The Boston Celtics ended their 2022-23 campaign with a whimper, as they fell just one game short of beating the Miami Heat and reaching the NBA Finals.
After a lackluster performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics are left with more questions than answers. Will C's star Jaylen Brown get an extension? Will forward Grant Williams stay in Boston? Where is point guard Payton Pritchard headed?
All of these essential queries could be answered this offseason. But for now, let's look back on a disappointing yet memorable season and grade how some of the most important Celtics fared.
In many ways, this season was a successful one for Celtics star Jayson Tatum. He earned a spot on the All-NBA First Team, was named to his fourth All-Star squad, and had one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.
Tatum put up 30.1 points per outing over 74 games, a scoring average that no other Celtic has surpassed. Plus, he shot an efficient 46.6% from the field and ended up with the most total points in the league this season. The 25-year-old also set career-high marks in assists (4.6) and rebounds per game (8.8).
In the postseason, Tatum was nearly as good, too. He averaged a career-high 27.2 points per game, cut down on his turnovers, and posted a career-high 10.5 rebounds per outing. Plus, the Duke product's playoff run featured a signature game when he became the first player in NBA history to score more than 50 points in a Game 7.
Jayson Tatum this season:
— 1st Team All-NBA
— All-Star Game MVP
— Scored the most points in an ASG
— 1st Celtic to average 30+ PPG
— Most 30-PT games in a season in franchise history
— Youngest player with 1,000 career 3PM
— 1st player to score 51 in a Game 7
He is only 25. pic.twitter.com/xLE1C1EjnJ
— TatumMuse (@TatumMuse) May 31, 2023
All of these accolades seem worthy of an A+ mark, yet Tatum wasn't perfect. Although he's become a better rebounder, his 3-point shot regressed and he wasn't able to lead his team back to the Finals. Of course, his ankle injury in Game 7 against the Heat didn't help, but Tatum still has some room to improve.
During the regular season, Brown seemed well on his way to a career year. He set or tied career-high averages in points, assists, field goal percentage, and rebounding. For his work, he was named to the 2023 All-Star team and earned an All-NBA nod, which makes him eligible for a gigantic extension.
— Jayson Tatum (All NBA First Team)
— Jaylen Brown (All NBA Second Team)
The first set of Celtics teammates to make All-NBA in the same season since Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2008. pic.twitter.com/VbL9jJ9PQ5
— CelticsMuse (@CelticsMuse) May 10, 2023
The 26-year-old made huge strides in the regular season, but that's what made the playoffs so frustrating. His decision-making was suspect at times and he would have inconsistent offensive performances. Yet, the worst of it was his turnovers, as his 3.3 turnovers per outing were the most of his postseason career and really got the Celtics in trouble in their final loss of the season.
"Jaylen Brown has turned into a turnover machine… I found somebody that has a worse handle than Russell Westbrook… You're a 2nd Team All-NBA player & you have middle school handles."
Shannon Sharpe on Brown's 8 turnovers in Game 7 of Celtics-Heat 😳pic.twitter.com/uPQzLJuSeV
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 30, 2023
Fair or not, Brown's great regular season was marred by his latest playoff performance. Whether or not he'll receive a hefty extension from the Celtics could be determined in the coming months.
The unsung hero for the Celtics this season was undoubtedly Derrick White. Well, after his Game 6 buzzer-beater in the Eastern Conference Finals his heroics weren't so unknown anymore.
DERRICK WHITE TIP IN AT THE BUZZER!!!
CELTICS FORCE A GAME 7 🤯🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/5DwbFBurSP
— Beyond The Arc (@BeyondtheArc05) May 28, 2023
The Celtics still went on to lose Game 7, yet that play shows the value White brings. He's a scrappy defender who made an All-Defensive team and had more blocks than any guard in the league. In addition, he was arguably the third-best player for the C's, as he stayed hot from deep in the postseason and averaged a respectable 13.4 points per game.
Perhaps his best quality though was his durability. White didn't miss one game in the entire season, which is truly an astounding accomplishment in today's NBA. In spite of some initial skepticism, Boston's trade for White looks better and better by the day.
Perhaps the hottest debate of this season was whether or not first-year head coach Joe Mazzulla was the right man for the job.
He was thrown into the spotlight after Ime Udoka's shocking scandal, yet he still led the C's to a successful regular season. That's no easy feat for someone with no prior head coaching experience who wasn't expecting to become the skipper going into the year.
However, Mazzulla had some questionable coaching calls in the postseason. He stashed away too many timeouts and was outclassed at times by Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra. Overall, Mazzulla can only do so much to get his players to perform, but he isn't blameless in Boston's consistency issues.
Brad Stevens says Joe Mazzulla will be back as Celtics head coach next season pic.twitter.com/Np76Ij9smS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 1, 2023
Regardless of how you might feel about him, Mazzulla will return. With a full offseason to prepare, hopefully the new coach will be able to deliver an even better season for the Celtics.