Three offseason priorities for the Boston Celtics

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It was a Cinderella season for the ’21-22 Boston Celtics. The club shocked the world by reaching the NBA Finals, achieving one of the most spectacular in-season turnarounds in recent memory. It was earnest, exciting, and truly unexpected. When the clock ultimately struck midnight, however, the Celtics came up short. For basketball fans in the Hub, this fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending.

All the same, reaching the Finals and going toe-to-toe with the dynastic Golden State Warriors is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Teams led by such young stars rarely summit the mountain the way the Celtics did. Boston deserves immense praise and credit.

Hopefully, everyone in the organization will take some time to reflect and take a well-deserved bow.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

From there, the hard work begins anew. The Celtics might have muscled their way into the Eastern Conference’s upper echelon, but that doesn’t mean success is guaranteed moving forward.

The offseason has begun, and the moves teams make in July and August could have a ripple effect the following May and June.

It’s time for President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens to look ahead — here are a few priorities for the Boston Celtics this offseason:

Find the right point guard

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It was an epic defense that took Boston so deep in the postseason. Even when the Celtics were spinning their tires on offense, the team could still control the pace and flow of the game by locking in on the defensive end. It was a massive asset and seemingly one head coach Ime Udoka will rely on for the foreseeable future.

In the Finals, though, Boston matched up with an equally impressive defense. Golden State also employed a switch-heavy scheme with lots of high-caliber individual defenders. The Celtics had their key competitive advantage nerfed in a big way. Boston’s offense deficiencies weren’t just elevated as a result but compounded because the Warriors were so effective defensively.

Here, the Celts missed having a traditional point guard. Marcus Smart averaged just 5.0 assists per game in the Finals, while Derrick White logged just thirteen assists for the entire series.

For much of the regular season and the playoffs, Boston didn’t need a table-setting point guard. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could generate enough offense to overpower opponents. In the Finals, however, neither Tatum nor Brown knew what to do with Golden State’s defense. They stalled and sputtered, coughing up turnover after turnover after turnover. The Celtics needed a quarterback.

Tatum and Brown are 24 and 25 respectively. That they played young under the brightest of lights isn’t all that shocking. When they eventually hit a wall, Boston didn’t have the right wind beneath their wings, they didn’t have the necessary infrastructure to account for their stars coming up short.

Incorporating a traditional point guard as either a key or secondary offensive tenant will be important for Boston to alleviate this problem forward, even as the Jays mature.

That isn’t to say that neither Marcus Smart nor Derrick White could occupy that role. Certainly building from within a championship-level core is easier than window shopping for some other point guard, and Brad Stevens will assuredly do his due diligence and make a few phone calls. But whether it comes from the front office or the coaching staff, the Celtics needed a point guard to run the offense and keep the offense flowing.

Bring in a back-up big man

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Al Horford and Robert Williams proved a very formidable frontcourt throughout the postseason for the Celtics. The dreaded “double-bigs” pairing finally clicked, and this much raw athleticism and poise helped anchor Boston’s snarling defense. Even in the Finals, Horford and Williams were an excellent complement to one another.

Unfortunately, though, Robert Williams’ health and conditioning continue to be question marks for the Celtics. Perhaps with some rest and time, these will be problems of the past, but these caveats have been consistent for his entire playing career. There’s a reason he’s on such a team-friendly contract. Horford, meanwhile, just turned 36. What he did this postseason was extraordinary, but odds are he’ll regress to the mean a little bit next year. Boston needed a third big man who could play meaningful minutes in the Finals, and that will be true next season as well.

Daniel Theis just didn’t have the right athleticism to log consistent burn. Grant Williams is too small to play the five for very long. Luke Kornet seems like a nice person. Enes who?

Boston shouldn’t break the bank bringing in a big man who may never start a game. But finding a more reliable front-court player to take pressure off of Williams and Horford should be a top priority in the offseason.

Stay the course

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Boston committed way, way too many turnovers in the Finals. They couldn’t find any consistent rhythm on offense. Meaningful adjustments were few and far between. A rookie coach, a non-point guard point guard and two very young star players walked into a bar. They didn’t walk out as champions.

The Celtics got rooked against a Warriors team that just won a fourth title in eight seasons. While Boston continually shot itself in the foot, Golden State never relented. They went about their business, smoothly incorporated necessary changes, and didn’t blink when the going got tough. Never, ever underestimate the heart of a champion.

This Celtics team has the talent. It has the systems and institutional structure to make another run at Banner 18. It has two dynamic two-way wings just stepping into their primes.

Sure, there will need to be some roster tweaks, and Ime Udoka’s offense needs a little more creativity. Giannis looms large in Milwaukee, and the East will be just as tough or tougher next season. Tatum and Brown have some growing up to do.

The blueprint for the 2022-23 Boston Celtics isn’t a complicated one, however. What the Celts did this season was extraordinary, but a fairy tale of their own design. The didn’t just catch lightning in a bottle — it was manufactured and nurtured by everyone in the organization. The top offseason goal for Boston should be to reflect on its successes and do whatever it takes to run it back next year.

 

This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook!

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