The Boston Celtics have held onto their ideals coming out of the offseason. Their championship window continues to increase while they continue building towards the future. This was bound to be an offseason for Boston brass where there wasn’t too many fireworks at the end of the road.
Even so, the Celtics front office was able to maintain a bit of that high-end prowess that’s allowed them to stay atop the Eastern Conference.
Without anyone officially stating it, the future of Boston solely depends on the development of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The young duo’s supporting cast is relevant and will need to remain so if they plan to compete for a championship, but how far the historic franchise can go in the years to come will rest in the hands of a pair of players in their 20s.
The doors will now open fully up for the two talents after the departure of Gordon Hayward, which created a logjam in a talent aspect with all three players requiring the same positioning on the court. They’ve shown their ability to hang with the best after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
Here are a few hot predictions that could occur for Boston in the 2020-21 season.
4. Brown leads the team in scoring
For the longest time, Brown has taken the backseat in the conversation of who was the better of Tatum and him. While Tatum has shown the flashiness and highlight plays that come with being an All-Star, Brown has been the one to achieve his numbers on a quieter basis.
Brown has an extra year worth of experience in the league, which some nights can’t be seen given Tatum’s talents. Tatum exceeded expectations last season after going on a scoring spree coming into the second half of the year. Still, Brown was a more efficient player shooting-wise last season. He shot 48 percent from the field while averaging fewer shot attempts than Tatum. If he can become a more efficient shooter from deep, his overall scoring capabilities may end up surpassing that Tatum’s.
While today’s league is primary lived from 3-point range, Brown is incredibly efficient when attacking the rim. It’s an area in which Tatum is working to improve, and he still has considerable work to be done in terms of securing the ball when driving, which has often led to turnovers. Brown is set to get cleaner looks from the three as the floor opens up more in Hayward’s absence.
Tatum is still set to have a career year, but it’ll come while bringing a level of play that he began to sustain last season.
Brown’s scoring averages will jump to 25 points per game compared to his 20.3 points per game last season.
3. Kemba Walker turns back the clock
For the greater part of the 2019-20 season, fans weren’t able to see the Charlotte Hornet Kemba Walker on display in the TD Garden. Walker’s knee had began to plague his performances, which caused a bit of concern. Those concerns weren’t put at ease as the season resumed in the Disney bubble and Walker still remained hobbled at times.
After undergoing a stem cell injection in his knee shortly after the season ended, Walker has went on to state that he has a boost of confidence that wasn’t present during the playoffs. While he’s certainly a locker room upgrade for Boston compared to Kyrie Irving, the Celtics didn’t sign Walker strictly to be a cheerleader.
With so much on the line, the medical staff won’t be taking any chances with the 30-year-old coming of the 2020-21 season. He’s set to miss a decent amount of time as he fully recovers from the knee procedure and likely won’t make an appearance until mid-to-late January. All the while, the Celtics still owed $ 107 million over the next three years. With that being said, it’s best to proceed with caution.
Walker was averaging 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game during his last season with the Hornets. Those will be the same performances he’ll drive in upon a clean bill of health next season.
If so, the Celtics are in good shape for making another deep playoff run once again.
2. Celtics remain a top 3 team in East
The Eastern Conference will clearly present more of a challenge coming into the new season. The Milwaukee Bucks are going to remain relevance per normal with Giannis Antetokounmpo under the fold. The Brooklyn Nets are rumored to be the likely champions of the Eastern Conference. However, the Celtics still have more than enough room to make noise next season.
The Miami Heat—who ended their regular season as the fifth seed—were able to grace the NBA Finals. In such, it allows the conversation to be had as to how much regular season progress dictates to the playoffs. Aside from that, the Heat have also been considered as highly unlikely to repeat a championship appearance.
The other two heavy teams would be the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors. While the Sixers did get considerably better, the overall doubt remains that Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid may not be able to achieve greatness while sharing the floor with one another. The Raptors will bring back a good bit of the same roster with the hopes of Pascal Siakam returning to form. They also lost their twin towers in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency.
While they did lose Hayward, the Celtics still possess the key pieces that were largely responsible for most of their success last season, which will leave them in conversations regarding contending for the East.
1. Celtics use Hayward TPE for star
While Hayward’s departure does make Boston less talented, it also opened up the floodgates for Brown and Tatum. Still, the Celtics may be wanting to use their trade exception conveyed from the Hayward deal to replace him with another budding star. The Celtics were able to acquire a $28.5 million trade exception—the largest in history—after agreeing to a sign-and-trade for Hayward.
With such a large amount in play, the front office could be looking to bring in legitimate talent that can bring about a dynasty for the foreseeable future. There have been rumblings in regards to Buddy Hield being out of the loop with the Sacramento Kings, which could make him a likely target to increase Boston’s firepower tenfold.
Either way, general manager Danny Ainge is playing the waiting game as he watches the developments around the league before pushing all his chips in. He’ll likely see what comes about when the trade deadline approaches. In doing so, it’ll also allow him to see how far his refined core can go without Hayward around.