The Boston Celtics just came off of a very successful 2017-18 season. Very few people expected them to be one win away from the NBA Finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Yet, that’s precisely what they did. First, they knocked off a more talented Milwaukee Bucks team in the first round in seven games. Next, they eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers in five, which was surprising to many, as 18 of 21 ESPN NBA analysts predicted the Celtics go down in that series. Then of course, as we all know, the Celtics fell short to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in another classic seven-game series.
So, what’s next for the Celtics? Let’s start with the obvious: They will be much better next season with the return of Irving and Hayward. With those two, everyone in the Celtics starting lineup could be an all-star next season. Irving and Horford were both all-stars this season, and during his healthy 2017 campaign, Hayward made the All-Star Game for the first time in his career in Utah. In addition, if Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to improve, one would think they could reach a similar state next year as well.
A question that will loom around the Celtics camp is what will happen with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Smart is set to become a restricted free agent, but will the Celtics re-sign him? He proved to be a defensive stalwart during Boston’s playoff run, as well as a viable passer and rebounder.
Despite his horrendous Game 7 performance against the Cavaliers, shooting 0/10 from three, Terry Rozier showed lots of flashes in the postseason, averaging 16.5 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.3 rebounds with a 40.6 FG% and 34.7 3P% through 36.6 minutes a night. But would a point guard-needy team want to trade for him? Rozier has one more year left on his contract, and it is unlikely that the Celtics will be able to afford both of them for the long-haul. If the Celtics had to pick between them, who would they keep? I’d go with Smart because of his playmaking ability, good defense and the spark he brings with all his hustle/winning plays.
Moving forward, the Celtics own the 27th pick in the upcoming draft. Danny Ainge has done an excellent job in the draft the past few seasons, will he make another great choice? If he wants an eventual Marcus Smart/Terry Rozier replacement, here are some potential options:
Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova: DiVincenzo was a spark off the bench all season for Villanova. His draft stock catapulted after his explosion in the national title game against Michigan where he five three-pointers. Danny Ainge recently took him out to lunch, so clearly, there’s interest.
Jalen Brunson, Villanova: Brunson is a two-time national champion, and he won the National Player of the Year award this past season. He would be a good fit for the Celtics as a third-string point guard.
Gary Trent Jr, Duke: I find it surprising that many people think Trent will be available at No. 27. He was a 5-star recruit just a year ago, and in his lone season at Duke, he shot over 40 percent from the perimeter while showing the ability to put the ball on the floor. He would be a steal for the Celtics.
Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen can shoot, put the ball on the floor and is explosive. It would not be a bad idea for the Celtics to take him considering you can never have enough wings.
The Celtics are set to dominate the Eastern Conference for a long, long, long, time. Who is going to stop them? Even if the Cavaliers keep LeBron, one would think the Celtics would be able to finally knock him off if they return a fully healthy unit. The same can be said if the 76ers are unable to land LeBron, too. In the meantime, the future in Boston looks very, very bright for years to come.