal to a prospective free agent.

One name that everyone wants to see in Boston next year is Kevin Durant. Durant, one of the leagues best players and former MVP is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and there’s a lot of speculation as to where he will end up.

Of course, teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Heat, Rockets, and Warriors will all be rumored to land the superstar. They are major cities, in major markets, and most of those are warm weather locations with New York being the exception. Durant could also follow in the footsteps of Lebron and choose to go to Washington, where he could play for his hometown team. Really, nobody knows where Durant is going to end up, and that is an advantage for the Celtics. Durant hasn’t hinted at where he would want to play next season, but he did briefly mention that he likes the city of Boston..

Landing KD may be a little bit of a stretch, but there are free agents to be signed and I think the Boston Celtics will be in play on many of them. The team needs a solid big man down low and I expect them to make a strong run at Al Horford, who was mentioned in trade rumors connected to the Celtics at the deadline.

My prediction for the Celtics starting five next year is:

  • PG – Isaiah Thomas
  • SG – Buddy Hield
  • SF – Jae Crowder
  • PF – Kelly Olynyk
  • C – Al Horford

Now, obviously I may be wrong. And in some ways I hope I am. I would love to see a superstar like KD, Blake Griffin, or Boogie Cousins in a C’s uniform. Those are franchise altering players who can turn any solid team into a contender immediately. But I’ve learned in recent years, to not set my expectations too high when it comes to the Celtics and the offseason.

Thinking so far ahead may be a bit premature as the team is getting ready to hopefully make a deep run in the playoffs, but the team has too many assets and there are too many possibilities to just block out the thought of the offseason right now. However, the future for the Celtics will remain bright no matter what happens this season.