NBA: What Happened To The Boston Celtics?

The Boston Celtics have had one of the more chaotic seasons compared to any other NBA franchise. After making three Eastern Conference Finals appearances in the past four NBA seasons, everyone expected the Celtics to be the next big dynasty in the league. Unfortunately, the franchise has regressed tremendously in the 2020-21 season, with a 36-36 final record that has landed them in the play-in tournament.

After missing the NBA Finals by only one game in 2020, no one expected the franchise to take such a dramatic turn in only a couple of months, but nevertheless it happened. With star shooting-guard Jaylen Brown out for the rest of the season after undergoing wrist surgery, the Celtics are most likely looking at an early exit from the post season and an uncertain future.

A Complicated Offseason and Roster Troubles:

Coming into the 2020-21 regular season, the Boston Celtics lost forward Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets in free agency. Hayward did a sign and trade deal for four-year $120 million with Charlotte, and Boston received a 2022 second-round draft pick in return. The deal also allowed Boston to create a $28.5 million trade exception, which is the biggest traded-player exception in league history.

Despite getting the trade exception and draft pick, Boston could have made a sign and trade deal with the Indiana Pacers instead, which was where Hayward initially wanted to sign, but Boston general manager, Danny Ainge chose not to agree to the deal. The potential sign and trade would have landed the Celtics two-time NBA blocks leader, Myles Turner, which could have filled their hole at the center position.

Losing Hayward and not landing a good player to replace him was a costly mistake for the Celtics, but it wasn’t the only one. Over their recent successful seasons one thing the Celtics always did well was having roster depth. This season however, the team had one of the weakest benches in the entire league, so when the starters came out of the game, they never had very reliable players to support them.

They landed former all-star point guard Jeff Teague and center Tristan Thompson in free agency, but Teague was way past his prime and Thompson never fixed their problems. After 34 games the Celtics traded Teague to the Orlando Magic for guard Evan Fournier to help their bench depth, but it took longer than expected for the 28-year-old to find chemistry with the team.

Fournier’s best game with the Celtics came on April 2nd against the Houston Rockets, when he scored 23 points, including a career high seven 3-pointers. He also scored 20 of his points in the first quarter without missing a single shot. Ainge traded for Fournier to help strengthen the team’s bench, but with Jaylen Brown going down, Fournier will now have to start moving forward.


Injuries and Health:

One of the biggest reasons why the Celtics never found their footing this season was because of injuries and key players missing time for different reasons. All-star point guard Kemba Walker missed the beginning of the season because of a stem cell injection he received in his left knee back in October. When he finally got on the court, Walker struggled to get back into form and that was only the beginning of the team’s health struggles.

The Celtics’ best player Jayson Tatum, also missed time in January, along with a couple other players on the roster, after testing positive for COVID-19. Tatum admitted that he was still dealing with the effects from the virus almost three months after he initially contracted it. It took Tatum most of the season to feel 100% again, as he had to take his inhaler before every game to help open his lungs during long playing stints. Before the virus, Tatum had never used an inhaler before.

What’s Next?

The Boston Celtics are in one of the strangest situations in the league. In July 2019, Danny Ainge had signed Walker to a four-year maximum contract to fill the void left by Kyrie Irving, who left in free agency to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Ainge signed him to be the main guy for the Celtics, but with Tatum and Brown’s simultaneous development into star players, it has left Walker’s role somewhat undecided.

If the Celtics want to turn things around for next season, several moves have to be made this summer. It is clear that Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are the cornerstones of this franchise, so Ainge will look to build around those two. Both players have signed contract extensions that will keep them In Boston for the foreseeable future, so Ainge has no choice but to look at this as a win-now situation.

Ainge has been criticized over the past couple of seasons for being scared to make any big trades, especially since the Celtics had acquired a lot of trade assets in the past which never got used. If the Celtics want to return to prominence and rejoin the top heavy contenders of the Eastern Conference, there is a high chance Ainge finally pulls the trigger on a blockbuster trade, potentially including Kemba Walker.


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