After 8 long days, the addition of a token 2020 second round pick made the difference and the Boston Celtics finally got their man. Next season Kyrie Irving will be playing at The Garden, whilst Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick and said 2020 pick will be heading to Celveland (with the Nets currently 250/1 outsiders, it’s fair to predict this will be a top lottery pick).
Now we have a good idea of how the Celtics will line up entering into the 2017-18 season, having built on last year’s roster, there is definitely some value in them at 9/1 to win the 17-18 Championship. Yes it is hard to look past the Warriors, but that’s why they are 4/7 to win The Championship, and where is the fun in backing that!?
1. They’ve got big picks
The Celtics may have traded away the last of their Nets picks to the Cavs (which they acquired 4 years ago, in arguably one of the worst trades of all time. Worse than £30m for Moussa Sissoko). However there is plenty more where that came from, as Danny Ainge still has another 4 additional first round picks up his sleeve (2018 Lakers, 2019 Clippers, 2019 Memphis & 2019 Philidelphia/Sacramento). Whilst not as attractive as the Nets will likely prove to be, there are enough assets there to help bolster another move for the Celtics this season.
They still really lack a top level big, underlined by the fact that the ranked in the bottom 5 for both offensive and defensive rebounding last season (despite finishing top of the East). If the Celtic’s were to approach the trade deadline in good regular season form, Danny Ainge may look to add this final piece to the puzzle, in order to help drive a post-season run.
2. Uncle Drew
Kyrie’s move to the Celtics really came out of nowhere and many are surprised by the fact that he even wanted to move in the first place. But to dig into this a little more, a lot of parallels can be drawn with Neymar’s recent move.
Both players reaching their prime, at the age of 25, grew tired of playing in the shadow of arguably one of the greatest to play their sport. They both moved away from teams which were arguably in need of change. And they are now the star attractions and leaders of their respective new franchises.
Sadly for Kyrie the one difference will be their pay cheques, but Kyrie will hope to correct that in two years’ time.
The success of the Celtic’s now rests heavily on Kyrie’s shoulders. Whilst he may have his defensive frailties (another similarity with Neymar), he has proven time and time again that he can more than make up for this on the offensive side and his post-season experience could prove invaluable. He is a player that thrives with ball in hand and off the back of this move, you can only see his number of possessions per game increasing. If Uncle Drew can produce the handles and clutch shooting he is known for, on a weekly basis, the Celtics could prove a frightening proposition. Who knows, at 20/1 it might be worth a cheeky couple of quid on him to be next season’s MVP.
3. Young blood
Still at only 20 years old, Jaylen Brown had a solid first year in the league. Whilst he didn’t post superstar numbers, as the season progressed he demanded more minutes on the floor. He has built a great foundation moving into his sophomore season. And with more starters being moved on, than the Celtic’s have seen come in, he has a real opportunity to step up and maybe even command a spot in that first five. With the work ethic he shows and the raw athleticism he possesses (I mean check out his #drivebydunkchallenge), this could be a great year for Brown and in turn the Celtics.
Whilst Jayson Tatum may not be in with a chance of winning Rookie of the Year at 11/1, that is more a statement of the quality in front of him. As Jaylen Brown (also the overall third pick) showed last year, there is an opportunity to really help the team coming off the bench. Whilst he will take some time to adjust to the league, Tatum’s scoring potential is undeniable. The Celtic’s will hope that down the stretch he can take the scoring pressure off of both Hayward and Kyrie. Although they say that you can’t win anything with kids, they can certainly make life easier for the older guys.
4. They forgot about Hay!
With all the excitement around the Kyri Irving deal, it is easy to forget that the Celtic’s also picked up the biggest star of free agency, in Gordon Hayward. The 2017 All-Star averaged 21.9 pts last season, whilst shooting just shy of 40% from beyond the arc. Despite him and Kyrie both loving to have the ball in hand, within the right system the Celtic’s will hope that Hayward’s shooting can stretch the floor for Kyrie. Celtic’s fans will also hope that if anyone is going to get the best out of him, it will be Brad Stevens, following the bond the pair developed during their time at Butler. Although he would likely have to wrestle the ball off of Kyrie in the dying seconds, Hayward definitely offers another clutch option, as previously demonstrated at the expense of Cleveland.
5. Easy in the East
Yes the Celtics still have the Cavs to deal with. And yes the Wizards took them to the wire in a 7 game thriller last year. But they will still be thankful they aren’t playing in the West! With the obvious benefit of not having to face the Warriors until The Finals, looking around the East the Celtic’s will be thankful that a lot of other teams aren’t there. The Rockets (CP3), Timberwolves (Butler) and OKC (Paul George) have all made some big moves and the Spurs, well they still have Popovic!
Whilst the Warriors only lost 1 post-season game last year (and that was in The Finals), you would like to think that it will be a harder journey for them this season.
Conversely if the Celtic’s pieces all come together as planned, they would hope for a much less taxing run in, ignoring the obvious showdown with the Cavs. Let’s not forget that last season the Celtics finished top of the East and I think 2/1 is a good price for them to repeat this.
Whether you take a punt on the Celtics or not, one thing we should all be grateful for, is that when the NBA returns on Tuesday October 17th, we will get to see the new-look Celtics and Cavs match up in the opening game.