How do the Boston Celtics rank among the teams with the brightest futures in the NBA? They are just coming off a Conference Finals loss to a Miami Heat squad brimming with tough, seasoned veterans. Their core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart have been through the conference finals twice in the last three years, and there’s no reason to doubt that they will come back stronger next season.
With Tatum and Brown both below 23 years of age, these two-way stars will be a fixture in the green-and-white for years to come. Smart, 26, already has two nods to the All-Defensive First Team. While Kemba Walker has already been in the league for eight years, he doesn’t have lots of mileage owing to the Charlotte Hornets’ failure to go deep into the playoffs.
Here’s a quick breakdown of why the Celtics have the brightest future in the league.
Tons of playoff battles under the belt
Compared to the likes of the New Orleans Pelicans’ bevy of young guns or the Minnesota Timberwolves’ combo of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Celtics’ core has been through deep postseason runs in consecutive years. It’s crazy to think that Tatum has only been in the NBA for three years, and he has already made it to the Eastern Conference Finals twice.
Tatum averaged stellar numbers of 25.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game in this year’s playoffs. After a spectacular rookie year, he kind of regressed a bit in his sophomore season, only to bounce back in his third year and notch his first All-Star appearance. But more than his individual numbers and accomplishments, his experience of going up against the playoff version of LeBron James or the Heat’s arsenal of excellent veteran defenders is something that other young NBA squads don’t have.
Boston may have failed to break through the East, but it’s only a matter of time before they completely take over.
Great coach, even greater core
One of the overlooked advantages that the Celtics have is they already established a proven working relationship with their head coach. Brad Stevens has been with the team since 2014, as opposed to other teams who are going back-and-forth with their coaching hiring. Although Stevens compiled a losing record of 25 wins against 57 defeats in his first year in Boston, it didn’t take away the front office’s trust in his abilities.
Continuity is underrated, and we saw how long-tenured coaches like Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra have achieved success with their respective teams. Furthermore, the Celtics’ young stars are arguably more complete in terms of overall skill set as compared to their similarly-young counterparts. While it’s true that Tatum and Brown are excellent shot creators, they are also perennial operators on defense. Smart, their defensive ace, has shown numerous times in the Orlando bubble that he can also shoulder a bigger workload on offense.
Having said that, this impressive Celtics group still has its work cut out in front of them. They lack an imposing defensive presence in the paint, and a couple of veteran additions could come a long way in fast-tracking the team’s progress.