The Boston Celtics have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals twice in the last three years. Despite fielding in a relatively young group of uber-talented players, the Celtics banked on their growing chemistry and the brilliance of head coach Brad Stevens.
But in order to make that next jump and finally compete for the championship again, Boston has to move some pieces around and strengthen their roster depth. They already have their future aligned with young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown leading the charge, but the Celtics have to go all-in and make the most out of Kemba Walker‘s stint in the Beantown.
Here’s a list of what the Celtics front office should prioritize this offseason so as to top the East next season.
Gauge Hayward’s trade value
It’s unfortunate that the Celtics-Hayward partnership will go down like this, but it seems like it’s the end of the road for both parties. Gordon Hayward bounced back strong in the regular season, but he was almost a non-factor during the team’s conference finals match-up against the Miami Heat.
Reports have it that Hayward will opt into the final year of his massive contract with the Celtics. That is not at all a problem for Boston as it also makes it easier to find an interested trade partner for the 30-year old forward. Boston will not be in any rush to move Hayward, but it will not come as a surprise if the former All-Star’s name pops up on the trading block.
Acquire a tough enforcer
There’s no question that Marcus Smart‘s grit and hustle are the driving forces of this young Celtics group. He was deservingly named to the All-Defensive First Team this season, and it’s safe to assume that he is one of Boston’s untouchable pieces in trade negotiations.
Still, there is a sense that the Celtics are missing a veteran enforcer, a role that Marcus Morris played for them last season. This is not to say that the current crop of Boston hoopers cannot stand for themselves. But the importance of having tough enforcers like Morris or Al Horford goes beyond the numbers.
The Celtics’ young guns will be tougher than ever next season, but they need another seasoned veteran to help them get through the roughest waters in the playoffs.
Pursue a mobile, defensive-minded big man
It doesn’t take an expert to see that the Celtics lacked an intimidating defensive presence in the paint. Bam Adebayo, the Heat’s young center, constantly made shots inside against Daniel Theis or Grant Williams. But if you watched Game 1 of the Heat’s Finals face-off against the Los Angeles Lakers, you saw how Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis neutralized Adebayo.
Robert Williams has the potential to be a force on both ends of the floor, but he’s just not there yet. The East is stacking up next year with the return of Brooklyn Nets‘ stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, as well as the bounce-back year for a hungrier Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Celtics can’t afford to wait for Williams to develop, so they have to be proactive and pursue a rim-protecting center either through free agency or the trade market.