The hopes on Kyrie Irving and his squad were sky-high even before the 2018-19 season tipped off. The Boston Celtics had dragged LeBron James all the way down to a Game 7 in the East Finals the year prior, despite having Kyrie and Hayward cheering from the sidelines and inactive.
What transpired along the Celtics' 2018-19 campaign on and off the court, resembled a roller coaster like none other. From Uncle Drew's flawed leadership to Boston's underperforming uber-talented core, this was a year that posed more questions that it answered. The return of Kyrie and Hayward didn't bear success the way everyone projected.
Finishing 4th in the East with a 49-33 (0.598) win-loss record, the Cs matched up against the Pacers in the first round of the postseason. Now that we have the playoff results at out disposal, beating Indiana without their best player and winning a game against the East's best Bucks doesn't really cut it for the team which was expected to make the Eastern Conference Finals at the very least. Safe to say, the 2018-19 version of the team couldn't accomplish much as we head into the offseason with a plethora of doubts and expectation.
It can be strongly suggested that the Boston Celtics were clearly lesser than the sum of their individual parts. Therefore, let's take a look at the three most disappointing players who couldn't really help the Celtics' drowning cause.
#1 Gordon Hayward
After missing the entire previous season due to a gruesome leg injury, many thought it would be a tall task for Hayward to be his true self this year around.
As the numbers suggest, Gordon indeed was nowhere close to the Utah Jazz All-Star that the Celtics acquired to boost their offense along with Kyrie. Across the 72 games that he played for Boston this season (18 of which he started), the 28-year-old swingman averaged an underwhelming 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in over 25 minutes of playtime per contest.
Carrying a four-year fully guaranteed $127 million dollar contract, Hayward shot 46% from the field (in around 8.8 shots per game) and 33% from beyond the arc, taking a huge step down from the numbers he's used to producing.
Considering how catastrophic his injury was, him being able to shoot and dunk smoothly is a major plus for the Celtics franchise. His improvement is apparent, however, it can be stated with statistical proof that he's not the offensive beast anymore that he once was.
#2 Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart participated in 80 matchups wearing a Celtics uniform this season and averaged 8.9 points per game - his lowest scoring average since his rookie year. The Celtics expected way more production out of a player who started in 60 games along the season and gets over 25 minutes of playing time per game.
Smart returned in the second round of the playoffs after a left oblique tear kept him out of basketball action down the stretch. In his two postseason games this year against the Bucks, the 25-year-old averaged a miserable 3.5 points per game on a combined 1-of-11 shooting. He couldn't provide the spark his team needed to topple the newest superpower in the East.
Moreover, the Celtics relied on Smart to conjure the emotional dynamic shift in a team that has been divided all year along. Sadly, Smart couldn't overcome the turbulent winds that the past season brought with it.
#3 Jaylen Brown
Just like his entire team, Jaylen Brown couldn't get his act together, enough to satisfy the expectations from the blooming 22-year-old talent. Following a breakout sophomore year during his 2017-18 campaign with the Celtics, Brown failed to take a step upwards this year around, as everything around him and his team appeared to fold under pressure.
“(Tatum’s) 21, I’m 22 and we’ve been blessed, to be honest. We came into situations that were winning situations, and we had great roles and handled it well. So this is just a part of it. This is a part of our careers. Our basketball, our best days are yet to come.” - Jaylen Brown [HT: The Athletic]
In the 74 games he played (including 25 starts), Brown averaged 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists, all of which were rather demotions to the year prior. His 3-point shooting dropped to 34% (from around 40% last year) as he saw decreased playing minutes due to the return of Irving and Hayward.
With experts predicting the Celtics organisation to go after Anthony Davis in the offseason, it can be expected that Brown (along with Tatum) could be shippped in an enticing package to New Orleans.