Minor changes are needed, most of which were exposed in the Conference Finals loss to the Heat. But the Celtics are still moving in the right direction.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are 22 and 23, respectively. Larry Bird made his NBA debut when he was 23. Michael Jordan didn’t get to the Finals until he was 29. LeBron James won his first championship at 27. We feel as though Brown and Tatum should be farther along because it seems like they’ve been around for a while, but they’re not there yet.
Whether Brad Stevens is the right coach for this team remains to be seen, but it’s still too early to give up on him. This season was certainly an improvement over the Kyrie debacle. Of course we did see some questionable decision making in the playoffs and Stevens’ ability to manage egos may not be up to par with what is expected of NBA coaches. This is why a veteran presence in the locker room is desperately needed. Someone with championship pedigree who can guide young players who haven’t yet reached the promised land. Much like the roles Andre Iguodala and Udonis Haslem have with Miami.
The other necessary addition has to do with the team’s on-court performance. It feels like we’ve been saying this since Kendrick Perkins was traded nine years ago, but the biggest hole in the Celtics’ roster remains at the center position. Theis is solid and Robert Williams is making steady improvements, but having someone to match Adebayo’s strength and athleticism would have been the difference maker against Miami.
It will be an interesting off-season, and hopefully Danny Ainge doesn’t remain stagnant. But in the meantime there’s no reason to be discouraged. The Celtics were one of the four remaining teams in the NBA and they have the assets to improve. Not a bad place to be.