Perhaps the biggest news was Kemba Walker’s injury. Walker will miss the start of the season, and the problems that were a concern heading into the bubble have become a greater worry.
Boston’s depth was a problem last season, and it’s at least as alarming this year with Walker’s health situation. Not so long ago, the Celtics had Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Hayward as their veterans, surrounded by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. Now the latter trio are the core of the team with Irving, Horford and Hayward departing for no return other than a sizeable trade exception.
Tatum has erupted to the cusp of superstardom. Brown is one of the better two-way wings. Smart’s streaky shooting has improved to become a respectable deep threat and he remains an elite defensive player. Daniel Theis was good last year. Beyond that, though, it’s Thompson and Teague before the interesting, but ultimately unproven, group of young players.
As the veterans have left, the Celtics have handed the team to Tatum and Brown. The pair have developed as well as any Bostonian could hope, but with no Hayward, with Walker’s availability riddled with uncertainty, the pressure is greater than ever before. Brad Stevens cannot afford for either of his young stars to stagnate.
Thompson is an upgrade on Enes Kanter. Teague can hopefully be an improvement on Brad Wanamaker. This wasn’t a terrible offseason by any means, and the presence of that trade exception gives Danny Ainge incredible flexibility.
The ceiling of the Celtics is still high. The floor, though, has dropped. If Walker’s injury problems persist, the weight on the shoulders of Tatum and Brown is significant.
This is a Boston roster noticeably short on dependable depth. While that doesn’t matter come playoff time, it could be a problem in what is set to be a gruelling regular season. A leap forward from a couple of their first- or second-year players will help.
Despite the talent, the Celtics are far from a lock to get a top four seed. The top of the East is so strong. While it’s justifiable to pick the C’s to make the Finals, it’s not infeasible they drop to the six seed.
Ainge will be under pressure to use that record-breaking exception. An in-season acquisition could be a necessity for a team that has become alarmingly thin.