To make the NBA Finals and really give the Golden State Warriors a challenge makes this past year a massive success for the Boston Celtics. While they ultimately lost 4-2 in the NBA Finals, the Celtics learned a lot about themselves this year.
Following a 25-25 start through the first 50 games of the year, Boston really dug deep and found their identity on the defensive-end of the floor while many were calling for the front-office to blow up the roster.
Not only was there talk of trading Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, but possibly moving on from All-Stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as well! Now, the Celtics do not look like they are going through any kind of rebuild whatsoever, as this team is young, hungry and still one of the better defensive teams in the league.
When you look at this year’s Finals series and what went wrong, you really cannot blame Boston’s defense. They held the Warriors to an average of just 104.8 points per game, but the Celtics only scored an average of 100.8 points per game.
Finding ways to improve offensively will be key for Boston this offseason, but they also face some other questions as the “top dog” in the Eastern Conference.
Brad Stevens and the Celtics’ front-office have some work to do in the offseason and there are some moves that will need to be made in order for the Boston Celtics to truly be a championship team.
To Go Over Or Not To Go Over… That Is The Cap Space Question
Perhaps the biggest question mark facing the Boston Celtics this offseason revolves around how much money they are willing to spend as a franchise.
As of right now, Boston is set to have a payroll exceeding $150 million, meaning that they are already projected to be over the salary cap and tax threshold for the 2022-23 season.
Will the Celtics look to shed some salary so they will not be a tax-paying team or will they take a page out of the Warriors’ book and spend the tax money needed to sustain championship-like success?
It almost seems like the Celtics must spend the money to keep this team together and add more talent, as they proved this year that they are on the cusp of being the best team in this league.
Defensively, the Celtics are one of the top teams in the league and with just a little more firepower, the Celtics may have what it takes to win a seven-game Finals series.
Entering this offseason, Boston has a total of ten different trade exceptions that they can utilize ranging from $500,000 to their top exception being worth over $17,100,000.
All of these exceptions can be utilized for the Celtics to bring in one or more key bench talents and if there is one thing we can count on, it is for Brad Stevens and this front-office to bring in some new faces.
There is no telling yet as to what the Celtics could look to do, but they need more talent in order to win a championship, which is why we should expect to see them willing to open their checkbooks in the offseason.
Grant Williams, Al Horford Possible Extensions?
The resurgence of Al Horford this season in Boston was one of the storylines of the 2022-23 season and now, entering the offseason, the 36-year-old big man is expected to be a key focal point of this team yet again.
It is not out of the question for the Celtics to fully-guarantee Horford’s $26.5 million contract for next year and given that they do not have much frontcourt depth, Al Horford will once again be one of the leaders of this team on and off-the-court.
As for Grant Williams, the 23-year-old forward really emerged as a key bench talent for the Celtics throughout the postseason.
Being a strong-minded and physical defender, the Celtics tend to utilize Williams as their “defensive stopper” that they can really put on any type of player. In the playoffs, he even guarded last year’s Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and seemed to hold his own at certain points in that Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Williams has one more year left on his contract entering the offseason and as of right now, all indications point towards the young forward wanting to remain with the Celtics.
Up for a rookie extension, it will be interesting to see if the Boston Celtics look to reward Grant Williams for his performance in the playoffs or if they will wait until he becomes a free agent in 2023 to discuss a new deal with him.
Overall, it is not hard to believe that both Horford and Williams will be remaining in Boston on new deals, especially since they both proved to be factors for the Celtics late in the year.
Depth Is This Team’s Main Problem
As mentioned before, the Celtics really need to address their depth in the offseason and find ways to bring in more help on the offensive-end of the floor.
During the regular season, the Celtics’ bench ranked 26th in the league in scoring and outside of Derrick White at some points, their bench really did not perform well offensively in the playoffs.
If the Celtics had received a little bit more scoring production from their bench unit in the playoffs and in the NBA Finals, who knows, maybe they could have stolen another game against the Warriors and forced a decisive Game 7 with the Larry O’Brien trophy on the line!
Right now, Boston has no reliable scoring options behind Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum out on the wing, they really do not have an option behind Robert Williams III in their frontcourt, even though Al Horford slid over to the center position at times, and Derrick White is this team’s only real offensive threat on the bench.
Maybe the Celtics can continue to develop guys like Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith and others into contributing factors, but it makes a lot more sense for Boston to utilize their trade exceptions, spend money and add the necessary depth they need.
Depth prevented the Celtics from winning a title this year and should they bring in the necessary help on the offensive-end of the floor, it is not hard to believe that Boston will be back in the NBA Finals next season.