Celtics

Boston’s 3 Offseason Needs

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The last time a Celtics offseason held this much uncertainty may have been after the hiring of Brad Stevens. The team had just gutted its roster and found itself entering a new era without some of the franchise’s most fabled legends.

This season, the Celtics might enter a new era once more. Their best player, Kyrie Irving, can opt out of the final year of his contract. In doing so, he could go anywhere else in the league, ending his brief stint in Boston.

Marcus Morris, who finished the regular season third in scoring on the team, could walk out the door too. Backup center Aron Baynes holds a player option, while Daniel Theis is a restricted free agent. By fall, the roster could look emptier and thinner than it has in years.

In this article I’ll explain what the Celtics need to do in order to assure they don’t take a massive step back entering next season. They have a bevy of offseason needs that can be addressed in the summer months. Plenty of other teams in the eastern conference are facing uncertainty, and none want to fall from the top. Here’s how the Celtics can prevent that.

1. Secure a Facilitator

The Celtics ran with Irving at the point this season. He played exceptionally well, averaging 23.8 points 6.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. Despite the fact that he performed so well on the court, Irving had a different impact in the locker room. Teammates have come out and said they don’t enjoy playing with Irving. Others complained about lack of playtime because of Irving’s presence.

Many players have shown their loyalty to the Celtics, but Irving hasn’t. Before the season started, he promised that if the Celtics would have him he would re-sign in Boston. Since then, he’s claimed that he owes nothing to anybody, and hasn’t shut down rumors about leaving Boston this summer.

The Celtics should move forward with a commitment to players who commit back to them. Signing a new point guard this summer would be a fantastic first step. Either way, one of Irving or Terry Rozier looks primed to depart, making point guard one of the team’s pressing offseason needs.

If Irving opts out and leaves on top of Al Horford choosing to sign a more team-friendly contract, the Celtics could sign a solid point guard. Ricky Rubio, who has a career average of 7.7 APG, has shown interest in Boston. A possible return of Rajon Rondo could boost ball movement and rebounding as well, or even a veteran like Darren Collison could benefit the team’s play.

The Celtics should focus on a facilitator to run the point and quicken the development of their younger players. Guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have shown steady growth over their first few years, but next year they could be relied on a lot more. Should Irving decide to leave, those two should start taking a lot of the shots that he’ll leave behind. The Celtics have built up an incredible amount of talent over the past few years, now they just need to take advantage of it in the best way possible.

2. Choose a Backup Big

The Celtics’ rotation down low might look different next season than it has in years past. Or it could look exactly the same. What’s important is that Boston decides which path to follow and sticks to it with unwavering certainty. Finding depth could become one of the team’s offseason needs if they cannot retain their current players.

As was mentioned earlier, both Baynes and Theis could find a new city to play in next season. Baynes has a player option and could walk for more money, and Theis is a restricted free agent. The Celtics need to decide what’s worth holding on to.

If Baynes decides to opt into the final year of his contract, the Celtics could sit tight with him. He plays with plenty of emotion, which Boston fans love. He’s a gritty player who draws off-ball charges and defends well in the paint. Offensively, there’s still plenty of work to be done, but Baynes knows his role and plays it well.

In just under 14 minutes per game, Theis managed to average 5.7 PPG on 54 percent shooting, grabbing 3.4 RPG in the process. His per 36 minutes numbers are closer to 15 PPG and 9 RPG, and Theis has proved that he’s a valuable asset off the bench.

Another option is Robert Williams III, who will be entering his second season in the NBA next year. Williams showed flashes of potential throughout the season when he got playing time, which was rare. He appeared in just 32 games this season, averaging 2.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 1.3 blocks per game (BPG). The Celtics could decide to roll with Williams off the bench next year, easing him into the league similarly to how they played Jaylen Brown a lot more in his sophomore season. Williams is a smart defender who can sky to the rim and take efficient shots on offense. He surprisingly fell to the Celtics late in last year’s draft, and Boston should take full advantage of the opportunity.

3. Find a Rebounder

This season the Celtics averaged 44.5 RPG as a team, good for 22nd in the league. They finished behind lottery teams like the Knicks, Timberwolves and Hawks. Before entering next season, the Celtics need to find an answer for one of their most apparent offseason needs.

The Celtics’ leading rebounder last season was Al Horford, who averaged 6.7 RPG. The Celtics haven’t had a player average more than nine rebounds each game since Kevin Garnett did it in the 2007-08 season — more than 10 years ago. This year, they have the chance to get another rebounder of his caliber.

Robert Williams III only played 8.8 minutes per game this season, but if his playing time increases, so might his stats. His per-36 numbers say he would grab 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes of playing time on the court, which is something the Celtics should explore. If Williams can grab rebounds, play solid defense and run on fast breaks, he’d be a solid option at starting center. Horford could be moved to the power forward spot, as he’s an undersized center to begin with and stretches the floor much better than Williams can.

Horford’s offensive arsenal allows him to start plays at the three point line. He’s shown that he’s capable of shooting the three as well as putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket. Leaving Williams in the paint to grab offensive rebounds or catch lobs isn’t a bad idea. He could also set screens in the pick and roll then crash the rim.

Regardless of if it’s Williams or somebody else, the Celtics need a solid rebounder. They were 20th in offensive rebounds per game last season, limiting their chances on the offensive end. Finding somebody to snatch boards on both the offensive and defensive sides could go a long way for the Celtics in the upcoming season. If Williams can step up in his second year, offensive rebounding could be the easiest of Boston’s offseason needs to address.

About Jared Penna

Jared was born and raised in central Massachusetts and is currently studying journalism at Quinnipiac University. Currently writes for TLSM's Celtics Lead branch.

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