With only three players returning from last season’s roster, including one starter, it’s safe to say that these aren’t the Boston Celtics that restored glory to Boston basketball. This upcoming season’s team is a decisively younger roster, headlined by two All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, as opposed to the previous team’s singularly led by Isaiah Thomas. But, it’s the primary rotations around those stars that have drastically changed — for better or worse. In past years, the Celtics were a unit composed of weaker parts that made a greater whole, focused on defense, and accentuated by their experience together. Juxtaposed to the 2016 or 2017 team’s, the Irving-Hayward team is without any elite defenders like Avery Bradley, but neck-deep in young talent. Whether it be Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Guerschon Yabusele, or even Kyrie Irving. Nonetheless, with that drastic of a change in personnel, you can imagine there are a host of new storylines to keep track of as well. Here’s your guide to all of the new narratives that will consume the Celtics entering the 2018 season:
- Kyrie Irving v. LeBron James
Can the student officially usurp his former master?
In a lot of fans and analysts mind’s alike, Irving’s decision to leave Cleveland was seen as a fool’s errand. As though leaving LeBron’s shadow would render his chances at the Finals to be nonexistent. However, the Celtics have faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs two of the last three season’s, first in the first round, then last year in the Conference Finals. That degree of improvement isn’t expected to suddenly come to a crashing halt either. I think it’s totally reasonable to predict that the Cavaliers and the Celtics are on a collision course to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals — and along the way, all of those matchups will set the tone for the series’ intensity. In particular, whether Irving excels in those highly emotional meetings, or he’s crushed by the pressure.
- Isaiah Thomas’ return
Adversely, Isaiah Thomas’ return to Boston will be both remorseful for fans, and an exercise in defiance on the part of Thomas — and rightfully so. Thomas rose to superstardom wearing the eponymous white and green, cementing his legacy as a Celtic with a series of iconic performances that revived basketball in Boston. With all of that said though, it’s obvious that Thomas’ impact on the franchise, and the city as a whole, didn’t cause Danny Ainge to second guess his decision. So, don’t be surprised if Isaiah Thomas’ return is met with a tearful tribute to the short, but sweet Isaiah Thomas era of Celtics basketball, or another iconic scoring exhibition — this time at the expense of the Celtics.
- Where’s the defense?
To be perfectly blunt, there aren’t any standout defenders on this roster. Brown has certainly shown potential and Al Horford isn’t atrocious, but the losses of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder were crushing. Coach Brad Stevens has proven time and time again that he can certainly formulate smart and intuitive defensive rotations, despite the plethora of poor to average defenders he’s been dealt, but even this roster is a stretch. Don’t rule out the possibility of 230 combined point extravaganzas.
- Not enough chemistry
As previously stated in the article’s prelude, the Celtics sacrificed a lot of veteran talent and more importantly, chemistry, to craft this younger roster. Is one regular season enough time to design a capable rotation, and a diverse enough offensive playbook that accentuates all of the players talents? There’s certainly a wide cast of characters, with drastically different skill sets to pair with one another, but can Coach Stevens turn that into a championship formula in 82 games? I can’t definitively say yes or no, but I know that if he does, he deserves that ever illusive coach of the year.
- Can Gordon Hayward rival Kyrie Irving?
I think somewhere along the line during the ‘Gordon Hayward Offseason-Chronicles’, Hayward’s inherent value became diluted. So let’s reel this in:
Just because Hayward is both fair-skinned and a Hoosier, doesn’t mean he’s the next Larry Bird. Let alone anything that even slightly resembles Larry Bird. Hayward’s a proficient defender and passer, who shoots incredibly well for a forward and can consistently score 20 points at an efficient rate. That’s it. So let’s just hope he doesn’t falter by virtue of the pedestal he’s been placed on by delusional Celtics fans.