Celtics are a non-factor in the playoffs despite play-in victory

Tatum vs Wizards
Jayson Tatum and the Celtics meet the Nets in the first round. Photo from Celtics.

At the start of the season, all believed the Celtics playoff chances to be good. Vegas set the over/under at 44.5 wins which was lower than last season (48.5) but this season featured a lot fewer games as well. The win/loss totals put them at number 3 in the predicted standings only behind the Bucks (49.5) and Nets (45.5). And that is how it should have been.

The problem is that they had quite a bit of bad luck, and when they didn’t they simply did not play well. Seeing the Sixers at the top of the Eastern conference probably stings but hey that is how it goes.

Celtics Playoff chances

The Celtics had a really good run in the postseason last year so many were hopeful at the start of the season of Boston doing it again. Or perhaps even going further. The loss in the Conference Finals was hard but fans and analysts alike expected the young Celtics to come out angry. Local newspapers dubbed it the revenge season. Boston was going to conquer everything. Not quite.

Offseason moves

Oh boy, where does one start? Before the season started the Celtics believed two things would happen: 

1. Gordan Hayward either stays or he leaves in a sign and trade.

2. Kemba Walker will return to his glory days propelling them to the NBA Finals.

Of course, it seemed possible at the time but it did not happen that way. The Hayward situation sort of went as Danny Ainge wanted it to go. Hayward chose the Hornets as his new destination but he didn’t leave the Celtics without anything – he gave them $38 million reasons for a “better future”. Of course, there were rumours of a failed trade with Indiana.

Apparently, the Celtics received an offer for Hayward that included Myles Turner and Doug McDermott only for Ainge to ask for Victor Oladipo or T.J. Warren on top of Turner. 


The Pacers hung up and it never materialized. The problem started right there. Fans were not happy that the Celtics passed up on the opportunity to bring in a defensive stopper below the basket. One of the rare great offseason moves was the selection of Payton Pritchard with the 26th pick in the draft. The same cannot be said for Aaron Nesmith who was supposed to be one of the most efficient shooters in the draft but his game so far has not translated well.

At the trade deadline, rumours started circulating how Ainge was finally ready to pull the trigger on a big trade that would improve the roster immediately. Every player that was on the trading block was mentioned as a possibility but the loudest talk surrounded Nikola Vucevic. Vooch only just appeared in his 2nd All-Star game and probably had his best season yet. 

All hope for Celtics fans died on March 25th when Vucevic got traded to the Bulls. And from that point, the season only got worse for the Celtics. As a consolation prize they brought in Evan Fournier but most Celtics fans did not care about that move at all. 

How the season went

After a solid start to the season (8-3) the Celtics never really found themselves again. The team was largely based around the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the team played as the duo played. The Celtics are the only team that has two players in the top 10 in terms of shot attempts per game.

When the Knicks smashed them 105-75 (no Tatum) it became pretty clear that they don’t have any real depth. As soon as Tatum returned, Marcus Smart got injured and the season turned sour once again. They were 19-17 at the All-Star break and since then they mostly played with an improvised starting lineup.

Some of that was due to injury (Smart, Walker, Langford, Nesmith, Brown), some of it was due to roster moves (Theis, Teague, Green, Fournier) but they never truly found their identity. The final nail in the coffin came after Brown injured his wrist and was out for the season. That severely diminished the Celtics playoff chances.

Key players

Jaylen Brown would have been the key player for the Celtics had he not gotten injured. He had his best year this year and his injury is a major blow to the Celtics playoff chances. With him gone it will all fall on Jayson Tatum. He will have to shoot the ball 40-50 times if the Celtics hope to win because there is not much help coming from anybody else.

One player that could also prove key is Robert Williams. Since Theis got traded, Williams has played very well. He does his job pretty well and he does a little bit of everything. He can score a bit with very high efficiency, he can also pass the ball if need be, he can rebound and defend better than most at his position. And he will need to do a lot of that if the Celtics want to achieve anything. 

Playoff rotation 

Without Brown, Brad Stevens will hope that somebody except Jayson Tatum can play a significant role, especially on offence.

It did not happen often this year so that’s a big if. Walker and Smart will start as the guards, Fournier will most likely absorb SF minutes while Tatum will play the 4. Tristan Thompson will start at the 5 but expect Williams to absorb the most minutes in the paint despite not starting.

Celtics playoff chances: Final thoughts and expectations.

All in all, this was a season to forget for the Celtics.

There is really not much to add beyond that. Brad Stevens almost left the team so that tells you all you need to know. 

As far as expectations go, they were quite big at the start of the season. Fans were hopeful and the team believed they could something.

They won’t repeat the postseason success they had last season so essentially the season is a loss anyway. 

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About Drew Tate 18 Articles
Drew Tate is a long time NBA fan and basketball enthusiast. He has followed the best basketball league in the world for over 15 years. After watching it for such a long time, Drew developed an interest in writing about the league, which they have done for the past several years. Drew's main interest in the league is the players whose development he has followed keenly ever since their college days. Besides that, he enjoys anything that involves analyzing the game of basketball.

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