As the NBA preseason is upon us and the season begins in just a few short weeks, it’s a good time to make heads and tails of the Boston Celtics roster after an extremely busy offseason. Several key players have been shipped elsewhere and many new faces will be donning the green and gold for the first time in 2021. Let’s take an in-depth look at the Cs roster and make a prediction or two along the way.
One of the biggest impacts on the roster, although not surprising, was the exit of G Kemba Walker in a trade with the New York Knicks. He was joined earlier this offseason by former Celtic Evan Fournier and now on opening night, the Cs will have to face their former teammates at Madison Square Garden. Walker’s chronic knee issues made it difficult for him to ever have the impact on the Celtics everyone expected and it felt like he spent as much time not playing as he did suiting up. I had high hopes for his Cs tenure, but now he has a fresh start in the building he dominated as a member of the UConn Huskies.
With the absence of Kemba, the Celtics needed to add to their guard depth this offseason and they did by bringing in G Josh Richardson and G Dennis Schroder. Schroder is a fascinating get because he wrongly bet on his value on the open market and turned down a big option with the Los Angeles Lakers. His salary is a steal and I believe he will be motivated to prove himself and earn back the big money contract, which only helps the Cs. Richardson and Schroder join returnees G Marcus Smart, G Payton Pritchard, G/F Jaylen Brown, G/F Aaron Nesmith, and G/F Romeo Langford as backcourt players on the roster. The Cs also brought in young guards Theo Pinson and Garrison Mathews and 3-year veteran Ryan Arcidiacono, although I’m not sure if any of the latter group will make the roster.
In the front court, the Celtics parted ways with C/F Tristan Thompson who was generally a huge disappointment in his short time with the team. There weren’t a lot of career highlights while wearing the green jersey and with the rise of Robert Williams and the return of C/F Al Horford and C Enes Kanter, there wasn’t a spot for him on the roster. The Cs also brought in F Juancho Hernangomez who probably has the edge on a roster spot, while C/F Bruno Fernando, F Sam Hauser, and F Juwan Morgan will need to really compete to be on the final 15. The new guys join F Grant Williams and F Jayson Tatum as a pretty solid group. One storyline I’m interested in watching closely this year is whether Al Horford can return to form and be an important piece of the roster. He struggled significantly in Philadelphia, but by all accounts loves Boston and is really excited to be back.
While there are certainly mixed feelings on this Celtics roster, I think the X-factor addition this offseason was head coach Ime Udoka. By all accounts he is a well-respected coach who will want this team to be tough and fierce on the court like his personality and that identity could really help this team in 2021. I don’t know if the Celtics got markedly better on paper this offseason, but they have a bunch of guys that have the potential to lift this team in the standings and make them better than some think. A motivated Schroder can distribute the ball and Richardson can find his shot in order to compliment Brown and Tatum, while an improved front court can take some pressure off and make them a better team overall. If they can gain a toughness from Udoka, this team could have a really solid season.
5th Place in the Eastern Conference, 46-36
I think many analysts are too low on the Celtics this year. They certainly aren’t nearly as good as the top teams in the conference, the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks, and are at least a tick below the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks, but I think they can be better than the Philadelphia 76ers with their Ben Simmons drama. That puts them in the 5th spot in the Eastern Conference for me, although I actually think they could sneak into 4th if everything went perfectly (or things went poorly for other teams). On the flip side, I wouldn’t be shocked if they dropped to 7th or 8th, where many others have them pegged. There are so many X-factors that we have yet to see play out with several new pieces and a new coach, but why not be more optimistic at this point in the year?