It has since been added that Horford and Boston’s negotiations broke down, meaning the veteran big man is set to depart TD Garden along with All-NBA guard Kyrie Irving. With Anthony Davis heading to the Lakers, Gordon Hayward still a shadow of his former self and Marcus Morris hitting free agency, the Boston Celtics could look very different in a few weeks time.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Celtics fan favourite and general brick wall centre Aaron Baynes is apparently being shopped around as Boston look to increase their cap space. Baynes is on an expiring $5.4 million contract.
This has been a hard 12 months for the Celtics. They pushed LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers all the way in the 2018 Western Conference Finals. In 2019, their season was dominated by underachievement and discontent, ultimately ending in a brutal second-round exit at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks. Irving has performed a U-turn, which was at least partly expected, but the Horford news is a real dagger after a disappointing season.
Boston, in the eyes of many at least, were the next in line to the throne 12 months ago. Supposedly set up to challenge the Warriors, they had a young talented core along with Hayward, Irving and Horford; three high-level veterans.
After a premature playoff exit and with star men heading for the door, Boston are at a crossroads.
They still have Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, which is a more than competent core to build around with plenty of upside. Terry Rozier, who had a difficult season after a stellar 2018 playoffs, is a restricted free agent, however, and the Celtics are under more pressure to keep hold of him now than they were a few months ago.
Boston still have a cupboard of draft picks if they want to make trades this summer, but circumstances make it unlikely Brown, Tatum or Smart will be moved. They are obviously keen to be active in free agency, as is shown by the attempts to trade Baynes.
While a year or so ago, the young core combined with veterans seemed like a fledgling superteam, the Celtics have been pushed back a few spaces on the NBA board of snakes and ladders.
The 2019/20 season will likely be another of figuring out what they have in Brown and Tatum. We saw perhaps their ceiling in the 2018 postseason, and both had turbulent campaigns alongside the Irving circus in 2018/19. While it was exciting, and gave the team a limitless ceiling, the Celtics didn’t need the pair to become All-Stars. As it stands, though, they are reliant on Brown and Tatum taking that next step in 2019/20 if they are to be genuine contenders in a fiercely competitive Eastern Conference.