NBA Daily: Are The Celtics Doomed This Offseason?
This season absolutely did not go as planned for the Boston Celtics this year. Jordan Hicks looks into why things aren’t looking much better heading into the summer.
At the beginning of the season if you heard that the Boston Celtics were going to lose 4-1 in the second round of the playoffs – in an embarrassing fashion – there is almost a zero chance you would have believed it.
They had just come off a highly successful run in the 2018 NBA Playoffs losing to the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown appeared to be highly capable pieces that would only improve.
Gordon Hayward made his long awaited return, Kyrie Irving pledged to come back this upcoming year to run it back for years to come and Brad Stevens seemed ready to finally coach his way to the championship in the now LeBron-less East.
How wrong we all were.
From the beginning, things just never felt right. They were losing games they should have been winning, and narrowly winning games that should have been easy. The locker room was consistently having problems and blame was being placed on every aspect of the roster, mostly from within the organization.
One of the worst moments of the season came post-All-Star Break. The Los Angeles Clippers had just traded away their most valuable player in Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers and looked one-hundred percent headed for the lottery. It’s not that they were a bad team leading up to the break, but usually trading away your best player signifies you no longer care about winning games.
Anyways, the Boston Celtics were hosting them in one of their first games since trading Harris and at one point were leading by 29 points. Game over, right?
Let’s just say the Clippers successfully made a full comeback and embarrassed the Celtics on their home court.
Their regular season was by no means a failure, as they did achieve what they wanted and ultimately made the playoffs. They narrowly beat out the Indiana Pacers for home court and secured the four seed, albeit a whopping 11 games back from the one-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
To everyone’s somewhat surprise, they swept the limping, Oladipo-less Pacers in the first round.
They then made quick work of the Bucks in Game 1 on the road, beating the one seed by a whopping 22 points. Paul Pierce, former Celtics alumnus, went so far as to declare the series over. Yikes.
The Milwaukee Bucks would go on to win four games in a row, none of them relatively close, and Game 5 being an outright blowout. Not to mention Giannis, likely 2019 NBA MVP, didn’t even play amazing during the series.
Taking a look at the Celtics’ star players, it is easy to see why they were defeated so terribly. Irving posted 20.4 points per game, shooting an abysmal 35.6 percent from the field. He posted an even-worse 21.9 percent from three. Gordon Hayward – the team’s highest paid player – squeaked out 7.4 points in 28.4 minutes per night. He was also a team low in plus-minus at negative 8.6.
It wasn’t all bad. Both Marcus Morris and Al Horford played quite admirably, as one would come to expect, but their efforts weren’t enough to bring the series even relatively close.
As mentioned previously, most people would be absolutely shocked if they saw this was how the Celtics ended up had they been shown a peak last summer. Their roster is extremely talented and based on track record alone they are coached incredibly well.
But the Boston Celtics are in big trouble going into this offseason, and the lack of belief that they will be able to retain Kyrie Irving is just part of their problem.
Gordon Hayward’s contract is starting to look really bad. He is just two full seasons out from his devastating injury, but with the entire summer to come, he’ll need to make leaps and bounds this summer for his contract to be worth it.
If they manage to keep Kyrie, they’ll be too capped out to go after anyone that would make a legitimate difference, and running it back with a similar team doesn’t feel like too good of an idea. They’ll need to retain Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris as well, and, if it wasn’t before, it’s quite clear that both of those players will be coveted around the league during free agency.
This article wasn’t meant to offer up any solutions, rather to simply highlight the problems that this storied organization faces. They rose from the ashes better than anyone could have hoped for post the Garnett-Pierce-Allen era, so there is little doubt that they can’t do it again.
But this all begs the question: How much better can this team get?
Again, they looked incredibly good going into this season. And apart from completely missing the playoffs, things couldn’t have gone much worse.
We shall see what Ainge and Co. end up doing this off-season, but it may take more than a blockbuster move for this team to actually contend.
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