Boston Denied Return Trip to Finals
It is hard to describe the Boston Celtics this season. They were the favorites in most NBA title odds and remained so even after former head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for violating team policies.
Joe Mazzulla would take over the team, headlining NBA news, jumping from low assistant to head coach. In the early part of the regular season, the Celtics were dominant. Boston was on pace to have the best offensive rating ever, with the team being solid value for NBA picks.
Then, after the All-Star break, the team, for some reason, hit a wall. The Celtics had a 42-17 record before the break and went 15-8 after, with some weaknesses being exposed. Making 3-pointers would often be a factor on if the Celtics won, affecting how NBA betting viewed them. That would be a big reason for their exit from the playoffs.
Sportsbooks favored the Celtics at the start of all three of their series, but they would find a way to make it difficult. In the first round, Boston had a 3-0 series lead over the Atlanta Hawks but were forced into a Game 6. Facing the Philadelphia 76ers was a little different and Boston had to win the final two of the seven-game series. Finally, the Miami Heat had a 3-0 lead against the Celtics, who managed to battle back force a Game 7, only to get blown out at home.
The Celtics should still be okay with most of the key pieces from the 2022-23 roster still under contract. However, with how the playoffs went and the expectations on this team after coming within one win of making it to back-to-back NBA Finals, there are some questions for NBA predictions.
2022-23 Season Record: 57-25
Status of Coach: Joe Mazzulla was surprisingly thrust into the head coaching job and managed to do a decent job, winning 57 games. There were a lot of bumps in the road, but that is expected from a rookie head coach.
Positions of Need For the Celtics
- Switchable Defensive Wing
- Spot-Up Shooter
Possible Free Agency Plan
For the most part, every key member of the Celtics is under contract for the 2023-24 season, and some are even locked in till 2025-26. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Robert Williams and Al Horford have contracts starting at $10 million and going up. That solid core of seven players are the team’s foundation while leaving some cap space if the Celtics want to push the luxury-tax boundaries.
However, two big questions are headlining the offseason. One is Brown’s contract extension, with next season possibly being his last in Boston. After making his first All-NBA team this season, Brown’s contract will be a lot, likely close to $50 million a year. He struggled in the playoffs, turning the conversation against Brown, who has already stalled extension talks.
The Celtics are expected to extend Jaylen Brown, per Brian Windhorst
“In talking to people on both sides, I think there’s a very good chance they’re gonna find ground on that.” pic.twitter.com/EF6GB1MfoA
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) May 30, 2023
However, it seems hard to believe that the Celtics won’t extend him unless they decide to trade Brown, which seems possible but unlikely. If the Celtics do trade Brown, it would be a massive shakeup, but could be the right decision in the long run, depending on who they get in return. Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal are among the names that have been brought up, but that seems like wishful thinking from NBA fans on Twitter.
The other big question for this offseason is whether Boston is letting Grant Williams walk in free agency. He had averaged 25.9 minutes per game in the regular season, but that dropped to 17.7 in the playoffs, sitting out five games. It was clear last offseason when the Celtics did not pick up his option for 2023-24 that he would not be part of the team’s future plans. The likelihood of him returning, especially given his role in the playoffs, seems low, meaning Boston will need a replacement.
With Danilo Gallinari possibly picking up his $6.8 million player option, there is a chance the Celtics hope he can replace Williams. The issue is that Gallinari did not play at all this season due to a torn ACL and is not nearly the defender Williams is. On offense, Gallinari could be an upgrade, depending on how he looks after the injury.
Jae Crowder seems like the best option, being a reliable 3-point threat and solid defender. He also offers a lot of veteran leadership that this team needs and could be cheap since he’s hunting for a ring. The Celtics tried to trade for him at the deadline but could not get the deal done.
Finally, there is also the option of bringing Williams back. He will be a restricted free agent, meaning Boston can match any contract Williams signs.
First-Round Lottery Odds
Boston traded its first-round draft pick to the Indiana Pacers for Malcolm Brogdon. But they have the 36th pick in the draft, an early second-rounder that could be useful.
Possible Draft Plan
Predicting what player might be available in the top half of the second round could be difficult, especially with the possibility that some players could fall out of the first. However, it is easy to profile the player Boston will target. The Celtics will likely want someone who spent multiple years in college because they are trying to win now. Furthermore, they have to be a decent 3-point threat, with that being the cornerstone of the Celtics’ offense, and a somewhat reliable defender.
Two names that could appear are Jalen Wilson and Jaime Jaquez Jr. Both were leaders on teams in college that had success and can play either forward position. Each is also a threat from the perimeter and a solid defender.