So far, this has been a wild off-season for the NBA. With key players like LeBron James, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan, and DeMarcus Cousins changing teams, there have been a lot of changes since the end of the 2017-18 NBA season. But what about the Boston Celtics?
A Recap of the Boston Celtics Off-Season
Without digging too deep, it may seem as if the Celtics haven’t made many moves, but general manager Danny Ainge has accomplished exactly what needed to be done. The Celtics were already in good shape with a young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, surrounded by stars like Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Al Horford, so making too many changes would have been detrimental.
Re-Signing Key Free Agents
After the Celtics’ elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals, Ainge stated that his main goal this off-season was to resign key role players Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. On Day 1 of NBA free agency, Ainge completed part of his goal by re-signing the 31-year-old Baynes to a two-year, $11 million contract.
Re-signing Smart would prove to be much more difficult. The Celtics extended Smart’s qualifying offer of $6 million for one year, making him a restricted free agent. This meant that the Celtics would be able to match any offers sent to Smart. Smart believed that he was worth more than the qualifying offer, so he held out. As fewer and fewer teams had money to sign him, it became clear that he would either have to accept the qualifying offer or hope that the Celtics offered him a long-term deal. In the end, the Celtics offered Smart a four-year, $52 million contract, which Smart happily accepted. Smart was a key piece of Boston’s defense and was considered a “sign-at-all-costs” player by Ainge.
Going into the 2018 NBA Draft, the Celtics held the 27th pick. As with every year, Celtics fans threw rumors around that the Celtics would trade up, but that did not happen. When the Celtics were on the clock, they selected Robert Williams, a big man from Texas A&M. Williams is a player with a lot of talent but he slipped in the draft due to concerns of his immaturity. Those concerns soon became a reality, as he missed his introductory phone press conference by sleeping in. Celtics fans gave him the benefit of the doubt but were once again disappointed as he missed his flight for the NBA Summer League. Williams has a lot of potential, but his immaturity could definitely be a problem. Luckily, he is surrounded by one of the best coaching staffs in the NBA.
Filling in the Gaps
Although the majority of the roster will remain the same, the Celtics chose to not re-sign or to release some players. Among those players are Greg Monroe, Shane Larkin, and Abdel Nader. With an open roster spot, the Celtics signed overseas veteran Brad Wanamaker. Nader was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Rodney Purvis. This trade saved the Celtics $450,000. It is expected that the Celtics will immediately waive Purvis and sign Jabari Bird after his outstanding performance at the NBA Summer League.
During the 2017-18 season, both Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis suffered season-ending injuries. Although the injuries really weakened the roster’s depth, Hayward’s was somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it allowed Tatum and Brown to really develop. Hayward and Theis have both been recovering and will be good to go at the start of the 2018-19 season. Hayward recently released a video of him playing, and he looks good. He also released a statement saying that he dunked for the first time since the injury, and it felt natural.
The Celtics are in good shape for the upcoming season. Boston was able to maintain the star-studded roster they had last year while also making a few minor improvements. With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, it would be surprising if any Eastern Conference team other than the Celtics made it to the NBA Finals in 2019.
Boston Celtic guard Marcus Smart (L) fights for the ball with Emporio Armani Milano guard Krunoslav Simon during their NBA Gloabal Games match Emporio Armani Milano VS Boston Celtic on October 6, 2015 at the Mediolanum Forum in Assago. (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)