Assessing the Boston Celtics Offseason

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Austin Barach

The 2020-2021 season starts up in less than a month, and with the preseason just a couple of weeks away, it’s time to evaluate how the current Celtics will be different from the bubble Celtics that we saw just over two months ago. Here’s a breakdown of the Boston Celtics offseason.


Replacing Brad Wanamaker and Enes Kanter with Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson is roughly a wash. I do think it has a better chance to net a positive than a negative in terms of overall impact, however. Wanamaker actually developed into a solid rotational piece in the bubble, after being mostly a punching bag amongst Celtics fans. Although Teague doesn’t have the defensive physicality that Wanamaker has, and doesn’t lead the NBA in FT%, Teague has solid shooting splits and should provide a more consistent sturdy presence off the bench.

Thompson, meanwhile, will be a key piece for the C’s. As someone who’s been rumored to have received interest from Boston in last couple of years, it’s nice to finally have him on the team. He’s a nimble and athletic big with soft hands. Kanter is obviously one, if not the best, per minute offensive rebounders in the league, but Thompson can give us 80-90% of that activity. He’s also a superior defender to Kanter, particularly in defending the pick-and-roll. Having Thompson means Brad won’t have to play Daniel Theis heavy minutes, who was kind of forced into playing over 28 MPG in the bubble. Theis is a solid player, but he shouldn’t be playing that much.

With Thompson now in the mix, I would expect Theis’s minutes to be more around the 18-24 range, which is more appropriate for him. That should also yield more efficiency. These moves could be a win when we look back on the Celtics offseason.

Enes Kanter guarding Tristan Thompson. Kanter is now a Trail Blazer and Thompson is now a Celtic.

Gordon Hayward

Alright, the Hayward stuff. Sigh. With Gordon opting out and signing an egregiously large contract with Charlotte, this decreases the Celtics’ chances of winning a title here in the short term. The Hayward experience was consistently inconsistent and occasionally uncomfortable. It all stemmed from terrible injury luck, though. The bottom line is Hayward is still a good basketball player. The fact that he was the 4th option for the C’s offered them an upside no other team had from their 4th guy, except the Heat, as Herro emerged behind the big three of Butler-Bam-Dragic.

Now that we don’t have that guy as a 4th option, someone who can be a very good shot creator and attacker off closeouts, it will heighten the offensive burden on Jayson, Jaylen, and Kemba. With Kemba’s shaky knee, this is where the concern really amplifies. The hope for the Celtics and their title aspirations is three-fold: that Kemba can be fully healthy and be better, much better, than what he showed in the Toronto and Miami series’, that Jaylen can leap into being an All-Star and perhaps even an All-NBA guy, and that Jayson launches himself into a high 20s scorer and a top six or seven guy in the league. That’s too much to ask for.

Better Without Him?

Do I think the Celtics can be a little bit better because of an “addition by subtraction” scenario? Sure. With Hayward out of the picture, I can see the core rotation guys gaining more defined roles. However, the upside, the ceiling, of an NBA Championship is now less likely because losing a playmaking forward is not easily replaceable. Now, do I like the draft picks of Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard? Yes. Do I think a bench unit of forwards in Nesmith, Grant Williams, and Semi Ojeleye can piece together perhaps 80-90% of Hayward’s scoring? Sure. But piecing together stats does not equate to everything that an individual brings to the table. This is a harsh reality of the Celtics offseason.

Gordon Hayward. He is no longer a member of the Celtics.

Glass Half-Full

As a Boston Celtics fan, I have to spin-zone and talk myself into positive scenarios. I have to make myself believe that we have a glimmer of hope in winning a championship. As the Celtics offseason nears its end, here are all the things, which each have a realistic chance of happening, that I think have to happen in a 2021 title run:

  • All three of the Kemba-Jaylen-Jayson things that I described previously happen.
  • The Thompson-Theis one-two punch becomes highly effective.
  • Smart stops taking his 1-4 bad shots per game.
  • Teague or Pritchard turns out to be a very good backup PG.
  • Nesmith does in fact become a knock-down three-point shooter, and isn’t a liability on defense.
  • Grant develops his game and is more than a “hot potato/screen setter” presence in the playoffs.
  • Two of the three of Romeo, Semi, and Robert Williams takes a jump. A jump large enough to earn “ok, I can trust this guy” minutes in a playoff game.
  • Jayson and Jaylen do not feel the need to take 4-6 combined “hero ball” shots per game because they don’t feel forced to make something happen.
  • The Durant/Kyrie experiment does not work in Brooklyn.
  • The Bucks do not take the leap with Jrue that they couldn’t make with Bledsoe.
  • Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons do not get absolutely unlocked under Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers.
  • The Heat do not develop into the force that they became in the bubble.
  • One of LeBron or Davis gets injured (but you never root for injuries).

Simple enough, right?

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