Following the tumultuous NBA summer, the Boston Celtics enter the 2019–20 season with a young and fresh roster hoping to regain the momentum from their 2017–18 magical postseason run. Last year, poor team chemistry and sophomore slumps impeded the Celtics from legitimately competing for an NBA title. Kyrie Irving, who created a toxic locker room environment, has departed for Brooklyn in hopes of “running his own team.” General Manager and President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge countered the departure by signing Kemba Walker, an all-star point guard whose talent and attitude often get overlooked. However, even with Walker’s addition, NBA experts are expecting a mediocre season out of the “Big Green.” With new rookie additions and a weak Eastern Conference, the Celtics have the ability to exceed offseason expectations and make an unforeseen playoff push.
Ainge is famous for stockpiling draft picks — he covets them. During this year’s draft, the Celtics acquired four rookies: Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters. Looking to grab extra bench depth, the Celtics drafted three guards (Langford, Waters and Edwards) and one forward (Williams). The Celtics are well-known to give ample playing time to rookies — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown started most games in their respective rookie seasons. The Celtics needed a reboot; after last season’s collapse, the locker room needed fresh rookie faces. During the mid-season stretch, last year’s Celtics team struggled to create shooting opportunities. Langford and Edwards, however, are extremely capable of creating shots for teammates, especially Tatum, who struggles to find uncontested shots. As the season progresses, we Celtics fans hope to see major development and impact from the rookies.
For the past five years, the Eastern Conference has been known to be relatively bad; the top four teams are usually juggernauts, then the drop-off for the next 11 teams is absurd. In recent years, teams with near-losing records in the Eastern Conference make the playoffs. In the 2019 offseason, the already powerful Western Conference gained Kawhi Leonard, who left following an NBA Finals victory with the Toronto Raptors. The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers remain well-coached. However, both teams have a weak bench and no 3-point shooting. The Celtics have the ability this season to beat up on weaker teams, gain a high playoff seed and ride an easy path to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
Look, I know that the Celtics’ chances to reach the NBA Finals are relatively small; the Western Conference is unbelievable, and the 76ers and Bucks are both great teams in their own right. But the Celtics are capable of creating magic down the stretch. Gordon Hayward, Tatum and Brown will continue to develop, and hopefully, the rookies will create an impact and provide consistent scoring chances. In Brad Stevens we trust.