Almost five months ago, Boston Celtics fans were ready to celebrate the first 3-0 series comeback in NBA playoff history against the #8 seed Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Derrick White’s game-winning tip-in forced Game 7 in Boston, and it was truly one of the most thrilling moments in recent Celtics history. But unfortunately, it was for nothing. The C’s entered Game 7 and played horrendously. Superstar Jayson Tatum was injured two minutes into the game, and star guard Jaylen Brown couldn’t dribble with his left hand; it was a disaster. That performance was a continuation of their efforts just not being good enough when it mattered most. Throughout the last seven seasons, they have been eliminated from the ECF four times, and they have only one Finals appearance (which they also lost). GM Brad Stevens seems to be fed up with this pattern, as he’s made some massive moves this offseason to improve the roster entering the 2023-24 NBA season.
There was a lot of player movement this offseason, so let’s breakdown who’s new and who’s gone. For starters, the Celtics added some serious firepower with two All-Star caliber players in Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. Porzingis came over in a trade with the Washington Wizards back in June, and will provide elite shooting/floor spacing for a center and great rim protection with his 7 ‘3’’ stature. Holiday is a veteran guard who came over from Portland after being traded away from Milwaukee four days prior. He’s one of the best defensive guards in the NBA today, and is an offensive threat with his shooting and finishing ability.
Boston had a tall price to pay for these trades, however. Their heart and soul and longest tenured Celtic, Marcus Smart, was traded to Memphis in the Porzingis trade. The former Defensive Player of the Year and 3x Hustle Award winner will be missed, but Holiday should be a vast improvement offensively while matching Smart’s defensive abilities. Guard Malcolm Brogdon and center Robert Williams III were both traded to Portland for Holiday. “Timelord” Williams was a fan favorite due to his elite rim protection, but Porzingis should be a massive improvement on the offensive end. Porzingod does carry over a rich injury history like Williams, but he played 65 games last season, his most since 2016-17. They also traded forward Grant Williams to the Dallas Mavericks, in which he signed a four-year, $54 million contract in the sign-and-trade. While Grant had a career-best season last year, the Celtics weren’t willing to give him a big contract like Dallas.
With the additions and subtractions out the way, let’s talk about the people running it back. The duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is reunited once again, as there’s still trust that these two can lead the Celtics to a championship. Tatum had yet another career-best season last year, eclipsing the 30 points per game mark, and establishing himself as arguably a top 5 player in the game. Brown also achieved a new career-high in PPG at 26.6, but his left hand is a major concern. The Heat smartly realized this weakness in his game, and he committed eight turnovers in the final game of last season because of it. He’s been working on his dribbling skills with that hand this offseason, which is critical in taking that next step to being the perfect #2 option. Playoff hero Derrick White is also returning and is another important piece to this team, with his biggest improvement last season being his three-point shot (31.2% to 38.1%).
The Celtics have arguably the best starting five out of all 32 teams with Holiday-White-Brown-Tatum-Porzingis. Besides this starting five, the Celtics have a bit of a depth issue. The loss of players like Brodgon, Grant Williams, and “Timelord” really took a toll on their bench. Al Horford is returning for his 17th season, but will father time finally catch up to him? Guard Payton Pritchard was disappointed with his lack of playing time last year, now the sharp shooter has a chance to step up. Other players filling out the bench are sharp shooter Sam Hauser, athletic rookie Jordan Walsh, and 7’ 2’’ center Luke Kornet. If this second unit can hold its own most nights, it will go a long way.
The path to a championship ring won’t be easy. The Bucks made the biggest splash at the end of the offseason and acquired superstar guard Damien Lillard to join Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, and the Heat will always be hard to beat in the playoffs as long as Jimmy Butler’s around. Based on the trades they made this offseason, it looks like the C’s are in winning mode now. This is their best chance to win a championship yet. I have been saying it’s the Celtics year for the past seven years. Hopefully, they will finally prove me right this time.