Celtics fans are currently mourning their exit from the NBA Playoffs in devastating fashion. However, they begin to look ahead to what is sure to be an exciting season next year. All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving will return. Young guns Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will gain another year of experience. It is going to be a fun year once again. Let’s get into some predictions about what I think will happen over the course of next season.
Danny Ainge Stands Pat at the Draft
Rumors have it that the Celtics are very interested in trading up in the draft. The target is apparently Mo Bamba, a 7-footer out of Texas. Luka Doncic is also being mentioned. While it is certainly an intriguing prospect, expect Danny to make his selection at number 27, where they currently sit.
These reports are indicating that in order to move up to get a projected top-5 pick, the Celtics would have to surrender this year’s pick and one next year, as well as either Brown or Rozier. I don’t believe that is a package Ainge is willing to part with. If he can swindle someone into another poor deal (Remember last year’s draft trade?), it’s possible we’ll see the Celtics selecting high. Otherwise, expect Boston to look for talent late in the first round. Potential targets include Donte DiVincenzo from Villanova and Mo Wagner from Michigan. Danny has his pieces now, and is ready to develop them rather than selecting another top young player at a cost.
Aron Baynes Returns
Baynes was a serviceable big man in the Celtics’ rotation during the 2017-18 season. He averaged six points and 5.4 rebounds in 18 minutes played, and turned into an adequate deep shooter during the team’s playoff run. He also got dunked on quite a few times, but we don’t have to talk about that. Overall, he was a nice piece of the team this year. He’ll draw some interest from other teams as he enters free agency, but look for the Celtics to attempt to re-sign him. This season his deal was worth $4.3 million, and the team should have no problems with giving him that sum and more to keep him for next year. The team needs a big, physical center who mans the middle and provides help on defense.
Marcus Smart Sticks Around
Smart has become nearly indispensable during his four years in Boston. Albeit one of the most frustrating players to watch at times, his hustle and grit have become hallmarks of this Celtics team. He averaged ten points, five assists, and 3.5 rebounds this season, but the stat sheet never tells the whole story for Smart. He’s on the ground after every loose ball and shows no fear when taking charges. Smart is going to receive heavy interest from multiple teams and offers upwards of $15 million a year. However, he is a restricted free agent, and Boston can match any offer for him. Look for them to do just that. Smart, simply put, is a player that impacts winning, and the Celtics won’t just let him walk. Even if it requires going into the luxury tax, the team is going to retain Marcus Smart.
The Celtics Don’t Deal Until the Deadline…
Don’t anticipate the Celtics making another summer blockbuster deal. All of the pieces are in place now for a title run. We’ll (hopefully) get a full season from all of the team’s stars. The Celtics have no reason to keep flipping pieces and moving players when they haven’t even seen what this group is capable of when healthy. However, problems are inevitably going to arise down the stretch. Perhaps it will have to do with the number of touches the players are getting. Maybe there’s one player that simply does not mesh with the others. Or it’s possible that Danny Ainge hears about a player he’s interested in becoming available. There are a multitude of reasons why the Celts could make a move at the deadline this year, so look for them to do so.
…And That Deal Includes Terry Rozier
Rozier is the odd man out on the Celtics. He’s too talented to come off of the bench in the sixth man role, and there’s no way he gets a slot in the starting lineup unless another injury occurs. The team is going to be very deep this year. Smart, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye, and Baynes will all come off the bench, and it’s difficult to imagine that Brad Stevens utilizes a 10-man rotation. Rozier has the highest trade value of that group right now, and that’s why he’ll be the first one to be shipped out should that situation arise. It allows for more minutes for the other rotation players and creates more shots for them. Trading Rozier also gets the Celtics out of a sticky situation in the summer of 2019 when he is a free agent. Boston would much rather get a return on Rozier than to just let him walk. Expect Scary Terry to be at the forefront of trade rumors throughout the summer and the season.
Gordon Hayward is the Team MVP
In case you forgot what he brings to the team, watch any Hayward highlight reel. You’ll see how much talent he has and how he stands to benefit most next year. With Kyrie Irving dishing him the ball and Al Horford drawing defenders into the paint, Hayward will have endless opportunities to score. He averaged 22 points a game in his last year with the Jazz. He might not match that figure this year due to the number of players that are going to need shots (Irving, Horford, Tatum, Brown). However, he’ll do much of the scoring for the group. Look forward to watching him lead the team deep into the playoffs again next year.
Boston Gets Three All-Stars
It could be Hayward-Horford-Irving. It could be Hayward-Irving-Tatum. Really, it could be any combination of players from the starting lineup. The fact is there is simply too much talent on this roster to not have a trio of representatives at the All-Star Game next year. Last year, Irving and Horford got the nod. But with Jayson Tatum blossoming into a star, Brown continuing to develop, and the return of Hayward, at least three of them have to be recognized for their play.
The Celtics Bring Home Banner 18
Call it bias. Call it a homer take. Say anything you like about it. The Celtics will run the table in the East with ease, and then they’ll take home the title. The fact that Brad Stevens took this year’s lineup to Game 7 of the ECF is crazy. Throw in two stars, and it’s a no-brainer pick. Boston will have its own power core to match that of Golden State or another other Western Conference team. Combined with the coaching genius of Stevens, and the team becomes simply unstoppable. Prepare to bring out the duck boats when next June rolls around.
Clearly, the future is bright for the team no matter what happens this offseason or during the year. The NBA is a crazy league, and things happen at the speed of light. You can bet that it’ll be another season where you won’t be able to take your eyes off of this Celtics team. Buckle up, Boston fans, and get ready for another thrilling year.