It was a disappointing end to the 2020 NBA season for the Boston Celtics, as they were beaten in the Conference Finals by the Miami Heat. There was an expectancy going into that match-up that the Celtics were best placed to reach the finals for the first time in ten years.
However, it wasn’t to be, and their hard work to beat the Toronto Raptors in seven games was for nothing in the end. However, there were certainly enough positives that the Celtics could take from the playoff run that could see them emerge as realistic contenders in the NBA, just like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in NFL predictions.
New Stars Emerge
There were new stars born for the Celtics during the post-season, and there were none better than Jayson Tatum. Last season was the third one on the NBA for Tatum, and his stats in the regular season were higher than they were in the previous two seasons. Tatum averaged 23.4 points in the regular season, as well as three assists per game and seven rebounds. He managed to maintain that performance level in the post-season, as he averaged 25.7 points per game.
That tally was seven higher than the average he recorded for the Celtics in the 2018 playoffs. It wasn’t just the performances of Tatum that got the headlines, as Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker also impressed throughout. Brown highlighted during the post-season that he could be the man to lean on for the Celtics, as he averaged 21.8 points throughout the post-season.
There is a good chance when the NBA returns in 2021 that it will once again be played in a situation similar to that of what we saw during the bubble. It’s hard to argue against the Celtics being contenders in those circumstances, as they were dominant in the bubble. The Celtics won five of eight in the bubble during the regular season, which included a run of four wins on the bounce.
Those impressive performances continued during the playoffs as they didn’t lose their first game in the bubble until game three of the semi-final series against the Toronto Raptors. That impressive 6-0 record before that point highlights that another bubble scenario could actually benefit the Celtics more so than most of the other teams in the NBA.
Important Off-Season For Celtics
This off-season will be huge for the Celtics, as a productive summer will make them clear favourites in the Eastern Conference. The first and most important aspect that the Celtics must address is the long-term future of Tatum. It’s expected that he will sign a new extension, which means finding the right pieces around him will be vital.
The future of Gordon Hayward will hold the key for what the Celtics can do over the off-season. They could opt to trade him, as he has failed to reach the same level since he suffered injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2017. This will be the biggest factor that the Celtics need to address this summer and could be pivotal to their chances of competing for the NBA Championship next season.