It’s weird to think about, but the past 4 years the Boston Celtics have made it to three Conference finals, and lost each time. The first two were surprising, but were difficult pills to swallow at the time still. You figured at some point they were bound to lose, but the allure of having a chance to win the championship makes you want to see if you can win it. This year hurts more, because the hope was real. This team had legitimate title aspirations, and even after tonight, still does heading into next season.
It’s really hard to believe how young this team is. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are 22 and 23, and yet they’ve been to this spot multiple times already. They are still relatively inexperienced, as we saw when they threw away yet another 4th quarter lead. Adding this experience to their resume will help their development. Playing as an underdog is different than playing as a team with title aspirations. Nobody on this team has really faced those expectations. The pressure is being expected to win is a significant burden, and we began to see that throughout the back end of these playoffs. Going through this allows them to build on it, and move forward as a team.
As for where to go from here, the Celtics need to keep developing. The core players will be more comfortable with each other after a full season, and can continue to develop. The two main areas that need to be addressed are the center position and a bench scoring presence. As much as Boston seems to enjoy him, it’s time for the Celtics to try to move Gordon Hayward to fill one of these needs. He’s not on the level of Brown and Tatum, and if Marcus Smart can continue to play like he did this postseason, you can’t really justify bringing him off the bench. Two possibilities Nathan brought up to me were Jusuf Nurkic or Myles Turner. Hayward could be a good enough piece to be atleast the basis of a deal. Daniel Theis had a really good season, but he’s not a starting center. And where other teams had some real knockdown shooters, it felt like this team missed someone like that to help steady the ship when shots stopped falling. A huge overhaul does not have to be done. But this off season is very important to dictating where this team goes in the future.
(Originally posted on September 27, 2020)