The Boston Celtics have had a whole lot of roster turnovers after a disappointing 2018-19 campaign, but just because they don’t resemble title contenders at the moment does not mean there is no pressure on the team.
Let’s face it: this past season was a disaster for the Celtics, and they are trying to move past it as quickly as possible.
The good news is Boston still has a very talented roster capable of making a run in what is a weaker Eastern Conference overall, but it won’t be able to do it without a few of its players having breakout years due to the club’s lack of overall depth.
So, here are the three Celtics players facing the most pressure entering the 2019-20 campaign.
3. Jayson Tatum
I’m putting Jayson Tatum third on this list because he did not have nearly as disappointing of a year as people thought he had this past season. It was mainly that he didn’t live up to the unfairly lofty expectations most have for him.
But, that being said, with Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and several other key pieces gone, the pressure is on Tatum to develop into a consistent top option for the Celtics.
It’s entirely possible (if not probable) that Irving’s presence (coupled with the return of Gordon Hayward) held Tatum back a bit this past year, but now, Irving is no longer casting a dark cloud over the locker room, and Tatum has a full year of playing alongside of Hayward under his belt.
Given his superb talent, there really is no reason why Tatum shouldn’t break out this coming season.
2. Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown got off to a horrific start in 2018-19, but from December on, he was actually pretty good. His first month-and-a-half was just so bad that his numbers never fully recovered.
But Brown is entering a contract year, meaning it’s time to put up or shut up.
Does Brown really have All-Star potential? If he does, this may be the year we finally see him put it together over the course of a full season, and to be honest, he kind of needs to in order to keep that belief intact for when he hits free agency.
There is no doubt that Brown has a lot of talent, but he also has some noticeable flaws (like his free-throw shooting) that need serious work.
This is Year 4 for Brown, which means it’s time for the 22-year-old to actually take a step forward.
1. Gordon Hayward
Hayward absolutely deserves a pass for his lackluster 2018-19 campaign. After all, he was coming off of a stomach-turning broken leg injury that kept him out for all of 2017-18.
On the bright side, Hayward took some very positive steps over the last couple of months of this past season and was finally beginning to resemble his old self, showing some bounce in his step and looking much more confident going to the basket.
Of course, we haven’t seen Hayward do that for a full season in Boston yet, and if the C’s want to have any chance of contending next season, they need the Utah Jazz Hayward to show up.
The Celtics were able to hide Hayward most of this past year due to their abundance of overall talent, but now that their depth has been almost completely eliminated, Hayward will need to be one of the top two or three options on the team along with Kemba Walker and Tatum on a regular basis.