The 2018-19 Boston Celtics, led by Kyrie Irving, had extremely high expectations going into the season. After Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown showed the world their talent and potential the year before, most would agree that on paper the 2018-19 Celtics were the best team in the Eastern Conference. However, things certainly didn’t go as planned for the Irving-led Celtics who were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round after Giannis and the Bucks handled them in 5 games. The team cohesion was non-existent and Tatum and Brown seemed to take steps back in their development rather than forward. With that said, the under performing Celtics are a thing a past and it is now clear that all the Celtics needed was a leader who is able to elevate everyone around him and get the most out of the team. That leader is Kemba Walker.
Walker, who signed with the Celtics last July, was given the tall task of replacing Kyrie Irving. As much as the city of Boston loves to hate on Kyrie, denying his gifted basketball ability would be foolish. While he did have a disappointing tenure in Boston, he also won the Celtics a lot of games. The loss of Irving would have hurt Celtics fans for much longer had it not been for Kemba Walker, who has come in and taken the Celtics to new heights.
Looking at the statistics of the key players on the Celtics, there is no doubt that everyone has benefited from the new point guard. Let’s take a look at Jayson Tatum, who is well on his way to becoming one of the best players in the whole NBA. In the 2018-19 season Tatum averaged 15.7 points per game. This is not bad by any means, but is nowhere the near the production we’ve seen from the young star this season, as he was averaging 23.6 points per game this year before the season was suspended. Averaging almost 8 more points per game from one season to the next is an unprecedented improvement. The reason for it is pretty simple: In 2018-19, Kyrie Irving made sure he was the main guy and he essentially forced Tatum to take a back seat to him. On the other hand, Walker is constantly encouraging Tatum to shoot more and have confidence. The same kind of improvement has happened for Jaylen Brown who is averaging 20.4 points per game compared to his 13.0 points per game in 2018-19, as well as Gordon Hayward who posted a lackluster 11.5 points per game last season but is now averaging 17.3 points per game. Everyone is taking and making more shots this season, making the Celtics a dangerous team come playoff time.
Kemba Walker’s unselfish approach has allowed his teammates to play freely and to their full potential. The point guard has even said, referring to Tatum and Brown, that it’s “their team.” Clearly Kemba doesn’t care about being in the spotlight, and this is a mindset that has done wonders for the Celtics’ team chemistry. Expect Walker’s presence, both off and on the court, to propel the Celtics deep into the playoffs.