Can the Celtics be a contender in the Eastern Conference?

Close up of Jayson Tatum, star player of the Boston Celtics.

Courtesy/Wikimedia Commons

Close up of Jayson Tatum, star player of the Boston Celtics.

Luke Moran, Crier Staff

The times they are a changin’, Celtics fans. Almost a month into the season, and things are a mix of highs and lows for the Green. After another offseason of change, the Celtics will try to forge their identity as the season progresses. 

The Celtics got a huge shake up this offseason when longtime President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge retired, and then head coach Brad Stevens was promoted to the role. After that, former Nets assistant Ime Udoka was hired to take over the bench duties. 

So far, people have questioned Udoka’s prowess as a coach. He has been reluctant to name a team captain, and has not been clear at all points during games. After Marcus Smart intentionally fouled late against Dallas, which led to a 107-104 loss to the Mavericks, Udoka said he needed to communicate better to the whole team. Not good. But the players seem to like and listen to him, and as a first year head coach there will be growing pains. So long as the star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to perform, they should be in good shape. 

The roster experienced significant turnover as well. Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker left for the New York Knicks, and Denis Schröder was signed to a low-risk, high reward deal. This roster turnover continues after consecutive offseason of losing players like Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. The Celtics will rely on the continuing development of their stars, the Jays, and that of young players like Rob Williams and Aaron Nesmith.  

The biggest factor for this team is Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. These two have developed into bona fide superstars, particularly Tatum. In the Celtics brief playoff trip last spring, Tatum had 2 games where he scored 50+ points, and already has 4 career games with 50+ points, doing it in less than half the time it took Celtics legend Larry Bird to do so. Tatum is special, and if the Celtics want to be a legitimate threat, he needs to continue to take the steps towards stardom, where he can carry a team and shoulder the heavy lifting. If he is capable of this, the Celtics will be able to hold their own. 

How will this team perform? Well, they should shock some people. Outside of the top heavy Brooklyn Nets, the Eastern Conference is wide open. As long as the Celtics are consistent with their play, they should be able to compete. That, however, has been the issue for this team since Stevens took over. They have been riddled with inconsistent play and half efforts, constantly blowing large leads. This has already happened this season, as they blew a 19 point lead to the Bulls on November 1. 

However, as this article is being written, they have won 4 of their last 5, including a 122-113 win over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, and appear to be on an upswing. The only hope is that they can continue to play this way and play good team basketball.