As this is a Dallas Mavericks site, we mainly stick to covering the Mavericks. But since it’s the pre-season, we wanted to cover what we think about some of the other contending or playoff teams in the league. Now, we have the Boston Celtics.
The Boston Celtics rode their second half season turnaround all the way to the NBA Finals, where they were dispatched by the Golden State Warriors in six games. The Celtics made some in-season changes, moving on from guard Dennis Schroeder, and suddenly became the best defensive team in the league. After a late January loss to the lowly Portland Trailblazers, the Celtics only lost seven regular season games the rest of the way (one of those losses were to our Dallas Mavericks).
Of course, the Celtics have had an off-season with more turmoil than they could’ve imagined, between a weird trade rumor involving Jaylen Brown and the Brooklyn Nets, not to mention this disconcerting fiasco with coach Ime Udoka. It’s largely a question of whether or not it hovers over them of affects the team chemistry.
After all, they have a MVP candidate in Jayson Tatum. Tatum fans rightfully note he’s among one of the best scorers in the NBA. He’s an outstanding defender as well, making himself one of the premier two-way wings in a league where that position reigns supreme. He’s likely to be a fringe MVP player, the kind who gets discussed in podcasts but doesn’t make a real dent in the voting. But he proved to be a turnover machine in the playoffs, committing the most by a single player in a playoff run, ever. He seemed to fold in the Finals, though he was dealing with an injury which seemed to bother his shot at times.
Then there’s Jaylen Brown, one of the league’s most underpaid players relative to his on-court value and Marcus Smart is the skeleton key which makes it all work for Boston. Don’t agree on Smart being a sidekick? I get it. Al Horford is there, same with Derrick White, Robert Williams, and even Malcolm Brogdon. The Celtics are DEEP.
Boston has kind of depth that directly affected their run at the Finals and they have the roster to make it all the way to last series again. Dallas doesn’t have anywhere near this kind of depth, though they do have a cadre of players capable of being solid bench players and even a few back end starters. The wing-to-wing starter debate between Boston and Dallas clearly tilts the way of the Celtics, but Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Tim Hardaway are not slouches. It’s just that Boston’s got Tatum and Brown. They’re a go-to example for why it’s a wing-driven league.
The big man depth is a little more fun to consider, because it all hinges on what you think of Horford and Grant Williams. Robert Williams will be out to start the year and this could be quietly challenging for Boston. Grant Williams isn’t a traditional center and though Luke Kornet exists, I have a hard time envisioning him playing much with the rest of a very switchable roster.
I really hate that I like this Celtics team. This pains me a great deal, because the emotional fan in me thinks the Mavericks are better. That is in no small part because Dallas has owned Boston in recent games in rather dramatic fashion. But the Celtics just made the NBA Finals. There’s a reasonable path back, at minimum, for the Celtics to reach the second round of the Eastern Conference. While they have some clear, existential questions surrounding the team at the moment (and a Robert Williams injury), the frame of their team is incredibly strong. Expect East Coast Bias to be in full effect when national media discusses Boston, but at least it will be for good reason.