Factoring in full health, after all the trades, free agency, and what we’ve seen so far in Summer League, are the Celtics better now than they were last season?
Michael Pearce: Boston improved on defense with the Josh Richardson, Kris Dunn and Al Horford acquisitions, and they already had the firepower to be a good offensive team with Tatum and Brown. With the improvements on defense, the Celtics are better than last year in my opinion. Less star power, but more well-rounded and deep defensively, which is what they needed.
Andrew Doxy: Boston’s roster has more reliable and experience talent from spots 1 through 15 right now, so I’m inclined to say that at full health, the Celtics will be much better than they finished last season. The defensive potential of this team is outrageous; the team has players who can put the CLAMPS on at every position, and there are only three players out of 15 who stand out as minus defensive players, and they’re the lowest three players on the depth chart. On the other end, the Celtics still have a top-15 player in Jayson Tatum and a fellow 25 PPG scorer in Jaylen Brown. With better ball-handling off the bench between Josh Richardson and Dennis Schröder, I think this team is much more well-rounded and balanced than last year’s. It might not have the same on-paper ceiling as last year’s roster with Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, but this team certainly has a much higher floor.
Simon Pollock: Amen to the defensive depth, fellas. Lest we forget, Boston was a constant top-10 defense for five seasons straight. Then, last year happened. Brad Stevens’s first summer as a GM may not have landed the most prized free agents, but he has set the team up for becoming one of the best defenses in the league after a dismal year of inconsistency. I’ll hold out hope for another offensive leap from both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, along with improvements from some of the younger players (which feels like a reasonable hope). And in the meantime, I’m ready to root for a team that has significantly raised their defensive floor this season, which probably makes them better than they were last year.
Adam Spinella: The defensive points made by my colleagues are on point. But the question of whether the Celtics are “better” now is a difficult one. Several high-profile trades, sign & trade maneuvers and other moves under Danny Ainge lead to a high-stakes game of roulette atop the roster, one that lead us from Isaiah Thomas to Kyrie Irving to Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward to Evan Fournier.
Cap space and trade exceptions dictated moves that the C’s could make, and with such talented players involved in each, the fate of the roster hung within the balance of each asset they could drain. It felt like it was playing with fire, and hopefully what Stevens has done this summer puts an end to the high wire act. The Celtics roster doesn’t really appear better in the short-term when it comes to talent. They took back 90 cents on the dollar for each move that provided them financial stability and cap space in the future: the 16th pick, Kemba Walker and Tristan Thompson are more valuable to me than Dennis Schröder and Al Horford. I’d rather have Evan Fournier than Josh Richardson.
But it isn’t just about talent. Endure the talent changes and think about the flexibility that now comes: we aren’t bound by a long-term Fournier deal and got off an extra year of Kemba’s deal. We may not be better right away, but we will be in the long run.
Jeremy Stevens: The bar is .500. I think the Celtics can do better than .500. To call this team better than last year’s would be pretty bold, not to mention the East looks to be pretty well rounded. Swapping Kemba for Horford leads to similar challenges with managing minutes. The real difference maker here is defense, which should look much better with the return of Al Horford, the addition of Josh Richardson, and some of the younger guys getting a real off-season to develop for the first time. The roster changes might look like more responsibility has shifted to the Jays, but that’s really not the case, at least for the regular season. More vets and role players means having more guys who can step in for the occasional 20 point game when the Jays are struggling. The ceiling for this roster is hard to determine, but I’m confident that the floor will be higher.
Will Bjarnar: The Celtics aren’t exactly better. And they’re not necessarily worse. The better word might be... stationary? Stagnant? Static? Other synonyms beginning with “st”? It’s difficult to get a read on this team as it stands, which is why I feel like 1) there’s probably (hopefully) some in-season work to be done, and 2) as of right now, they’re in no better shape than they were last season, other than on the defensive end.
They swapped out consistent shot creation (Walker, Fournier) for advanced shot/on-ball denial (Josh Richardson, Al Horford), which isn’t a sign of regression, but more so a sign of where the front office felt its money would be better served. There were free agents that this team could’ve benefitted from throwing cash at, but none worth jeopardizing the immediate future and primes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — so Richardson, Horford, and the delightful surprise of Dennis Schröder it is. I, for one, am incredibly pleased with the idea of one year of the journeyman point guard (especially at this price point, though I pity the man’s agent). He’s a scorer who had some memorable, borderline-All-Star seasons in Oklahoma City from 2018-2020, and then made good on a decent fit with the Los Angeles Lakers as a third option on a roster that had 15 third options. On the Celtics, he’ll truly be that — a go-to scorer that can inherit some of the burden placed on Tatum and Brown when the going gets tough and the Marcus Smart starts Marcus Smart-ing. There’s no pressure here, either. Schröder benefits the Celtics by filling the point guard vacancy left behind by Kemba Walker, and the Celtics serve as a pit stop for Schröder, one I imagine he hopes is a stepping stone toward a bigger, long-term contract in the future. It’s not a match made in heaven, but it’ll be a perfectly serviceable marriage for a team not destined to finish any higher than the five seed in the East. And that’s generous.
So, in review: not better, not worse, but perfectly on course for the inevitable “Bradley Beal becomes pissy about his situation in Washington and values a friendship with Jayson Tatum over a chance at a much more feasible spot in the Finals elsewhere” narratives to fall into place... right?