The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Next up? The Boston Celtics.
2020-21 season record
36-36, 7th in Eastern Conference
Enes Kanter, free agency
Dennis Schroder, free agency
Al Horford, trade
Josh Richardson, trade
Bruno Fernando, trade
Juancho Hernangomez, trade
Juhann Begarin, No. 45 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Kemba Walker, trade
Tristan Thompson, trade
Carsen Edwards, trade
Evan Fournier, free agency
Semi Ojeleye, free agency
Tacko Fall, free agency
|PG||Dennis Schroder||Payton Pritchard||Ryan Arcidiacono|
|SG||Marcus Smart||Josh Richardson||Romeo Langford||Garrison Mathews|
|SF||Jaylen Brown||Aaron Nesmith||Juancho Hernangomez||Sam Hauser|
|PF||Jayson Tatum||Al Horford||Grant Williams||Jabari Parker|
|C||Robert Williams III||Enes Kanter||Bruno Fernando|
3 Key Storylines
The next leap for Tatum and Brown
As one of the best young duos in the NBA - if not, the best young duo in the NBA - Tatum and Brown are set to build off of their continued growth from this past season.
Tatum may have been left off the All-NBA teams last year, but he still improved from his All-NBA campaign in 2019-20. Averaging career-highs of 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, the 23-year-old is knocking on the door to crack the top 10 players in the league. Despite Boston's first-round exit, Tatum's playoff performance was one to remember, as he went toe-to-toe with the Brooklyn Nets' three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. After a slow start to the series, Tatum went for 50 points in a Game 3 win before dropping 40 points and 32 points in losses in Games 4 and 5, respectively.
Brown had a strong case for Most Improved Player of the Year last season, taking the leap to All-Star status for the first time in his career. He averaged 24.7 points, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game while producing shooting splits of .484/.397/.764 - all of which were career-highs. A wrist injury cut Brown's season short, forcing the star guard to miss the entirety of the postseason, but he is expected to be back to full strength by the start of the 2021-22 season.
Brown has already been to three Eastern Conference Finals in five seasons, while Tatum has been to two. The next step for this tandem is getting over the hump and making their first NBA Finals appearance.
With arguably the league's two best teams in the Nets and Milwaukee Bucks in the East, can this duo overcome those powerhouses to finally reach that stage?
Who will be the starting five?
The Celtics starting lineup is one of their biggest questions heading into the 2021-22 season. The only safe assumption is that Tatum and Brown will be two of the five players, with team leader Marcus Smart a third near-guarantee. But will Smart make the turn into a full-time point guard? Or will new head coach Ime Udoka elect to go with offseason signing Dennis Schroder at the point and move Smart to the two?
Boston has a number of versatile options, which gives Udoka a lot of flexibility. They could go small and start Schroder, Smart, Brown, Tatum and one of Robert Williams III or veteran center Al Horford. They could also go big and start Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford and Williams.
Alternatively, defensive-minded wing Josh Richardson could very easily slot into the starting lineup, with Schroder becoming the sixth man.
There hasn't been many reports or rumors on what Udoka plans to do with the starting lineup, so keep an eye on that as preseason begins this upcoming week.
New pieces in place
Two of the Celtics' biggest issues last season were depth and bench scoring. According to Hoopstats, they averaged 30.7 bench points per game in 2020-21, the third-lowest in the league. With former head coach Brad Stevens transitioning to a basketball operations role, there was no one with more experience on this matter, as he often toyed with lineups and playing time in order to find the combinations that worked with limited talent.
As a result, it appears Stevens' first order of business was to bolster Boston's rotation. The Celtics brought in players like Schroder, Richardson and Horford to make a significant impact immediately. They brought back Enes Kanter following his strong season in Portland and added solid situational bench pieces like Juancho Hernangomez and Bruno Fernando.
Under a new head coach in Udoka, the Celtics should have a completely new look and feel to them compared to the teams of the last few years.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes this new group to click together, but there is no denying that Boston's roster has more talent going into this season.
5 games to watch
Oct. 20 at New York Knicks
Opening Night with a new head coach and new-look roster going up against some familiar foes. The Celtics will travel to Madison Square Garden to take on former teammates Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier in a matchup against the Knicks, a team Boston will be jockeying with in the standings for seeding all season long.
Nov. 4 at Miami Heat
The Heat and Celtics have rekindled a rivalry after going head-to-head in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020. Miami made a few notable moves this offseason, highlighted by the addition of veteran guard Kyle Lowry, who is no stranger to competitive games against Boston, either. This is their first matchup against each other this season and you won't want to miss it.
Nov. 19 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Celtics-Lakers. The two most storied franchises in the NBA. LeBron James at the TD Garden. Need I say more?
Nov. 24 vs. Brooklyn Nets
Any time Kyrie Irving comes back to Boston, it's going to be an event worth watching. After the Nets eliminated the Celtics last season, there is even more fuel to the fire between these two teams. Also, you get to watch Tatum and Kevin Durant battle again, which is always must-see-TV.
Dec. 25 at Milwaukee Bucks
Ever since their chippy seven-game playoff series back in 2018, the Bucks and Celtics have had some intense matchups. Boston got the best of Milwaukee in the season series last year, with a game-winning 3-pointer from Jayson Tatum kicking off the year with a bang on Opening Night. But the Bucks got the last laugh, winning the NBA title, and to be the best, you have to beat the best. The Celtics will get a crack at the defending champs in Milwaukee on Christmas Day.
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