The Boston Celtics are headed into next season in a new position than the year prior.
After going to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018, adding a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to a promising young core seemed like it would make the team a Finals lock. Instead, the team had a drama-filled regular season, and exited the playoffs in the second round. The dismal season led to the departure of Irving, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and perhaps most importantly, Al Horford.
To make up for the losses, Boston was able to sway All-Star point guard Kemba Walker away from Charlotte on a max contract, as well as signing former Blazer Enes Kanter to a two-year deal. In the draft, the team selected an array of rookies who will likely see a fair amount of playing time this season.
The Celtics are still projected to be a good team next year despite the new roster. The team’s chemistry is expected to be better, Hayward will be another year removed from his injury, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should make leaps.
However, what are the biggest questions the Celtics need to answer this season?
What Will Be the Best Frontcourt Rotation?
Al Horford is arguably a bigger loss for the Celtics than Kyrie Irving. Horford was an excellent facilitating big, in addition to being a great defender. After losing him, as well as trading Aron Baynes, the Celtics will have to tinker with their frontcourt lineup in order to find the best results.
Outside of Enes Kanter, Boston doesn’t have many established big men on their roster. The team re-signed Daniel Thies, as well as bringing in EuroLeague center Vincent Poirier, who averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 assists last season.
These three, along with second-year player Robert Williams, and rookie Grant Williams will be in the mix as well in the Celtics’ front-court.
Figuring out which lineups fit the best, especially at the end of games, will be one of head coach Brad Stevens’ biggest challenges in his seventh NBA season. A well-sized tandem at the four and five spots is critical for teams to balance their lineup.
Can Rookie Talent Make Up for Lost Depth?
Another question for the Celtics this season will be production off the bench.
Besides Marcus Smart, the team may have a tough time replacing last year’s second unit, even if disappointing in hindsight. Boston will likely have to rely heavily on rookie talent, a rarity for a team in the upper-echelon of the conference.
Purdue guard Carsen Edwards could be an x-factor for the Celtics as his performance in Summer League helped earn him a contract. While undersized, Edwards could give the Celtics an offensive jolt off the bench when needed.
Boston took two other guards in the draft, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters. While Waters is on a two-way deal, meaning he will start out in the G-League, Langford, the 14th overall pick, could have an impact right away.
Langford averaged 16.5 points at Indiana last season, despite playing with a thumb injury that required surgery. If fully healthy, he could be a solid backup guard behind Jaylen Brown.
While the rookies, including Grant Williams, have shown promise in their college careers in addition to Summer League, relying on them too heavily might be an issue. These players will need a lot of time to develop, and likely won’t provide as much production as Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and others did right away.
What is Jaylen Brown’s Value?
Heading into restricted free agency, Jaylen Brown should be slated for a big season, and subsequent payday. Even if the fourth-year shooting guard has another solid season but doesn’t take his game to another level, the Celtics will be at a crossroads.
Last season was disappointing for Brown. After a breakout sophomore season, he was moved to the bench for most of the year, which led to a drop in his averages.
He finished the year with 13 points on 46 percent from the field, along with 4.2 rebounds.
Brown’s true value will be critical for Boston to determine. It’s hard to imagine he has reached anywhere close to his full potential after only a handful of seasons. However, the Celtics will have to make a decision on Brown’s future early enough to trade him if they see fit.
In restricted free agency, Brown should command a big contract. If he can prove last season to be a product of bad chemistry and mismanaged lineups, he could potentially see max money.
Nuggets guard Jamal Murray received a max extension from the team after his performance last season, and it’s possible a team could overpay if need be for Brown’s wing talent.
The Celtics’ management could be squeamish about shelling out that much money for Brown. If so, they would likely try and trade him before the deadline, potentially for one of Indiana’s big men.
A decision on Brown should ideally happen sooner than later for Boston, potentially getting assets in return instead of letting him walk next summer.
Featured image credited to Getty Images.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.