When it comes to expectations, the Boston Celtics are always at the top of the lists whether it is being contenders or favorites to win the NBA Finals. Year after year, they always seem to have enough on paper to get it done, but cannot get over the hump.
In the 2021-2022 NBA season, they finally got over their Eastern Conference Finals struggles and made it to the NBA Finals. They eventually would go up 2-1, six minutes away from a 3-1 lead before having a meltdown and losing three straight. After that season, Brad Stevens loaded up, acquiring Danilio Galinari and Malcolm Brogdon. Another season with huge expectations and being the favorites to win the Finals, to ultimately come up short of the first ever 3-0 comeback.
After last season, every single person could have guessed it but something needed to change. With two rising superstars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and only ECF banners and one Finals appearance to show for it, the roster needed a shake up. Out of nowhere, a Brogdon for Kristaps Porzingis three team deal was happening and fans were ecstatic. Within the span of 10 hours, that trade fell through due to complications and Marcus Smart was the one being sent out instead.
All Celtics fans were in shock, not knowing how to feel. The heart and soul of the team is gone in a drastic turn of events. Most fans were hurt and rightfully so. Once the smoke settled, looking at the roster, this deal should be the one that pushes the C’s over the top right? Trader Brad had something else in mind. The deal falling through caused uncertainty from Brogdon, which sparked a last minute deal sending him, Robert Williams III and two first round picks to the Blazers for Jrue Holiday.
Star Studded Five
The rich get richer but once again another beloved Celtics player is gone. After being one game away from back to back Finals appearances and a historical 3-0 comeback, the Celtics revamped half their roster.
Most Celtics fans had some concerns regarding the roster upon first glance. What happens if KP can’t stay healthy? Where is the wing depth behind the Jays? Is there enough off the bench? I think those questions were answered in the preseason. From a personal perspective, watching those games I couldn’t help but just laugh with pure excitement. The starting lineup of Jrue White JB JT and KP is top 2, if not the best starting five in the league. The spacing has created insanely open looks for the Jays with the dynamic that KP brings. Jrue fills the Smart void with an even better offensive upside considering he is the 4th option on this team. Lastly, D White will continue to be himself as the best shot blocking guard and applying constant ball pressure to opposing guards alongside Jrue.
With a starting lineup this lethal, the bench will automatically take a few hits. But once again, the preseason gave us some bright spots. Payton Pritchard got a pay day and a guaranteed role on this team and has showed out every since. He averaged 21.3 PPG on 52.3% from the field and 41.9% from the three. A sleeper 6MOTY candidate with a chip on his shoulder, he should shock a lot of people around the league. With the addition of KP, more than likely Al Horford slides into the bench role for the majority of the games. At 37 years old, preserving Big Al for the playoffs can be crucial for this team down the stretch. Last year, Al’s numbers took a huge hit after the first round of the playoffs due to the heavy minutes in the regular season.
After the first two off the bench, there for sure is a drop off but plenty of options depending on matchups. Sam Hauser, Oshae Brissett, Svi Mykhailiuk, Lamar Stevens and Dalano Banton all showed flashes that they can contribute to this team. I think something different from past teams is the ability to embrace your role and exceed in that role. I think this group of guys have constantly talked about the importance embracing these roles and contributing to winning. The emergence of Neemias Queta was encouraging for the team to see because of the age of Al and the injury history of KP. I think this season will have a ton of different players having an impact on different nights, but do not sleep on this bench and the impact they will have.
Expectations are Higher than Ever
The key to this season and almost every season for every team is health. If this team can remain healthy, the only team that can beat them is themselves. It is hard not to look ahead because they have only played a handful of preseason games, but once this team starts to gel, we could easily be watching one of the most dominant teams in recent NBA history.
The expectations are always high, especially with an organization like the Boston Celtics. But does it get any higher than this? Key additions to the coaching staff, revamped roster, the hunger from the Jays and the eagerness from the fan base, this is the year the Celtics NEED to raise Banner 18.