The Boston Celtics still have a bright future after losing to the Miami Heat in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. While the Celtics were the more talented team on paper and missed a prime opportunity to reach the NBA Finals thanks to some late-game collapses, this core led by Kemba Walker and youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should only get better with more time together.
However, these Celtics stars could use more help. It’s true that Walker wasn’t quite himself and Gordon Hayward’s injury hurt, but Boston still needed more from the rest of the roster.
Thus, we look at the offseason moves the Celtics must make in order to reach the NBA Finals next year and be victorious as well.
1. Grab a legit big
Having depth at the center spot can be a luxury. For Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, it became daunting in the playoffs. At any given moment, Stevens maneuvered between Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, Grant Williams and Robert Williams, and sometimes he wouldn’t play any bigs at all.
Having one solidified big may prove to be more fruitful for Boston. The Celtics have always been in the mix for obtaining a star-studded center who can primarily rotate on defense, protect the rim and provide great rebounding.
Securing a Rudy Gobert, Myles Turner or Stevens Adams has been something long coveted by Celtics fans. Of course, the work it would take to land one of those stars requires a bit more effort than just wishing. In order to absorb the salary of such a player, the Celtics would have to give up assets of value.
2. Spark the bench
This Celtics bench was a roller-coaster ride. Through most of the season and leading into the playoffs, one statement was often echoed in reference to the reserve unit: not enough. Aside from All-Defensive First Team guard Marcus Smart, this bench squad didn’t offer enough consistency.
Watching Semi Ojeleye clank open 3-pointers while looking like a deer caught in headlights became nerve-wrenching. Enes Kanter can score and rebound, but he can’t defend. Brad Wanamaker was a decent backup point guard, but he wasn’t necessarily somebody you could count on. Grant Williams and Robert Williams had moments, but they’re still so young. Romeo Langford was a rookie who never really caught on before dealing with injuries to end his season.
After losing Gordon Hayward to a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers, Smart was inserted with the starters. While this helped the starting unit, it hurt the bench. Moving Smart back to the bench next season should help, but that won’t fix everything.
The Celtics will be counting on some of their young reserves to develop and become more reliable pieces. However, Boston could really use a bench upgrade, and Danny Ainge will surely look to the market for help.
3. Revamp the coaching
No, not Brad Stevens. While Stevens may have made some mistakes in the playoffs, he’s still an excellent coach who has helped lead the Celtics to a lot of success. There’s zero reason to move on from him.
Where Stevens could use help is in his supporting cast on the coaching staff. Assistant coaches can always be a fragile filling. They’re always looking for the next big role, which is understandable.
Still, having an assistant coach with more experience would benefit Stevens. Going after a Mark Jackson, Stan Van Gundy or Alvin Gentry would be useful. All three coaches have seen their fair shares of success before being let go by their respected teams.
Gentry is the freshest of the three, as he was recently let go by the New Orleans Pelicans a season after the departure of Anthony Davis. He may get his shot sooner rather than later at an open vacancy. The other two in Jackson and Gundy have been on the market for years and may be willing to accept an assistant role on a contending team, though they may very well prefer their TV gigs.
Stevens is still rather young with much to learn in the NBA. Having a veteran coach who can give coaching adjustments would be advantageous.
4. Trade the picks
The Celtics are currently slated to have three first-round picks and a second-round pick after adding four players in the 2019 NBA Draft. Boston currently owns the Memphis Grizzlies’ 2020 draft pick, which has been placed at No.14. The Celtics also have picks No. 26, No. 30 and No. 47.
For a team trying to contend, drafting four more rookies doesn’t seem like the answer. Boston needs to cash in some of these chips and turn them into a more proven player, and perhaps more than one. This would help with the depth issue and could perhaps even give them more star power.