Evaluating the Boston Celtics 2019 Offseason
If you've been following the Boston Celtics this summer, it would be hard to escape the feeling of doom and gloom surrounding the team lately. The team looked to be losing their superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, but what the team was not prepared for was the departure of All Star center Al Horford. Once the Horford news broke you could see the five stages of grief in real time. Before the fans could even get to acceptance, there was a cause for celebration. It just so happens that while Boston was preparing for life without Kyrie, the Charlotte Hornets were lowballing their All-NBA point guard Kemba Walker. While some see the addition of Walker as a downgrade, the numbers tell a different story. On the surface, Kyrie’s 48% field-goal percentage compared to Kemba’s 43% seems like a major drop-off but when you look at Kyrie’s shooting from the field pre-Brad Stevens it shows that Kyrie’s efficiency benefited heavily for the Celtics’ system. I expect Kemba to almost completely fill the role that Kyrie had in Boston, and if you combine that with a better temperament and a willingness to play off the ball more, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Celtics are better at starting point guard than last year. Where the Celtics’ problems are the most daunting is down low.
Replacing Al Horford is not easy, and most likely will need to be done by committee. Bringing in Enes Kanter was a solid start, his rebounding ability gives the team a dynamic they haven't had since Kevin Garnett left town. Kanter’s average of nine rebounds per game is more than any Celtic has averaged since the 2008 championship team. While Kanter’s rebounding is a plus for the team, his defense will have many Celtics fans missing Horford by preseason. The defense is going to have to come in-house. Expect second-year center Robert Williams to finally get consistent minutes and showcase his shot-blocking ability. With these two, and the rookie Grant Williams, the Celtics will have to scheme around the limitations of this current crop of big men.
The bench has been totally overhauled since last season. Gone are Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, and Terry Rozier. That's about 30 points per game out the door, as well as a veteran presence. I don't expect Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward to be on the bench next season so Boston will have to replace that production. As I said before, I expect Robert Williams to be productive, so I think Baynes’ role has been properly filled. While Morris and Rozier were part of the problem for the team last year, they were also productive offensive players, and I don't know if filling those roles with rookies is the way to go.
If summer league is any indication, Carson Edwards will do just fine in the backup point guard role. His smooth shooting and activity on defense will be a welcome addition to the team. The Marcus Morris role is another that I expect to be filled by committee. Romeo Langford has missed Summer League with an injury so it's difficult to gauge his impact this year, but his scoring ability shown in college will be a huge help to the team. The man I'm looking at to step up this season is Semi Ojeleye. He hasn't gotten consistent minutes due to the veteran presence in Boston, but with Morris gone, he should get the opportunity to show his abilities.
The Celtics will be fine. Losing two All-Stars would be catastrophic for most teams, but the Celtics aren't most teams, they have built something solid that can withstand a lot, and they have the right coach to get the best out of his players. With Brad Stevens coaching, I expect a Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Marcus Smart team to be around 50 wins with an outside chance at an NBA Finals appearance.