I posted my season preview article at 9:00 AM EST on Sunday. Roughly 3 hours later it was rendered largely obsolete. Or as some would say, OBE (overcome by events). I usually wait till the end of the season to review my preview, but so much has changed because of one move. So, let’s try this again, shall we?
Last Year’s Record: 57-25 (lost in ECF)
Key Losses: Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III, Grant Williams, Malcolm Brogdon, Mike Muscala, Danilo Gallinari
Key Additions: Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, Oshae Brissett, Dalano Banton, Jordan Walsh, Lamar Stevens
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
I think I covered the emotional side of saying goodbye to Marcus Smart in my other preview. So I’ll take a moment to say a heartfelt goodbye to Robert Williams III and a respectful thank you to Malcolm Brogdon who performed as well as we could have asked him to in Boston. I’m really going to miss rooting for Rob and really wish him all the best in Portland (which is going to be such a fun, young team to watch going forward).
With that out of the way, I’m excited for the Jrue Holiday era in Boston. I can’t help but feel like this deal wouldn’t have been completed with Danny Ainge at the helm. It isn’t like Ainge didn’t pull off significant moves. I just got the sense that he held his ground on value at the expense of opportunity costs. What the Celtics gave up for Jrue was perhaps a bit of an overpay. But sometimes it is worth paying a premium in order to equip your team during the right window of opportunity to compete for a championship.
I’m currently thinking of the offseason as a whole rather than grading individual moves in sequential order. Brad Stevens replaced Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon with Jrue Holiday (and perhaps some more minutes for Payton Pritchard). As much as I love Marcus, that’s an upgrade in the starting spot and a reasonable downgrade in the backup spot.
In addition, Stevens gave up Robert Williams and Grant Williams and replaced them with Kristaps Porzingis. Another consolidation move that ups the starting position talent level at the expense of depth.
Both moves make the team more top-heavy in talent and less deep in the 10-12 man rotation. There’s risk there and probably creates a need to add more depth at some point this year. But the upside is extremely high.
Note that there were draft picks acquired (via the Smart trade and draft night trades) and sent out (via the Jrue trade). I won’t say that they are a wash because there are a lot of valuation calculations that my feeble brain can’t process at this moment. But suffice it to say that Brad Stevens has generally treated first round picks as a means to acquiring veteran talent and got his money’s worth from them this summer (and still has more in the bag if he needs to make more moves).
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The funny thing is that the Celtics created a lot of questions by trading away Marcus Smart. Questions about leadership, ball handling, playmaking, and of course defense. With all due respect to Marcus, I think most would consider Holiday to be better at all of those elements (or at least close enough to call it a draw).
The Celtics can now still be a highly switchable, versatile defense that can attack opposing offenses in a myriad of different ways. They have smart ball-movers all over the court that can break down opposing defenses and make good decisions with the ball.
There’s a lot to love here, especially with the top 6 of Holiday, White, Brown, Tatum, Porzingis, and Horford. You would have to expect to see a lot of that group in the playoffs and time will tell which additional players step up into larger roles this year (likely Pritchard and Hauser but someone else is bound to be a pleasant surprise).
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Depth becomes an issue now, but it is worth noting that two of the four major injury concerns are now no longer on the roster. Brogdon and Rob Williams have historically had trouble staying on the floor. Holiday has been pretty consistently logged games played in the high 60’s and low 70’s. Porzingis is clearly the biggest risk factor and Horford’s age will continue to be a concern. So there seems to be a need for some more depth (apologies to Luke Kornet who is a solid regular season innings eater).
There’s also a lot of unknowns on the roster outside of the top 6. Odds are that some of them will pan out, but some simply won’t. The good news is that there’s still time to sort that before the trade deadline and potentially make another move before the most restrictive CBA rules kick in (we are now officially over the dreaded 2nd apron).
4. What are the goals for this team?
No change. Banners forever.
I will say that Brad pushed all-in (even more so than before) on this core of Tatum and Brown. The window has been propped open for at least another year or two.
I’ll stop short of saying now-or-never, but it feels like this is a VERY important 2 year stretch with a lot of pressure (and sometimes that’s a good thing). It is worth pointing out that a whole lot of that pressure is now squarely on Joe Mazzulla’s shoulders. He has all the tools he needs (including new assistant coaches). Time to put the players in position to thrive.
5. Conclusion and Bold Predictions
I’m going to stick with my record prediction of 58-24 and I’ll stick with my Championship prediction. Jrue just makes me more confident in both.
Who’s even more amped about this season? Let’s go!