Despite finishing the 2018-19 season with 49 wins and the East’s No. 4 seed, the Boston Celtics’ campaign was disappointing more than anything else. There were confusing losses to far inferior foes, there was questionable chemistry and, in the end, there was an embarrassing 4-1 demolition at the hands of the far more synergistic Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs.
Now, a huge summer awaits Boston. Will they maintain the status quo, do everything in their power to try and re-sign impending free agent Kyrie Irving and hope that another season together helps with the team’s synergy? With a returning Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, that should be enough to crack 50 wins next season and remain one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams. Or will they package their excellent young talent together in hopes of landing a superstar on the trade market, as has been rumored?
Either way, the Celtics will field a strong team yet again in 2019-20, but choosing the right course of action will have huge ramifications on their future, and that decision has to come this offseason. It should be a fascinating one to watch unfold.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Gordon Hayward: $32,700,690
Marcus Smart: $12,053,571
Jayson Tatum: $7,830,000
Jaylen Brown: $6,534,829
Guerschon Yabusele: $3,117,240
Robert Williams: $1,940,160
NON-GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Semi Ojeleye: $1,618,520
Al Horford: $30,123,015
Kyrie Irving: $21,329,752
Aron Baynes: $5,453,280
Terry Rozier (Restricted)
Daniel Theis (Restricted)
Brad Wanamaker (Restricted)
Jonathan Gibson (Restricted)
Priority No. 1 for Boston this offseason is figuring out what to do with Irving. On one hand, the enigmatic point guard is coming off his sixth All-Star campaign and is still one of the best lead ball-handlers in the league. On the other, he proved difficult for head coach Brad Stevens to rein in this year, he sometimes seemed to lack focus and, most pressing of all, questions remain on what a team’s ceiling is with him as its best player. At the end of the day, he’s still worth the trouble he may cause at times. At one point, he told Celtics fans prior to the season that he would re-sign this summer if they wanted him back. However, he seemed to change his tune during the season and after the way the campaign ended, his future is up in the air.
Next, the Celtics have to make their move on Anthony Davis, or risk missing out on a major talent. The trade market opens up before free agency or the draft, so they won’t even be sure about Irving’s future yet, but trading for Davis would solve multiple problems for Boston:
- The team would have a game-changing big man and a two-way force who would be the best player on the roster, putting Irving back in the second-fiddle role he’s best suited for on an elite team.
- It would clear up some of the logjam Boston has at multiple positions, especially on the wing.
- Irving will be more easily persuaded to re-sign with a new superstar to team up with.
After a disappointing end to the season, landing Davis would give the Celtics a completely new look heading into 2019-20, and make them a much scarier foe for opponents in the Eastern Conference.
Another thing Boston has to deal with this offseason is trying to regain the All-Star version of Hayward. As of now, despite proving he could come back and play a full season healthy once again, his trade value is still quite low, so the Celtics’ best course of action must be getting Hayward back to top form. And although it’s unclear what his top form is at this point in his career, getting him to perform at a higher level is far from a lost cause. Over a 24-game stretch to close the regular season, he averaged 13.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists on efficient 56.6/37.3/81.8 shooting splits. There’s a higher plane for the 29-year-old, Boston just needs to help him get him back there in 2019-20.
Finally, the Celtics have to decide whether Tatum and Brown are franchise building blocks or valuable trade chips. Tatum’s raw averages may have gone up this year, but his three-point accuracy plummeted from 43.4 percent to 37.3 percent, and most of the advanced stats indicate he may have actually regressed. Brown, meanwhile, saw his three-point percentage drop from 39.5 percent to 34.4 percent, and his hounding defense wasn’t enough to make up for the difference. In fact, Boston was statistically a worse team with Brown on the floor this season, and that mark got even more abhorrently bad in the playoffs. He’ll be eligible for a rookie extension this summer, and it’ll be interesting to see if Boston goes through with offering him one or if they choose to to let him test restricted free agency in the summer of 2020.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENT TARGETS
Thaddeus Young: Boston could have a need at power forward if Marcus Morris walks, and Young would be a good candidate to replace him. His quickness defensively next to Horford would help form a mighty difficult frontcourt to score on.
Elfrid Payton: If Irving re-signs but Rozier doesn’t, Boston will need a backup point guard. Payton would be a good one, as his ability to get to the basket and not settle for jumpers would be a welcome skill set for the Celtics.
Isaiah Thomas: Things ended in an ugly manner between these two parties when they were last together. But if the Celtics need a backup point guard, a Thomas return can’t be ruled out. The question is: Can he still contribute on a winning team? His stints with the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets make that a tough question to answer.
Taj Gibson: Boston could stand to toughen up as a team, but especially in their frontcourt. Gibson would provide just that: toughness.
Reggie Bullock: The Celtics could also use a pure sharpshooter at the 2-guard spot, at least off the bench. Bullock knows how to play that role, and performs it well.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
Anthony Davis: We discussed in the offseason goals section what an A.D. trade would do for the team, and why it’s imperative they go after him.
Kevin Love: If not Davis, another All-Star trade target for Boston could be Love. There aren’t many rumblings – yet – about the Cavaliers shopping the big man, but with the way their roster is constructed, how much money they owe him and how far they are from competing at a high level, a Love trade almost certainly has to happen, at least eventually.
2019 DRAFT ASSETS
Boston will select 22nd overall in the 2019 draft. Apart from that, they also own the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round pick (No. 20 overall), as well as the Memphis Grizzlies’ first-rounder, as long as it falls between No. 9 and No. 12 overall. If it stays in the Top 8, though, the pick will remain with Memphis. Additionally, the Celtics will also be receiving the Sacramento Kings’ first-round pick unless they land the No. 1 selection, in which case they’ll get the Philadelphia 76ers’ first-rounder (No. 24 overall) instead.
They also own their second-round pick this summer.