The Boston Celtics have a whole new identity going into the upcoming NBA season. While Kyrie bothered nobody by ditching Boston to join the rival Nets, the loss of Al Horford to the even more prominent rival 76ers continues to sting more than anyone could imagine. Kemba Walker replaced Kyrie while Enes Kanter took over Horford’s spot.
The Celtics rookies caught a lot of attention this offseason for quite a few reasons. Boston used their four draft picks to select Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters and Grant Williams. However, their signing of undrafted giant Tacko Fall is what garnered the most attention from the young rookie class. Tacko stands in at 7’6 and is an absolute force on the offensive boards. His summer league went well giving Boston fans a feeling that Tacko may have a future in Beantown.
Whose Team is It?
The past two seasons gave the fans no doubt that the Boston Celtics belonged to Kyrie Irving. He’s out of town now and the team is left to find an identity for itself. Kemba is clearly the best player on the roster, but as a new member of the team we can’t be sure that he will be face of the team. I personally believe that the Jays along with Kemba will come to be the identity. Brown and Tatum have each put in multiple years of work in that system. With that said, it is easy to imagine the two of them and Kemba being the focal points offensively. All three of them can attack the rim as well as shoot the long ball. Defenses are going to have their work cut out for them whenever the big 3 are out on the court together.
What about Gordo?
The storyline that seems to keep getting swept under the rug involves Gordon Hayward. Last season, Hayward was able to show sparks of his old self in his play. At this point, he has had an entire offseason to get back to full health and I expect great things from him this coming season. Along with Kemba, Gordo is the most experienced as being the leader of a team. The adversity that the young stars (Brown and Tatum) may not be able to fight through, could be salvaged by a calm and collected Hayward. I expect him to average right around 15ppg and provide a good safety net for the team to rely on.
The Rise of Robert Williams
The Timelord is going to shine for the Celtics this season. Playing behind Al Horford and Aron Baynes for a full season is a recipe to be a stud center in this league. Horford provides all the great intangibles a big man can benefit from whereas Baynes provided how to effectively be a big body and get things done. I do not anticipate Robert Williams starting to begin the season, but I would put money on him starting over Kanter by the All-Star Break. His upside is incredibly high.
The Celtics used to be a team that would pride themselves on depth. However, most of their current bench depth is made up of rookies and young pieces still trying to prove themselves. The inexperience of Boston’s bench comes with pros and cons. The obvious cons are that of the inexperience. These players are not familiar with the situations they will have to face. On the other hand, they are young and unproven meaning they will play their asses off. Outside of the established players and newcomers, Robert Williams, Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis are the main guys still trying to establish themselves as effective players in the NBA. I predict they will make a great impact in however many minutes they see this season.
The starting lineup is pretty much solidified when it comes to 4 players: Kemba, Gordon, Tatum and Kanter. The only question mark is who will start at the 2-guard position. Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart? Both bring a unique style of play to the Celtics. Since Jaylen Brown is my favorite player on the Celtics, I have a little more bias towards him. Fortunately, I can see clearly enough to want Smart starting in the lineup. His defense will be essential when it comes to how much the rest of the starting lineup will struggle defensively. Brown is also a phenomenal defender, but his offensive skills are required with the second unit. I believe they should handle it by having Smart come out of the game much earlier than the rest of the starters and check back in once Kemba leaves the court as the point guard.
It has been difficult to decipher what the general consensus is for how people believe the Celtics will do this upcoming season. Many believe losing Kyrie will be a good thing as the team will now work more as a unit. The other side believes the team lacks enough experience to make any real noise with Kyrie and Al gone. I believe that the Celtics will have to deal with both. There is without a doubt going to be more unity amongst this squad. There’s also going to be many moments where they could use veterans like Al and Kyrie. I predict the Celtics will win nearly 50 games and make it through the first round of the playoffs. Beyond that, I can see anything and everything happening. Maybe they’ll get swept in the second round, maybe they’ll sneak their way to the Finals. In conclusion, Celtics fans should just be happy that they have a team people will want to root for.
Brandon Black (Follow @bhblack02)