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Boston Celtics future: Vision for the 2020's

The Boston Celtics future is still looking bright, despite the team's loss of Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris. This season will end in the year 2020, and the groundwork has been planted for the next decade. Let's take a look.

The Past:

The 1960's resulted in nine Championships as Red Auerbach and Bill Russell formed one of the top coach/player duos in NBA history. Red ruled with an iron hand and sometimes with an iron fist as he decked a few opponents that crossed the line. Walter Brown, Red Auerbach and Bill Russell were one of the early owner/coach/star-player trios - and one of the best ever. After the retirement of Russell and Sam Jones in 1969, the Celtics did a quick, one-year rebuild, bringing Dave Cowens on board to pair with Coach Tommy Heinsohn. The 1970's saw two more Title flags go up to the Boston Garden rafters behind the strong play of Cowens, JoJo White and John Havlicek. Author, Marc C. Bodanza, gives some great insight into that era in his JoJo White bio, Make it Count.

The 1980's brought Larry Bird to Boston, and from 1979 to 1992 the Celtics garnered three more Championships with the Big-3 front court of Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. The 1985-86 Championship season boasted what many believe to be the top NBA team ever assembled.The years from 1993 to 1998 saw yet another rebuild with Paul Pierce coming to the team via the draft in 1998. Danny Ainge showed up in 2003 and immediately started to make changes. A new Big-3 was formed in 2007, consisting of Piece, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. That trio was responsible for only one Title in 2008, but they challenged mightily for a few more.

The Present:

Celtics boss, Danny Ainge, can not be satisfied with one Championship in the last 33 years for the team he now leads. Coach Brad Stevens may not rule with an iron hand like Red did, but his calm demeanor belies a fierce competitiveness. Count on Stevens to learn from the lessons of a failed 2018-19 season. Five key members of that crew are gone. Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes and Terry Rozier have left via free agency or trade. This season begins a new era.

The Core

In an attempt to fill the void created by the departure of the above-mentioned quintet, Ainge traded for Kemba Walker and brought in Enes Kanter via free agency. The Celtics core appears to consist of Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward. At least one member of that core may end up coming off the bench, with Kanter taking the 5-spot - at least for the start of the season.

The Bench

Assuming it will be Smart leading the second unit, he will be joined by Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Rob Williams and Brad Wanamaker. The center spot remains a major question mark. French big man, Vincent Poirier, will fill that center spot at times, most likely sharing time with Rob Williams, Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis. Coach Brad Stevens will probably go with a center-by-committee strategy early on until he decides on a more-consistent solution.

The Rookies

Danny Ainge came away with four rookies from the 2019 NBA draft. Wings Romeo Langford and Grant Williams were chosen in the first round, while guards Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters were picked in the second round. After the disruptions of last season, Ainge went with character in this draft, but this foursome also has a lot of talent that is still untested at the NBA level.

Tacko Fall

Tacko Fall has to be in his own category here. The 7'7", 310-pound Green Giant is a true anomaly. No one really knows what the undrafted big man is capable of. The Celtics signed him to an Exhibit 10 contract, and his most-likely destination would be the G-League Maine Red Claws on a two-way contract if either Tremont Waters or Max Strus vacate one of the now-full 2-way roster slots.

The Future Vision

ESPN currently ranks the Boston Celtics 7th in the NBA, and 3rd in the Eastern Conference, for the impending 2019-20 season, behind both Milwaukee and Phildelphia. The Milwaukee Bucks are rated first-overall in those same rankings, but we all know - as Giannis Antetokounmpo goes, so go the Bucks. They rely on him heavily. Al Horford has moved on from the Celtics to the 76'ers, where he joins Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. The Philly talent is unquestioned, but their ability to win it all is still locked in haze.

So how about the Guys in Green. The addition of point guard Kemba Walker is critical. If he can supply the scoring and ball-distribution that Kyrie Irving displayed, but without the disruption that surrounded Kyrie, that would be a great start. Wing Jaylen Brown will be in a contract year, and the Celtics need to decide what his ceiling really is. Expect him to begin the season as a starter at the shooting-guard position. Danny doesn't like to extend rookies in their contract years, but an exception may be in the offing if Brown proves he is a vital part of the Celtics future.

Jayson Tatum needs to be turned loose. He has improved his defense, passing and rebounding - while his offensive skills have never been questioned - with the possible exception of his sometimes-poor shot selection. And make no mistake about this - Danny Ainge loves Marcus Smart and what he brings to the game. I am projecting Smart to lead that second unit, at least to start the season. And he should continue to be a vocal leader of the team, both on and off the court.

And Gordon Hayward? Expect him to start the season at 100% health. Will we see the form he displayed with the Utah Jazz? My answer is that he doesn't need to do that. With the talent on this 2019-20 version of the Celtics, Gordon simply needs to play an integral role - doing what he does best - meaning a bit of everything. Even with only 25.9 minutes/game last season, he averaged 11.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.4 APG. Expand that floor time to an even 30 minutes per game this season, and we get 13.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.9 APG and 1.0 SPG. You may ask, what did he average in his last season in Utah. In 34.5 MPG, he put up 21.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.0 SPG. Do you see my point? Expect his points to be down from the Utah numbers, but the rebounds, assists and steals should hold steady - assuming he picks up four more minutes of playing time over last season.

And the 5-spot? Who the Hell knows? Poirier and Kanter bring inside scoring, rebounding and a ton of energy. We have been told that Rob Williams has worked on his game over the summer, and we might expect some improvement in his shooting and exertion on the rebounding end. His shot-blocking ability is unworldly, and if he can harness that athleticism, he could be a terror. The center slot is really the major question mark for Boston.

Conclusion has the Boston Celtics ranked 9th in their chances of winning the 2020 NBA Championship. The Clippers come in first in those ratings, and Boston sits behind Eastern rivals Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Much of Boston's success this season rests with the Jay Team of Brown and Tatum. Last year's season most likely taught a few lessons in humility, as did the disappointing finish in recent World Cup competition. An over-achieving season in 2019-20 would be most welcome. The Celtics future starts very soon at training camp. Another Title is a long shot, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel and @_Celtics_Center


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