Last year, the Celtics were not even close to meeting expectations. Fresh off a Conference Finals appearance, Boston entered the 2020-21 campaign with at least 2nd round projections. During the season Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams all had serious injuries and the team was hit hard with players out due to health and safety protocols. They finished the regular season 36-36 and had the 7th seed. In the playoffs, they faced the Nets super team and lost in 5 games. They had a very busy offseason with limited resources and a brand new coaching staff. With this retool, I think the 2021-22 Celtics team will surprise people. Let’s take a look at who is new on this team:
Dennis Schroder– 2020-21 stats: 15.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.8 APG, 43 FG%, 33 3P%, 1.1 SPG
Josh Richardson– 2020-21 stats: 12.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 42 FG%, 33 3P%, 1.0 SPG
Al Horford– 2020-21 stats: 14.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.4 APG, 45 FG%, 36 3P%, 0.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Juancho Hernangomez- 2020-21 stats: 7.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 43 FG%, 32 3P%
Enes Kanter– 2020-21 stats: 11.2 PPG, 11 RPG, 1.2 APG, 60 FG%, 25 3P%, 0.7 BPG
Bruno Fernando– 2020-21 stats: 1.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.3 APG, 40 FG%
The Celtics essentially replaced Kemba Walker, Semi Ojeleye, Tristan Thompson, Tremont Waters, Tacko Fall, Jabari Parker, Evan Fournier, Carsen Edwards, and Luke Kornet for Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, Al Horford, Sam Hauser, Enes Kanter, Juancho Hernangomez, Bruno Fernando, and Brodric Thomas. They definitely lost a bit of offense, but added a lot more defense and more spacing for the Jays.
Dennis was the subject some jokes this offseason due to him reportedly turning down an $84M contract. Due to all the jokes, people forget just how good Schroder is. He was the runner-up for the 6th man of the year award in 2020 and is an extremely explosive offensive player. Old friend Al Horford isn’t as young as he once was, but he is still a versatile defender who is capable of spacing the floor for the Jays. Josh Richardson has had a couple rough years offensively, but he is an excellent defender. Juancho is known for his shooting, but he is also an excellent cutter and rebounder. Kanter will be asked to be the 3rd string center. With Robert Williams’ injury history, he will probably get a lot of playing time. His defense has never been great, but he is arguably the best offensive rebounder in the league.
What Will Be Different With This Team?
In the preseason, we saw almost instantly the different environment Ime Udoka is going to bring. He is a gritty coach who is not afraid to tell his players how it is. To every Celtics fans delight, he also absolutely hates when players stay back to complain to refs instead of going back on defense. Ime’s attitude and grit is already showing for this Celtics team and it is truly awesome to see.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown showed last year that this team can definitely be built around them. Brad Stevens saw that and added players to help ease the load for the Jays both offensively and defensively. Dennis Schroder can playmake and create his own shot and Al Horford is very capable of averaging around 15 PPG. Josh Richardson and Marcus Smart will be almost impossible to face defensively and they will help prevent the Jays from guarding the best player on the other team to preserve their energy for the offensive end.
Given the resources Brad Stevens had this offseason, he absolutely nailed this offseason. He gave the Jays more of an opportunity to be themselves, he helped the defensive woes, and hired a head coach that everyone likes. There is no chance this team will be worse than the one we saw last year. In fact, this team can make the NBA Finals especially with Kyrie Irving‘s status up in question.