As of today, May 19, the Boston Celtics sit as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Before the NBA season was suspended, the Celtics seemed like they were poised to make a deep playoff run. With the ascension of both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics found themselves in a position that fans might not have imagined them being in a year ago.
The Celtics were set to match up with other Eastern Conference rivals, including teams like the 76ers and Raptors. I, like many other Boston fans, was excited to watch guys like Tatum, Brown, and Kemba Walker compete in the playoffs. This was going to be an exciting run for the team, considering how Boston would be regarded as underdogs during their playoff run.
As confident as I am to say that they’d beat both of those teams I mentioned above, I can’t say the same about Milwaukee. If the Celtics make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, I don’t expect them to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Milwaukee is destined to make the Finals and match up against a team out in LA.
The Celtics are RIGHT THERE, though. The Celtics are a legitimate Eastern Conference contender, but they’re one small piece away from being an NBA Finals contender.
In the NBA, you can’t win without a superstar. In fact, we’ve seen in recent years that some teams need more than one superstar to win it all. The good news for the Celtics is that they have two of those, and they have one on the come up. For years, all Boston fans have been listening to are trade rumors involving our young players and different superstars across the league. I can happily say that those times are behind us, for now.
The Celtics don’t need another superstar to reach the next level. They have Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to handle those roles, as well as Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward, who can both drop 20 points on any given night and play well on both sides of the court. It’s not another star player that Boston is missing. It’s another bench piece.
For months, I’ve been preaching and praying for Danny Ainge and the Celtics to trade for a solid bench piece. When I say a solid bench piece, I mean someone that can accept a role off the bench and drop 15/16 points a night while having an above-average three-point percentage.
Ideally, the player that would make the most sense is Davis Bertans from Washington. From what we’ve heard, Ainge tried to acquire Bertans at the trade deadline, but Washington coveted him too much to trade him for a pick or two. Bertans is set to be a free agent this offseason, so maybe Ainge held off to try to sign him in the offseason, although Washington did seem dead set on keeping him there long-term.
If the Celtics fail to acquire or sign a player similar to Davis Bertans’ abilities, they should look to fill the bench out with shooters and two-way players. Some players that come to mind are Marco Belinelli, Serge Ibaka, Rodney Hood, and Aron Baynes. I’m not saying the Celtics should, or even could sign all these guys, but filling out the bench with players of their abilities would take Boston to the next level.
It’s unfortunate because the Celtics bench had a lot of promise this past season. Grant Wiliams will prove to be a great role player. Tremont Waters should be the backup point guard next year. Unfortunately, Carsen Edwards couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean and struggled a ton from three. Robert Williams showed us more promise than ever but was injured for a large chunk of the season. Romeo Langford showed promise as well, but was also hurt for a good amount of the season.
The Celtics are a young team, and their bench is full of promising young talent. But sometimes, promising young talent isn’t good enough. Boston’s bench doesn’t even compare to those on the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, or even the Nuggets. The bench is Boston’s most significant weakness and needs to be addressed by bringing in veteran players and guys that can walk in, kick ass, and leave.
The Celtics are an Eastern Conference contending team. They’re fingertips away from being on the same level as Milwaukee or one of the LA teams. With a few small moves to the bench, the Celtics will make it to the next level. The starting lineup and our top guys are fine, so now it’s time to fill out the roster and make a serious run.
Photo: Michael Dwyer/Associated Press