The Boston Celtics’ biggest need to get to the next level is guts.
Their loss in the Eastern Conference Finals was disappointing because the Celtics were considered to be a better team than the Miami Heat. However, the Boston Celtics weren't the tougher team. They weren’t willing to do everything it took to win. And when facing crunch time, while the Heat got tough, the Boston Celtics didn’t fight back.
The Boston Celtics blew big second-half leads in the first two games, which put them in a 0-2 hole that they couldn’t dig out of. Miami almost exclusively defended the Celtics with a zone, and the Celtics weren’t willing to take their offense into the paint or to the rim.
Repeatedly Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and company launched ill-advised 3s one after the other. When the Celtics needed a bucket late, Tatum settled for a deep three. That’s the best Tatum could come up with?
Are the Boston Celtics the victims of their own success? Has making the Eastern Conference Finals three times over the last four seasons gone to their heads?
Maybe the Celtics were lulled into thinking that their talent was all they needed to beat their opponents. Well, coming up short of the NBA Finals is the bitter pill they need to swallow to build up the desire required to get to the next level.
Instead of Tatum taking a three, maybe he refines his fade-away turnaround jumper in the post to the point that it’s almost automatic?
Boston fans love it when Brown is very critical of himself in post-game comments. They know that he'll come hard in the next game. But what if Brown came that hard every game?
Debating whether to trade one of their best players is nonsense. Tatum and Brown are 22 and 23 respectively. Keep them with Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward (if he doesn’t opt out). Yes the Boston Celtics need better play from the center position, but finding exactly what they need is easier said than done.
What president of basketball operations Danny Ainge can do to get the team closer is to improve the team depth. How he does it will be interesting because Boston Celtics are above the cap with four draft selections a young team doesn’t need.
There are a lot of ways Ainge can reach his goal, though. Here are just some of the decisions ahead for the Boston Celtics:
Boston Celtics waiting on Gordon Hayward/Enes Kanter decisions; Do they keep Semi Ojeleye?
The Boston Celtics have the option to extend Semi Ojeleye's contract by another season. But they have no say in Hayward and Enes Kanter’s future.
Hayward and Kanter both have player options for the 2020-2021 season. If they like it in Boston, they can opt to stay for one more year. But if they want to explore opportunities elsewhere, they can leave the money on the table and find a situation they prefer.
What they decide is anyone’s guess, though. Kanter was a solid back-up center, able to gobble up offensive boards and score inside. An NBA team might find that more valuable than the $5 million he would get from the Boston Celtics. It's rumored that Kanter may decide to opt out.
Hayward’s value is low as injuries again left him less than 100% at the end of the season. The ankle sprain was nowhere near as serious as the broken leg and dislocated ankle he suffered in his first game as a Boston Celtic. But he’s not going to get $34 million/year from another team.
What if Hayward desires an opportunity for more playing time? He’s not starting over Brown or Tatum. Hayward might want a play elsewhere on a one-year deal to restore his value. He certainly had his moments last season where he was looking more like his Utah self. Initial reports suggest that Hayward is leaning towards exercising his option to remain with the Boston Celtics.
If both decide to stick around, I’d welcome them back with open arms. But if they leave, the Boston Celtics have significant voids to fill with limited options at their disposal. Just because the Celtics would save almost $40 million, they can’t spend the same money in free agency because they are over the salary cap.
Semi Ojeleye is young; he has been with the team for three years; he knows the system, and does his job well. That kind of peace of mind is valuable to head coach Brad Stevens and well worth the $1.75 million Semi Ojeleye would get if the Celtics extend his contract.
Boston Celtics should re-sign Brad Wannamaker
Brad Wannamaker might have his detractors. But where can Ainge find a solid reserve point guard at a low cost? It’s always easier said than done.
Wannamaker is exactly what this team needs. He runs the offense; he is a good defender, and he makes shots at a good rate. Brad Wannamaker might not play every night, but he can be counted on whenever his number is called.
During the 2020 NBA playoffs, Wannamaker stepped up his game, elevating his shooting from 0.448 (0.363 three pointers) to 0.483 (0.444).
How I wish the Boston Celtics were able to re-sign Shane Larkin after the 2017-18 season! But Brad Wannamaker has been an upgrade. He should be rewarded with a nice raise, and it likely would be market-friendly for the Boston Celtics.
Boston Celtics should say goodbye to Javonte Green, Tremont Waters, Takco Fall, Carsen Edwards and Vincent Poirier
Maybe they were good human interest stories, but what had they contributed to winning last season? For a team on the cusp of reaching the NBA Finals, better depth could be the difference between playing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy or going on vacation.
While a good developmental prospect or two is nice, the Boston Celtics can’t afford to have five on the roster, especially with four selections in the upcoming NBA Draft.
If Edwards’ shot was as advertised, he would have been a great instant offense shooter to spread the floor. Waters is the definition of a floor general. If he was 3-5 inches taller, he would have been a fantastic reserve.
Green, Poirier, Fall? They got to go. Green is replaceable, Poirier barely showed anything to indicate he can contribute, and Fall was a novelty, and that’s it.
Boston Celtics Draft Targets
Ainge said that his draft approach this year would be to lean more towards selecting on need over taking the best player. There’s also the possibility of a draft-and-stash to ease the roster crunch.
Naturally, Ainge won’t reveal his hand about whom the Boston Celtics have their eyes on, but from some expert YouTube scouting, there are some players that have caught my eye so far:
PF Precious Achiuwa – an athletic, yet undersized, big man capable of defending multiple positions.
C Daniel Oturu – A legit big who averaged a double-double for Minnesota.
SG Leandro Bolmaro – draft-and-stash Argentinian who can play PG at 6-6.
PG Aston Hagans – a bigger Rajon Rondo-type pass-first PG who needs work on his shots.
PG Grant Rilier – a scoring PG who succeeds with guile over athleticismPublished 30 Oct 2020, 07:00 IST