Did the Boston Celtics get better because of Kyrie Irving’s departure?

There is a school of thought around team building that aims to add as much talent to a ball club as possible, with fit and chemistry being seen as issues to work out later. And when the Boston Celtics dabbled in that philosophy under former team president Danny Ainge, it came back to bite them in a major way with regard to the Kyrie Irving trade.

But it actually worked out okay in the end, with the Celtics managing to use some crafty moves to salvage the loss of Irving when he left in free agency, putting together the team we know today from the ashes of that misstep. And that got Boston included in a recent article highlighting squads that actually improved by getting worse on paper by Clutch Points’ Spencer See.

“After dramatically ending his partnership with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving landed in a promising Boston squad,” noted See.

“But despite the star power he brings, the Celtics didn’t really need him as injuries took a toll on Irving and Gordon Hayward,” he suggested.

“With the rise of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics emerged as an Eastern Conference threat even with Irving’s departure after the 2018-2019 season.”

While this is a very truncated version of how it all went down, it is also an accurate one.

Boston did pick up two regular season and playoff wins in Irving’s first season with the team, but then lost six more games in the Duke alum’s final season with the Celtics, the second-round loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs an exclamation point to end Irving’s tenure.

The regular season for 2019-20 was a little worse at 48-24 with Kemba Walker at the point in Irving’s stead, but the Celtics managed to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The season after that was shortened due to the pandemic to 72 games and saw the team get smacked by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, their season ending in a gentleman’s sweep as Walker’s knee limited his impact.

Things seemed grim enough for Ainge to decamp, and coach Brad Stevens took over as team president. But the bounceback was quick, with new head coach Ime Udoka getting the Celtics to the NBA Finals with Smart at the 1 and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown truly coming into their own.

It might not be the easiest series of events to summarize in the context See was working with, but whether you mean an immediate bump to postseason play or a longer arc to the Finals, in both contexts, we have to agree with the author’s perspective on the end of the Irving era in Boston.

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire