The Celtics came two wins from lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy last season. But their run through the postseason also highlighted the need for them to upgrade their depth.
Boston's bench ranked in the bottom five in points per game in the regular season, averaging 30.2 per contest. Then finished 14th out of 16 playoff teams in that category, providing only 22.5 points, according to NBA.com.
The Celtics' need for more meaningful contributions from their second unit was perhaps most evident in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Boston's bench combined to score only four points before the Celtics and Warriors emptied their benches. As a result, Boston's starters played nearly the entire second half, running out of gas in the final frame of a 104-94 loss.
That lack of support prompted Celtics' president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, who continues to operate aggressively in this role, to trade for Malcolm Brogdon. In the deal, Stevens opted to part with Boston's first-round pick next year to keep the mainstays from the team's playoff rotation. It's the third-straight Celtics' first-round selection Stevens dealt since succeeding Danny Ainge.
The Brogdon acquisition also came on the heels of Boston securing a commitment from Danilo Gallinari that he was on his way to reinforce the Celtics' second unit.
Adding Brogdon, who averaged 19.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.1 rebounds last season, and Gallinari, a career 15.6 points per game scorer who produced 11.7 points in a crowded Hawks rotation, led to some, such as FanDuel Sportsbook, listing Boston as the betting favorite to win the championship this season.
Celtics' owner Wyc Grousbeck expressed, "we can win this thing, possibly," in a conversation with WBZ’s Dan Roche. "We have a chance to contend. That’s their words. They’re burning with a desire to make it come true."
As for how it felt to watch Boston go from 11th in the East to representing the conference in the NBA Finals, only to watch a 2-1 series lead turn into a 4-2 runner-up finish, Grousbeck described it as follows.
"I felt we were two steps from Mt. Everest then we fell off the thing," said the Celtics' owner. "We were up 2-1 in the Finals. ... I felt like we were almost there. We got beaten, maybe were tired."
Now, with Brogdon and Gallinari added to fortify the roster and training camp around the corner, Grousbeck's ready to turn the page to the 2022-23 campaign.
"We think our roster right now is a strongly contending team," he expressed. "Ime (Udoka) loves the group, Brad loves the group, I love the group. The group is very cohesive."
That cohesion, which includes Boston's core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart preparing to play their fifth season together, barring a trade for Kevin Durant, makes it easier for Brogdon and Gallinari to step into clearly defined roles.
And as impressive as Ime Udoka was in his first season at the helm, a part of the Celtics' slow start resulted from him learning the job and him and his new team acclimating to each other. Now, with most of the roster returning, they can build off the foundation established last year. Brogdon and Gallinari will also benefit from operating within a system where everyone's on the same page.