A season of disappointment and pain for the Boston Celtics has mercifully come to an end at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets. Coming into the year, Celtics fans had extremely high hopes for their team, and they should have. Boston was coming off an Eastern Conference Finals run and looking to get into the finals this time around. However, they failed to even come close.
Eventually, the writing was on the wall that this was not the Celtics’ year, especially after the season-ending injury to Jaylen Brown. Brown went down with a torn ligament in his wrist near the end of the regular season and that was the point where fans knew it was over.
Despite having the largest trade exception in history, Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ front office opted to wait to use it until the upcoming offseason. Was this a smart move? Probably not. It is justifiable, however. Ainge (and now Brad Stevens) wants to land a huge superstar in the offseason but the question now becomes who? The Celtics did trade for Evan Fournier to add to their bench depth, but it was only for a second-round pick and his contract is set to expire this offseason. Overall, the moves made by the front office were not ideal and the Celtics failed to adapt to the ever-changing Eastern Conference this year.
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The Celtics ended the regular season with a 36-36 record. This allowed them to get into the play-in game, where they handled the Washington Wizards comfortably and secured the seven seed. They then proceeded to get bounced 4-1 in the first round by Brooklyn. This was a severe regression from last season and nothing close to the expectations that everyone had for this team.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Jayson Tatum
It’s almost impossible not to pick Tatum for this award. Yes, Brown was very good for the Celtics this year but Tatum continues to shine. He averaged 26.4 points per game as he continues to assert himself as a superstar in this league. Tatum amped up his scoring by three points per game this year and hit the 50-point mark on numerous occasions. He even secured his career-high with a 60-point performance in April. Tatum carried the brunt of the scoring load the entire year for Boston and they now have to figure out just how to support he and Brown.
Defensive Player of the Year – Marcus Smart
One could argue Kemba Walker here as he led the league in charges taken, but his on-ball defense is nowhere near Smart’s. It seems as though Smart has been the Celtics’ best defensive player almost since he began his career. He puts his body on the line for the team any chance he gets and locks up opposing guards with ease. He averaged 1.5 steals per game but the stats do not tell the whole story. One has to watch Smart play to see his true impact on the floor. He is the embodiment of a Boston Celtic and plays every game with high effort and intensity.
Sixth Man of the Year – Robert Williams
Williams was a very nice piece off the bench for the Celtics this year. He should be the starting big-man come next season as the 23-year-old continues to improve his game. Williams played most of the season behind Tristan Thompson but proved throughout that he is the better player. Perhaps the only reason he isn’t starting is due to health concerns. Williams was able to show off his insane athleticism at the five-spot with several alley-oop finishes and 1.8 blocks per game. Williams led the weak Boston bench and provided a great spark. He really changed the momentum for the team and is another player who won’t stuff the stat sheet, but provides a big impact. It will be very fun to see Williams’ ever-growing game next season.
Biggest Surprise – Payton Pritchard
The 26th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Pritchard stood out early to the fans. He is a true point guard who provided a solid spark off the bench. While he didn’t get the minutes most hoped he would, the flashes Pritchard showed are exciting for the future. Case in point: Pritchard dropping 28 points in a game back in April. For the season, he averaged 7.7 PPG on a very efficient 41 percent from three and 44 percent from the field. If the guard can get some more minutes next year, he’ll look to lead the Boston Bench as Williams transitions to a starting role.
Biggest Disappointment – Kemba Walker
Walker is not a bad player by any means, but he hasn’t played up to his potential in Boston. His scoring continues to go down and he cannot stay healthy. He only played in 43 games this season and missed multiple key games in the series against Brooklyn. Yes, it’s hard to score with Tatum and Brown on the floor, but Walker struggled all season long and in the postseason. He did lead the league in charges taken, which was nice to see, but his on-ball defense nullifies this stat a good amount. Overall, it is disappointing that this signing never really hit as well as people thought it would and it will be interesting to see if Walker plays another game in Boston.
After the loss to the Nets, Ainge stepped down and Stevens has now become the president of basketball operations. This was an absolutely shocking move, which has put the questions about what the Celtics should address in the offseason up in the air. First off, they will need a new coach. Jason Kidd has been linked to Stevens before and appears to be the early front-runner for the position.
As for the roster itself, Stevens will need to utilize the trade exception immediately to land a superstar. If this means that it’s at the expense of Walker, then so be it, because this team needs another great player. The bench will also need to be improved drastically. Guys like Grant Williams can no longer get minutes. The team needs a center who can stop the Joel Embiid‘s of the league and wings who can provide solid two-way depth. At the end of the offseason, this Celtics roster should look incredibly different from top-to-bottom, with the only constant being Tatum, Smart, Brown, and Williams.
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
Main Image Credit: via Boston Sports Wave