It may not seem like it, but the Boston Celtics will be back in action sooner than expected. Preseason action starts on October 4th, with the start of the regular season set to take place on October 20th against the New York Knicks. Barring any COVID related disruptions, the NBA will be set to kick off their first 82 game season since the 2018/19 season, which is crazy to think about.
For the Celtics, the return to the court should be much welcome. After spending most of last season struggling to find their footing and eventually crashing out of the playoffs in the first round, the Celtics will be looking to get back on track this season.
They will once again be led by the star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, with Brown set to return after suffering a season-ending wrist injury just a few weeks before the playoffs began. Anytime these two budding stars take the court together, the Celtics will have a chance to win.
After them however, this team looks vastly different from the one that ended last season. There have been coaching changes, front office changes, and most importantly, a roster overhaul of sorts. For a team looking to distance itself from last season’s mess, they have certainly accomplished that over a busy offseason.
The question now becomes whether those moves will pay off this season. Much of the work has been geared towards making life easier for Tatum and Brown after struggling to get them any sort of help last season. It looks like the moves they have made so far have pushed them towards that goal, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Boston Celtics put together a nice bounce back campaign this upcoming season.
The Boston Celtics will improve from last season’s failures
Despite the fact the season hasn’t even started yet, you can bank on this team having a much better season than last year. New President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens has swapped out some the inexperienced young players for more experienced veterans to give Tatum and Brown some support.
One inexperienced piece the Boston Celtics added this offseason would be their new coach Ime Udoka. After Danny Ainge retried and Brad Stevens took over his role, he quickly moved to hire Udoka, who was previously an assistant with the Brooklyn Nets. Udoka has experience working with Tatum and Brown during their time on Team USA, and will look to provide a different style of leadership that resonates with the team.
As for the team itself, it bears little to no resemblance to the squad we saw last season. Gone are guys like Kemba Walker, Tristan Thompson, Semi Ojeleye, Carsen Edwards, and fan favorite Tacko Fall. The roster was primarily restructured to bring in more experienced players on team friendly contracts, and it almost certainly will lead to a more successful 2021/22 season.
Frankly they won’t have to do much to improve on last season’s misery considering the team finished at 36-36, but even then this team looks better on paper than they did last season. We’ve looked at how the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns pushed themselves to the NBA Finals by retooling their roster with veterans to help out their star players, and that looks like what Stevens had set out to accomplish this offseason.
The projected starting lineup (at least in these parts) is set to feature Marcus Smart at point guard, Jaylen Brown at shooting guard, Jayson Tatum at small forward, Al Horford at power forward, and Rob Williams at center. Realistically, it doesn’t look too different from last season, but remember that Brown missed the end of the season with injuries, and Williams wasn’t healthy for stretches of the second half of the season either.
Smart being given the reigns at point guard is a bit scary, but if he can reduce the amount of shots he takes and focus more on being a facilitator, he should be able to succeed. Behind Smart on the point guard depth chart is free agent bargain Dennis Schroder and Summer League standout Payton Pritchard. Schroder offers another level on the depth chart that was missing last season, and while Pritchard had a standout rookie campaign, he was in over his head at times last season.
Brown and Tatum will reprise their roles as the top wing players on the team, and now have Josh Richardson sitting right behind them as well. Richardson figures to be a Swiss Army Knife off the bench, and does a number of things that should help this team out. Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford remain as developmental prospects here too, and both are coming off strong Summer League outings.
Rob Williams will finally be handed the starting center role after being stuck in a timeshare with Thompson last season. Enes Kanter will be the first name off the bench most likely, and Horford could also be used as the center for certain matchups too.
Speaking of Horford, he seems set to slide back into the starting lineup after spending a few seasons away from the team. Horford’s abilities as a floor-spacing big will help open up the Celtics offense in a way they were unable to last season. Grant Williams and Juancho Hernangomez will fill out the bench here.
Position by position, this team is deeper than they were last season. Filling out the roster with capable veterans such as Horford, Schroder, Richardson, and Kanter, will help this team win more games than last season. They probably won’t magically become Finals contenders this season, but they are in a much better place than they were when the previous season ended.
Boston Celtics final record prediction: 45-37
With Tatum and Brown leading the way, the Celtics will be able to hang around with whichever opponent they find themselves against this season. They will be working with a much more experienced group of players than they were last season too, and that should lead to an increase in the win column.
The Boston Celtics will be looking to prove they belong in the top tier of teams in the Eastern Conference alongside the Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers this season. While they may not accomplish it this season, a reasonable goal this team should have is to be the fourth team in East behind these three teams.
With Tatum and Brown back together though, the sky is the limit for this team. Maybe Williams can stay healthy and develop into a top five center in the league, or Smart can hone his playmaking skills and be the cog that keeps the offense moving. There are a lot of unknowns with this team considering how many new faces are involved. One thing is for certain though; this team will be much better than they were last season, which will be a welcome sign for Celtics fans.