How far can the Boston Celtics go in the 2021-22 NBA season?

Boston Celtics All-Star (#0) Jayson Tatum going up for a layup
Boston Celtics All-Star (#0) Jayson Tatum going up for a layup
Jose Rohdin

The Boston Celtics had a disappointing 2020-21 season where they only managed a 36-36 record, putting them in seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. They unsurprisingly bowed out to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Celtics have made significant changes this year both at the executive and roster level. First, Danny Ainge stepped down as president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, and the erstwhile head coach for eight seasons, Brad Stevens, succeeded him. The vacant head coach spot was then filled by Ime Udoka, who served as an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets last year.

Stevens had a busy first offseason as head of basketball operations, handing four-year extensions to both Marcus Smart and Robert Williams. Stevens also acquired Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Juan Hernangomez through trades. He then went on to sign free-agents Dennis Schroder and Enes Kanter to one-year deals.

Possible floor for the Boston Celtics in the 2021-22 NBA season

Celtics star Jaylon Brown attempts a layup
Celtics star Jaylon Brown attempts a layup

The Boston Celtics floor would be another low-seeded playoff team with less than 40 wins. The Celtics roster is extremely talented, so making it into the playoffs, or a play-in game should be a shoo-in.

The fact is the rest of the Eastern Conference has gotten better. The Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and the retooled Chicago Bulls will all be fighting for seeds four through seven in the East. The Celtics could see their playoff position slide, just due to other teams moving up.

By the end of the season, Jayson Tatum could be viewed as one of the best players in the Eastern Conference, but he can't lead the Boston Celtics alone. Jaylen Brown, who broke his wrist in the final weeks of the 20-2021 season, proved to be that second star on the Celtics last time around. Brown could miss the start of the season, along with taking a few games to get back into a rhythm and getting used to a new coaching system.

Schroder and Richardson are the two new guards brought in to replace Kemba Walker's production after he was traded away. Both have had streaky offensive seasons the last few years, so relying on them to be reliable offensive weapons every night might backfire quickly if they can't find their shot some nights.

Also, with the loss of Walker, the Celtics no longer have a true point guard to run the offense. Smart plays most of the time off-ball, and Payton Prichard is just a second-year player. Schroder could be the solution but hasn't averaged more than six assists in the last three seasons.

The biggest issue for the Celtics might be their centers. Acquiring Al Horford and the highly productive Enes Kanter might be an upgrade over Tristan Thompson. But Horford is aging, and Kanter is a defensive liability. The Cs will hope that Robert Williams can keep improving and establish himself as the starting center.

All in all, just barely going over .500, winning a play-in game, and losing in the first round of the playoffs is a successful season for most franchises. However, the Celtics are not most franchises.

Possible ceiling for the Boston Celtics in the 2021-22 NBA season

Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum versus the Toronto Raptors
Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum versus the Toronto Raptors

The Boston Celtics could have a spectacular year, end up as the fourth seed and make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. To get there, Tatum would need to have an MVP-type season, averaging over 30 points a game, with 5.5 assists. Brown would have to come back and stay on the path he was on, making an All-NBA Defensive Team while averaging 24 points a game.

Jayson Tatum is silly clutch 🤩

If Richardson is able to replicate how he played early on in his career for the Miami Heat, he could make an immediate impact. Richardson shot 37% on 4.4 attempts from beyond the three-point line and was also a solid defender.

Along with that, if Schroder can succeed as a playmaker, similar to his early years for the Atlanta Hawks, the point guard void would be filled. Schroder might also have more space to operate on the court compared to last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, resulting in more consistent offensive outputs.

Smart and Williams have to be anchors on defense. Smart has already proven to be one of the toughest perimeter defenders in the league. Williams showed flashes of what he could do on defense last season, averaging 1.8 blocks per game.

The Celtics roster is talented enough to make them the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and in a seven-game series, they have the star power to upset anyone they face.

Realistic prediction for the Boston Celtics

Nets All-Star goes past Celtics star Marcus Smart
Nets All-Star goes past Celtics star Marcus Smart

The Boston Celtics have improved their roster enough to be better than they were last season. Even though expectations are high for the team, they will probably not be met. The Celtics are not one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference and still miss that third star.

Winning over 40 games, and staying out of a play-in game, but still losing in the first or second round of the playoffs, is the most likely outcome for the Celtics' 2021-22 season.

Edited by Raunak J


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