The 2018-19 season went as bad as it could have for the Boston Celtics.
What was supposed to be a championship-contending team, ended up being a team full of egos, underperforming young players, and letdowns. To make matters worse, the Celtics lost their two best players in free agency this past summer.
Although they were able to replace Kyrie Irving with another All-Star point guard, Kemba Walker, the team overall is a lot weaker than it was last season.
Believe it or not, Kyrie Irving was not the biggest loss for the Celtics this offseason. All-Star big man Al Horford, who was seen as the leader of the Celtics for the last three years, opted out of his contract and signed a long-term deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Horford’s defensive strength, versatility, consistency, and experience will be a huge loss for the Celtics. It makes matters worse that he joined the Celtics’ biggest rival.
The Celtics signed Enes Kanter to replace Horford in July. Even though Kanter is a solid rebounder and scorer inside, his lack of defensive ability and playmaking skills makes him a big downgrade from Horford.
The loss of Horford and the addition of Kanter brings the next point. The Celtics might have the worst frontcourt defense in the NBA.
Enes Kanter has been known for being one of the worst defensive players in the league the last few years.
The Celtics’ lack of height will also weaken their frontcourt defense. Jayson Tatum will probably be the one who covers other teams’ power forwards. Tatum is tall, quick, and athletic. But his lack of toughness, muscle, and defensive fundamentals will cause him to struggle to guard the majority of power forwards he’ll be going up against.
This season, the Celtics will be without Aron Baynes, who was a rock on the defensive end for the past two seasons. Horford and Baynes to Kanter and Tatum is a very sizable downgrade. Sure, the Celtics can try to use Robert Williams to strengthen their frontcourt defense, but he is inexperienced and erratic.
In previous years, the Celtics have been criticized for their inconsistent scoring, and this year, they will probably be even less prolific. For the last two seasons, the Celtics were given help off of the bench from Marcus Morris. Morris proved to be a great bench scoring and spark plug off the bench. Morris averaged over 13 points per game during his two years in Boston. Now, with him having moved on to the Knicks, someone else needs to take his place. The issue is that the Celtics didn’t sign any bench scorers to replace him.
The Celtics initial first-round pick, Romeo Langford, was injured for all of Summer League play and didn’t play well at all during the preseason. Early second-round pick, Carsen Edwards, was an elite scorer in college and played awesome during the preseason, but even he is a question mark. It appears almost a sure-thing that Edwards will be a solid player in the future, but it isn’t smart to have to rely on a second-round pick rookie to do the majority of the bench scoring for the team. Players like Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, Brad Wanamaker, and Vincent Poirier don’t seem to be viable scoring options off of the bench either. Marcus Smart is still there, but we all know his strengths aren’t scoring by any means.
If the Celtics want to compete in the playoffs this year, their young player needs to step up. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are coming into their third and fourth years in the NBA respectively. Both are coming off years in which they underperformed severely. Tatum was expected to take another big step after an impressive rookie year but ended up having a sophomore slump. Many thought Brown would push to be an All-Star last year, but he was benched early on and was accused of having attitude problems by some teammates. Brown recently signed a four-year, $115 million contract extension with the Celtics, and big things will be expected of him this year.
It just doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to step up. Brown and Tatum will have to play the way they did in the 2018 Playoffs to accommodate for the lack of talent the Celtics have, and after how poorly they played last year, this could be an unreasonable ask. Instead of going out on the nights of back to backs, forcing shots, and not giving full effort, the two will need to be fully focused on winning. Last year might have served as a reality check for them. Maybe, they have learned to be less selfish, egotistical, and greedy. Hopefully, they have learned that they aren’t as good as they thought they were and will buckle down this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if both Tatum and Brown continue to be lackadaisical and arrogant en route to another mediocre year.
A lot of fans have said that the Celtics will be better than they were last year because, without Kyrie, the team will have better chemistry. This may be true. However, chemistry does not overpower a lack of talent. Without Horford, the Celtics got a lot worse on both sides of the ball this year. They have too many rookies and young players who are inexperienced but will need to be relied on majorly to win. Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Langford, Poirier, and Edwards should not be counted on to play important roles on the team.
Just because everyone on the team likes each other more now doesn’t mean that they will play better. Basketball talent will always be superior to chemistry and team relationships. If you don’t believe me, look at the 2017-18 Celtics. That is a prime example of a team that played really well together but did not have enough skill to get by LeBron and the weakest supporting cast of his career.
Let me know what you think, as always. How do you think the Celtics will do this year? Will they exceed expectations or underperform again?