Prior to the 2018-19 season, the last time the Celtics “underachieved” was in 2012-13, the final year of Doc Rivers’ tenure. Jason Terry was less than two years removed from beating LeBron’s Heat in the Finals and was expected to at least partially fill the void left by Ray Allen’s departure. Instead, his only lasting impression was getting a premature Celtics championship tattoo and being on the wrong end of one of Bron Bron’s most famous posterizations. The C’s finished barely over .500 and fell victim to the Knicks’ only playoff series win in the 21st century.
Terry was then shipped to the Brooklyn Nets along with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, marking the beginning of what would be an impressive rebuild by Danny Ainge. Up until last season, the Brad Stevens era had given us nothing but pleasant surprises. There were no expectations for the 2013-14 squad so their 25 wins weren’t a disappointment, but Stevens increasing Jordan Crawford’s trade value by turning him into a serviceable starting point guard for a few weeks was a sight to behold.
Over the next four seasons, the Celtics’ saw consistent improvements each year. They reached 40 wins in 2014-15, 48 in ‘15-’16, 53 in ‘16-’17, and 55 in ‘17-’18. Last season was a disaster, but with a bounce-back in ‘19-’20 it could be reduced to minor speed-bump in what has been an otherwise successful turnaround since the departure of Pierce and KG six years ago. Here’s why that WILL happen:
While Stevens deserves a share of the blame for last season’s debacle, replacing Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker will prove that a lack of leadership from the best player on the roster was ultimately what set back the Celtics’ promising rebuild. While most of the NBA betting sites have the C’s around 46 wins and the third best odds in the East to win the Finals, I’m going to go ahead and guarantee that this year’s team will be better than last year’s. That means surpassing 48 wins and returning to their rightful place in the Conference Finals. Talent usually wins in the NBA, but that notion gets tested when you have a supremely talented player who unfortunately does absolutely nothing to make his teammates better.
Just like Isaiah Thomas from 2015-2017, Kemba will inject new life into this team and carry them beyond expectations. Without having to manage Kyrie’s ego, Brad Stevens will slowly creep back into the discussion of the NBA’s best coaches. You can also expect Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to rise to All-Star levels due to being more comfortable in their roles. Most importantly, we get to actually enjoy watching basketball again. One month until training camp.