Following an upsetting elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers in game 7, the Boston Celtics are out for vengeance in the 2018-19 season. The Celtics could not catch a break last season as numerous injuries kept Boston from playing at full strength. In the first quarter of the first game of the season, Gordon Hayward went down hard with a season-ending injury. Later on in the year, Kyrie Irving suffered a facial fracture and had to wear a mask for part of the season. Then, Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending knee injury. After that, Marcus Smart couldn’t control his temper when he punched a picture frame, which caused glass shards to shred the tendons in his right hand. The final blow came right before the playoffs when Kyrie Irving announced he would need surgery on his knee. After a long off-season, the Celtics are at full health, and ready to take on the league at full strength. Here is the Boston Celtics season preview.
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Boston Celtics Season Preview
What Worked Last Season
After a lot of key players went down, Boston’s bench really had to step up, and they did just that. Terry Rozier had a breakout year, improving in almost every category. He truly evolved into a new player. In 26 minutes per game, he averaged 11.3 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. This was a huge jump from Rozier’s stats in the 2016-17 season, where in 17 minutes per game, he averaged 5 points, 2 assists, and 3 rebounds. Going into his contract year, expect Rozier to perform better than ever. Other role players like Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris also stepped up to help the team make a deep run in the playoffs.
The young pair of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown emerged as stars in the league last season. Tatum, a Rookie of the Year contender, averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, all while shooting a solid 48% from the field. Jaylen Brown also had a tremendous season, improving a lot since his 2016-17 rookie season. Brown averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. The athletic wing tandem of Tatum and Brown is going to be a huge threat in the league for a long time.
Star veteran Al Horford also stepped up last season. He emerged as the leader of the young Celtics team. In 32 minutes per game, Horford averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. The 32-year-old big man has become a father figure of the young roster, as the average age of the Celtics is 25. Big Al needs to continue to lead the team and help the younger players develop.
What Needs Improvement
The biggest thing is that the team needs to stay healthy. A healthy Celtics roster could compete with any other team in the league. With a potential starting line up of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford, not many teams in the league have the ability to compete with them. The biggest hole in the roster is with big men. Rebounding has been a problem with the Celtics, as Boston has adopted a ‘small ball’ mentality, meaning they play with more athletic wing players rather than a traditional big man. Consistency was also a problem last season. Key players like Rozier and Smart struggled to stay consistent at some points last season, and that really hurt the team down the stretch. Instead of trying to shoot out of a slump, they need to look to pass instead.
Not much changed during the off-season, but that is not a bad thing. Shane Larkin and Greg Monroe were not offered a contract extension and eventually left Boston. Abdel Nader was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Rodney Purvis, whom the Celtics soon released as well. Jabari Bird was offered a roster spot, but after recent events where he was accused of assault, kidnapping, and strangulation, it is unlikely he will be a member of the Celtics for the upcoming season. The Celtics signed 21-year-old guard PJ Dozier on a one year deal. Also signed was Euro League veteran player Brad Wanamaker. Both players can contribute to the Celtics in unique ways, but don’t expect them to play too many minutes.
The Celtics also drafted rookie Robert Williams with the 27th pick in the NBA draft. Williams fell in the draft due to concerns of his maturity, but the Celtics decided to take the risk. Williams quickly made those concerns real as he missed his initial welcoming press conference, as well as his flight to the summer league. Since then, according to coach Brad Stevens, Williams has been on time to everything and has really shown improvements in his maturity and his game.
2018-19 Season Prediction
Last year, we were accurate in predicting that the Celtics would lose to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. All eyes will be on the Celtics this season, as it will be the first time people will get to see this roster at full strength. The Celtics are the clear frontrunners for the Eastern Conference, as the competition is not as strong as the Western Conference. Expect Boston to play either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. Either way, the Celtics will be in the NBA Finals this season, and will most likely play the Golden State Warriors. Barring injuries, the Warriors and the Celtics will go at least 6 games in the Finals but expect the loaded Warriors roster to win it all again.
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