After last year’s disaster of a season, the Boston Celtics are going to have much lower expectations. Vegas odds have them projected at 48.5 wins, which would place Boston tied with the Indiana Pacers for third place in the Eastern Conference, far behind both Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Despite significantly lower expectations as a team, the Boston Celtics have multiple players who have a lot to prove in the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
4. Kemba Walker
It only seems fair for the team’s best player to bear the majority of the pressure going into any given season, however, Walker’s situation with the Boston Celtics is unique in many ways.
First off, his pressure is about who he is as a person more than anything else.
Kemba did just sign a $144 million deal so there is a certain production expectation that he will have to meet, but more than anything Celtics fans want to enjoy watching their team again.
The combination of how low of a bar Kyrie Irving set and how highly everyone who has ever come across Kemba speaks of him should make him an instant fan favorite.
The Boston Celtics’ fan base will give Walker A LOT of slack coming out of the gate but Boston has never been known for its patience. If this is the perfect match everyone is making it out to be, there should be nothing to worry about.
3. Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown is now eligible for an extension with Boston and it’s impossible to deny his freakish athleticism and raw potential, but what is even more difficult is to know just how much the Boston Celtics franchise values him.
Now, the Celtics have never been ones to hand out extensions post rookie contract; the last Celtic to get one was Rajon Rondo. Unless convinced otherwise, the Celtics will likely wait as long as they can before signing him. This gives Jaylen even more incentive to leave a lasting impression this year.
Typically, top draft picks settle into who they are as NBA players around their third year in the league, but unfortunately for Jaylen, his third year was just mercifully ended by the Milwaukee Bucks.
To give him the benefit of the doubt, the Celtics’ season was plagued with disfunction from the beginning. The integration of Kemba Walker’s play-style and positive personality, coupled with being set free from the lockerroom scapegoat, Jaylen Brown should thrive this season.
2. Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum is the greatest asset the Boston Celtics have. He is a 21-year-old with a polished offensive game and surprising defensive versatility. It has become conventional wisdom around the league that Tatum will become a perennial All-Star.
It’s unfair to put the weight of a franchise on the shoulders of a 21-year-old kid, but he does have the power to determine how far this team goes.
Many of Jayson Tatum’s numbers actually improved last year when compared to his rookie season despite receiving fewer touches. However, his year is still being labeled as a ‘down year’. The only real argument for that is his need to take contested mid-range jumpers off the dribble.
The worry is only if that is a symptom of a newfound playstyle or simply the fear that he would never get the ball back once he gave it up. All things considered, there is not much reason to believe Tatum will disappoint, but controlling the fate of the Boston Celtics is a lot of pressure for anyone.
1. Gordon Hayward
Many Boston Celtics fans have already jumped ship on Gordon Hayward but for those still on board, this is the year Hayward will make or break his reputation as a Celtic.
Hayward was an All-Star caliber player with the Utah Jazz and more than worthy of the contract he received. Unfortunately, Hayward played for a small market team so a lot of the Celtics’ fan base only got to see that version of him for five minutes. Gordon is the perfect two way player for Boston, he’s a versatile defender, excellent passer, and elite decision-maker.
The good news is, everything is pointing toward Hayward having his long-awaited breakout season.
Scott Morrison on Gordon Hayward via NBCSports Boston: “Gordon looks great,” said Morrison, who is coaching the team’s summer squad this year but also works with Hayward during his morning workouts. “This will be the fifth or sixth week we’ve been going every day. We’ve got a pretty intense weight program three or four days a week; he’s on the court five days a week.
“He’s getting stronger, getting faster, getting leaner, and, from a basketball perspective, it’s hard to test things like that, but I think he looks pretty good. His shot and ball-handling is a lot crisper. He’s just hungry to get better. I don’t want to speak for him but I’m very happy with the effort and progress that he’s putting in”.
The tools and work ethic are there for Gordon Hayward to be one of the most effective players on the Celtics this year, we just have to wait and see if all this hard work pays off.