If you can believe it, the NBA season is just around the corner. That’s a fact. And since it’s been forever since we’ve seen half of the league in action, we had an idea. In the spirit of reminding ourselves that time is moving forward, let’s look ahead to the 2021 NBA Season, team-by-team. So let’s dive in and talk about the Boston Celtics.
The Boston Celtics
2020 Record: 48-24
2020 Finish: 5th in the NBA, 3rd in the Eastern Conference
How It Started
Coming off the toxic 2018-19 season allowed the Celtics to enter last year with much lower expectations. They began the season with only the ninth-best odds to win the championship, which reflected the team not being viewed as a true contender.
The Celtics started off hot though, winning 10 of their first 11 games, and kept that momentum for much of the season. The COVID-19 stoppage ended much chance Boston had for overtaking Toronto for the #2 seed, but they still entered the playoffs in a good spot.
The Celtics swept the Philadelphia 76ers (who were without Ben Simmons) in the first round and got Toronto for the second round. After seven hard-fought games, the up-and-coming young Celtics were victorious over the defending champs.
This seemed like a corner had been turned for Boston, and they entered their third Eastern Conference Finals in four years thinking it was their time.
This wouldn’t be the case, as the Celtics showed their inexperience in the finals minutes of multiple games and lost to the Miami Heat in six games.
How It’s Going
The Celtics saw another former All-Star max contract player walk out the door as Gordon Hayward signed a four-year $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. The Celtics were able to turn Hayward’s departure into a sign-and-trade and received a $28.5 million Traded Player Exemption. This is the biggest TPE in NBA history and Boston has a calendar year to use it.
Signing rising star Jayson Tatum to a five-year max extension was the other major move of the offseason for the Celtics. This was a no-brainer for GM Danny Ainge and should make Boston fans happy for several years.
Ainge also filled out the rest of the roster with big man Tristan Thompson (a starter on a championship team) and back-up point guard Jeff Teague (a former All-Star). The team drafted sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith and guard Payton Pritchard in the first round.
The Teague and Pritchard additions will be even more important than fans may have expected as All-Star Kemba Walker will miss a significant portion of the beginning of the season with a knee injury.
The Celtics currently are tied with Philadelphia for the fifth best odds to win this season’s championship. They have arguably the best pair of players under 24 in Tatum (7th best MVP odds this year) and Jaylen Brown (expected to make his first All-Star team).
The future in Boston remains bright and enviably by most of the league. However, the loss to Miami still stings and with improved Milwaukee and Brooklyn teams it’s difficult to pencil Boston in for another ECF appearance, especially with Walker’s injury concerns.
The early look at the team in two preseason games has not offered much room for optimism either. This season’s outlook could look much better very quickly if Ainge is able to use the TPE on a difference maker (Aaron Gordon?). We’ll just have to wait and see.
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