Celtics

Celtics Face Continual Doubts in Championship Pursuit

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After the Boston Celtics lost game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, the franchise found itself with some hard-hitting questions to answer. As a result, The Lead’s Eric Tartaglia and I offered some potential answers to these questions.

Close to a month later, Boston might have even more questions than they had before.

Trading Marcus Smart might have been painful for the franchise, but it might have also been just as necessary. The Defensive Player of the Year proved to have taken a step back on that end this past season and Kristaps Porziņģis is an interesting experiment for the Eastern Conference contenders.

While decisions have also been made on Joe Mazzulla’s staff, these don’t resolve all the situations the Celtics face.

In fact, some decisions have led to even more doubts about the team moving forward. Moreover, the lack of answers on some pressing topics creates even more doubt.

The Jaylen Brown Extension

Arguably the biggest question the Celtics had this offseason revolved around Jaylen Brown. As a result of his All-NBA 2022-2023 season, Brown is eligible for an extension that’s close to $300 million. Despite some debate among the fanbase of whether the All-Star guard deserves that kind of money, the team has shown no indication that anything lower than the max will be offered.

And yet, why is the deal not done?

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that both the team and player are interested in getting the deal done, but there are details that still need to be negotiated. As a result, Windhorst described the potential deal as “fragile”. While players like Tyrese Haliburton, LaMelo Ball and Desmond Bane have gotten their respective max deals done, Boston has yet to secure its franchise cornerstone.

According to Windhorst, negotiations might continue to carry out until the team concludes other business. Specifically, the team could still be interested in trading away Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon.

There will be a cloud over Boston until they finally offer Brown the contract he’s looking for. Only after locking the star down — and making him happy — will they be able to actually move on from last year’s drama.

However, Brown is not the only Celtic who could return to the team.

Free Agency So Far

The free-agency period for the Celtics has been lackluster. After acquiring Kristaps Porziņģis, Boston’s first course of action was to extend the big man.

The only actual free agents the Celtics have signed so far are Oshae Brissett and Dalano Banton, both on team-friendly deals. Brissett and Banton should be able to play a role with the team from time to time; however, neither of them should be considered more than just flyers on players with interesting skillsets.

Moreover, no one should be surprised if the project fails, and both fall out of the rotation.

With most of the cheap veteran players already signing deals, Stevens is running out of options. Grant Williams has departed for Dallas. Despite Williams entering the season as a starter, he struggled to shoot and fit in Joe Mazzulla’s system, resulting in Mazzulla favoring lineups with Sam Hauser as the season went along.

Regardless, there is a clear fit here for a player like Williams. Failing to find a replacement will be yet another question for the team to answer.

Health Concerns

In theory, the trade for Porziņģis was supposed to resolve a big question. With an aging Al Horford and injury-prone Robert Williams III, Porziņģis was meant to help strengthen the big-man rotation. However, his injury-prone career might prove to be just as dangerous as the players the Celtics already have.

KP played a total of 65 games last season and arguably led the Wizards as its best player. Still, the one-time All-Star has a history of missing games because of injuries. Throughout his career, the 27-year-old has missed games due to knee, ankle and heel issues, as well as a torn ACL.

Boston is now betting on the health of three players that most would recommend betting against. This does not even take into consideration the aforementioned Brogdon.

Despite playing in 67 games during last year’s regular season, Brogdon also suffers from a bad injury history, having only played 75 games in a season once (his rookie year with Milwaukee in 2016). After he got to Indiana, small injuries started pilling up. Eventually, Brogdon missed over 40 games in his last season as a Pacer with pain in his Achilles.

Boston trading for him was always a gamble. So far, it has arguably been a success. Nonetheless, even after his second healthiest season yet, Brogdon got hurt in the playoffs and looked limited for the Celtics. These are not concerns that only Boston recognizes, as the injuries are the reason why the Clippers reportedly backed out of trading for him.

As a result, Boston instead traded Smart— losing one of their more durable players instead of Brogdon.

Outlook

The Celtics have had an interesting offseason so far. Despite it not being a net negative, there is still work to be done.

Boston is starting to look thin, despite their depth being a calling card last year. What’s more, what little depth they have is in constant danger of injuries or too unproven to trust.

At the moment, the Celtics’ roster includes:

Guards: Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, Payton Pritchard, Dalton Banton

Wings: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Sam Hauser, Jordan Walsh, Oshae Brissett

Bigs: Kristaps Porziņģis, Robert Williams III, Al Horford.

With the destinies of Brown still to be determined, the Celtics need to continue working. Every answer has raised more questions, and the future of the team is unclear. Even without taking into consideration the team’s interest in trading for Damian Lillard, the roster is plagued with doubts.

Porziņģis and the new assistant coaches add some interesting elements to the team that will shake up the rotation for the season, but it’s not enough. Management needs to start making sure that the team has a solid eight-man rotation.

The alternative? Potentially, another disappointing season where the team fails to add its 18th banner.

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About Jesús Feliciano-Batista

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