After a gutsy buzzer-beating win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, the Celtics lost Game 4 Tuesday night and find themselves down 3-1. However, they have simultaneously built a great basketball team that also has a very promising future.
The Celtics were the top seed in the Eastern Conference this year, so clearly they’ve built a team that can compete in the NBA. Their collection of assets also puts them in a unique position. Their roster is full of young guys budding with potential, and they have a number of quality picks over the next few years to build with.
The general assumption was that the Cavaliers had a stronghold on the Eastern Conference for the years to come, but Sunday’s game may have flipped that narrative on its head. Obviously, the Cavaliers are the better team. More than likely, the Cavaliers will advance to the NBA Finals with their commanding 3-1 lead. The difference between the teams is smaller than we thought though.
The Celtics have an interesting mix of proven talent and young players on their team. They’re starting lineup shows that foundation of proven talent. Isaiah Thomas has respectively proven himself as a top-tier offensive guard. Avery Bradley has done the same on the defensive side. In the frontcourt, Al Horford and Jae Crowder are proven talents as well.
Their stars have been great, but it is the production from their young guys that has proven to be the difference in these playoffs. Kelly Olynyk was crucial in delivering a Game 7 victory against the Wizards last week. Marcus Smart ended up being the difference Sunday night in the hard-fought victory.
The Celtics still don’t know what they have in guys like Smart, Olynyk, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. To make things more interesting, they have the top pick and this year’s draft and own the Nets’ pick in 2018.
The team will likely arrive at a crossroads this summer. They could try and turn the top pick into a star such as Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Or, they can use the draft pick (likely to pick Markelle Fultz) and continue their long term goals.
Something else to consider would be the team’s chances of taking down the Cavs in the near future. If the Celtics don’t think they can make the Finals while LeBron James is still in his prime, preparing for the future might be the best option. Would a superstar put them on the same level as the Cavs?
Most likely, the addition of a star player would not be able to stop LeBron in the coming years. Despite his anomaly of a game Sunday, he returned to form in Game 4. He has been having a historically dominant playoff run and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near his decline either. Not to mention, he has dominated the Eastern Conference for the past seven years of his career.
If the Celtics do decide to plan for the future, another key decision must be made regarding Isaiah Thomas. Thomas will likely warrant a max deal next summer, so the Celtics will have to either re-sign or replace him.
The Celtics looked much more formidable against the Cavs with Thomas on the bench Sunday. Sure, he is one of the large reasons the Celtics have made it this far. But is he the best option at point guard in the future?
Despite his offensive prowess, Thomas is quite a liability on the other side of the floor. Would waiting for someone like Fultz to develop be a better option for the Celtics? It would be difficult to commit such a large portion of the cap to a starting player that is so detrimental to the team’s defense. Much of the Celtics’ success is due to the fact that they are paying their star player barely more than $6 million per year. Because of that, they have been able to build a much better team around him.
It remains unclear what route the Celtics will take in their future plans. Either way, it’s hard to see them not being a strong contender within the next few years. Whether they add a superstar to their team or build around their young players and picks, the future looks incredibly bright for the Boston Celtics.
Featured Image by USA Today
“From Our Haus to Yours”