The Boston Celtics are coming off a season that was filled with disappointment and frustration. The Celtics were supposed to be the young, exciting team poised to build off their recent success. Instead, despite major strides from budding superstar tandem Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the team as a whole, to put it as euphemistically as possible, took a lot of steps in the wrong direction. Looking toward the future, it could not be more obvious that the Celtics desperately need reinforcements that can take some of the load off Tatum and Brown. Everyone knows how talented the Brooklyn Nets are and the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks aren’t going anywhere, but the Celtics are closer to that level than you may think, and all it takes is a few offseason additions to get this team back on the right track.
First, let’s take a look at what has happened so far since the Celtics’ season ended. Of course, the big news was Brad Stevens’ promotion from head coach to president of basketball operations. Stevens’ first order of business was finding a head coach, and he ultimately decided on Ime Udoka. There are many reasons to be excited about the new head coach, as Udoka was an assistant under the great Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs for seven seasons, and he already has a relationship with Jayson Tatum as he is an assistant for Team USA.
Soon after this, Brad Stevens made another offseason splash by trading Kemba Walker, the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA draft, and a future second-round pick to the Thunder in exchange for former Celtic Al Horford, big man Moses Brown, and a 2023 second-round pick. In my opinion, this already makes the Celtics a better team than last year. The trade provides Boston with a considerable boost in front court depth as well as a proven leader in Al Horford. This was a great first step to retooling the Celtics’ roster.
With that being said, there is a lot of work to be done with this team, particularly with the backcourt. As much as Kemba Walker wasn’t himself last season, he was a capable NBA point guard who got the job done for the most part. The Celtics currently don’t have that on the roster, which is why Brad Stevens MUST prioritize finding a point guard in free agency. Considering the scoring abilities of Tatum and Brown, my preference is a pass-first point guard who can take care of the ball and create scoring opportunities for “the Jays” so that they don’t always have to create for themselves. A few names that come to mind are TJ McConnell of the Indiana Pacers, Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs, and possibly even Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, although he would cost more than McConnell and Mills. Celtics fans need to understand that they have their superstars already, and there is no need, nor would it be smart, to spend a lot of money at the point guard position when all they really need is a capable distributor and floor general.
It would be logical to look at the shooting guard position in a similar way, although there is definitely more flexibility with regard to the players the Celtics can add at this position. First of all, it would be foolish not to acknowledge the fact that Boston seems like a legitimate potential trade destination for Washington Wizards superstar Bradley Beal, who is seriously considering requesting a trade. In my opinion, as long as Jaylen Brown is not included in the deal, almost any trade package for Bradley Beal should be offered. Obtaining Beal would greatly close the talent gap between the Celtics and Nets, and the Boston roster would definitely surpass Milwaukee, at least on paper. It’s a great opportunity that Stevens should deeply consider, again, only if Jaylen Brown is not in the trade. Regardless of what the return is, breaking up Tatum and Brown, arguably the best young duo in the league, would have a catastrophic effect on the Celtics both now and in the future. We would all love Beal, but let’s understand that Jaylen Brown is much more important to this franchise than he would ever be.
If a Beal trade isn’t in the cards, there are plenty of other shooting guards on the market who the Celtics should take a look at. The key for the Celtics is finding someone who can space the floor. Marcus Smart is a great competitor, but he has no business being a starting shooting guard on a championship team. It would be ideal for Smart to return to his sixth man role that made him so valuable to the Celtics in past years. In order to make this happen, Boston needs to go out and sign a premier shooter who can slide into a starting role and space the floor and create driving lanes for Tatum and Brown. Probably the most practical option is to resign Evan Fournier, who has great range, good length, and is an above average passer with a strong basketball IQ. Other players who the Celtics should consider are Duncan Robinson and Danny Green, who are the typical 3-and-D players that every championship team seems to have.
Even if Brad Stevens successfully executes a strong offseason and brings in some high quality players to strengthen the core of this team, the Celtics will by no means be a championship favorite. The Brooklyn Nets are one of the more talented teams the league has ever seen and Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are a complete team that will be at the top of the league for many years to come. In other words, the Celtics are going to have to earn back the respect of their peers and prove that they can hang with the best teams in the league. Boston definitely dug themselves a hole when it comes to their reputation throughout the NBA, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they have a pair of top tier players in Tatum and Brown and if they build around them the right way, maybe the Celtics can return to being a championship contender in the 2021-22 season.