In perhaps the most predictable turn of events in a totally unpredictable postseason, the Boston Celtics blew their chances to win Banner 18 in a spate of unforced errors in three straight losses. The Golden State Warriors used 23 Boston turnovers to secure the win in Game 6 last Thursday, and they, not the Celtics, are your 2022 NBA champions. So what now?
The first, of course, is this: The Celtics won’t be splitting the Jays anytime soon. Yes, pairing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown didn’t pay off in the final round of the playoffs, but that was understandable given the amount of work they had to put in to reach the NBA Finals, which included playing seven Streaks of play included against both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat. They were also the underdogs against a healthy, rested Warriors team seeking their fourth title in ten years.
For years, the complaint against this particular Celtics roster was that they couldn’t seem to get past the Eastern Conference Finals. Finally reaching the finals is an achievement and not a sign against them, no matter how brutal the ending.
And this is a young team. Tatum, who has had a bad streak but is still their best player, is still only 24 years old. Unless some sort of MVP caliber is available, the Celtics shouldn’t break up their young core, which alongside Tatum and Jaylen Brown includes reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and much-improved big man Robert Williams III (although the latter still remains somewhat of a one question mark in terms of durability).
It’s also hard to imagine that particular player being available this off-season and even if he is, the Celtics may not have a realistic chance of landing a deal for him. Assuming they keep their core four together — a pretty safe one — they won’t have much financial flexibility to take home run swings. As noted by Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, ownership will currently be $7 million above luxury tax next season, although the mere lack of a title doesn’t motivate wallets to be opened a little more this offseason clearly won’t do anything .
Now Al Horford’s $26.4 million deal is only partially guaranteed, but it’s likely the team will either pick it up or offer the 36-year-old an extension that could save them money in the short term. Some have suggested the Celtics should see what commercial value there is for Derrick White – for whom they sent their first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft to the San Antonio Spurs this week – which could have the highest value after an impressive postseason. However, the more likely changes will likely lie further down the depth map to shore up a thin bank that was ultimately exposed in these final, fateful games.
The path of least resistance would be to bring back most of the significant players from last season and hope internal improvements make all the difference. It’s very possible and likely that the mental mistakes the Celtics keep making, especially when playing up front, are the result of inexperience and not the result of a lineup designed simply as a turnover machine. A long playoff run — which famously was the entire roster’s first trip to the NBA Finals — could certainly be the learning experience they need before discovering their ultimate form.
Honestly, this team deserves the benefit of the doubt. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Celtics make minor bench moves and essentially run back the same roster next year. That team finally thrived only after parting ways with Kyrie Irving and then Kemba Walker: Perhaps the basketball gods warned them not to seek another big-name acquisition in the upcoming offseason.