By: Danny Kramer — School Sports Editor
After a subpar 2020-2021 season for the Boston Celtics that left them finishing 36-36 and ultimately falling to the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs, personnel changes were expected in the offseason.
Following the underwhelming season, Danny Ainge handed the general manager duties to former Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Sharon High School English teacher and Boston Celtics fan Ms. Lisa Jolicouer cites Stevens’ history with Ainge as the reason for Stevens’ promotion. “Stevens’ relationship with Danny extends back beyond his actual hiring date. Perhaps he has had more influence on drafting and trading than we realize?” says Jolicoeur.
Ime Udoka was brought in by Stevens to be the head coach of the two-headed monster in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown after working under legendary head coach Gregg Popovich for multiple seasons. Known for his player development, Udoka was hired in part to help get Tatum and Brown’s game to the next level. How much more room rising superstar Jayson Tatum has to grow is an ongoing debate, but Heller says that Tatum has all the tools to continue growing as a player. “He’s athletic, he has the potential of being a better defensive player, he shoots well enough, [and] he takes his defender off the dribble,” said English teacher and a rival Los Angeles Lakers fan Mr. David Heller.
With Stevens now leading basketball operations, one of his first player moves was shipping four-time all-star point guard Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City for a return centered around seasoned veteran forward Al Horford. Heller was having trouble seeing how obtaining Horford could be a win-now move for the Celtics. “I can’t imagine it’s a win-now move when you get Al Horford—now he’s a good serviceable player, but he’s kind of at the end of his career,” said Heller.
The full trade led to the Celtics giving up Kemba Walker, the number sixteen overall pick in the 2021 draft, and a second-round pick in the 2025 draft, for Al Horford, center Moses Brown, and a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. After realizing all of the assets that the Celtics had to give up in order to dump Kemba Walker, Heller said, “That sounds like a terrible deal, so it can’t be a win-now because it hasn’t made their team any better.”
It is possible that not immediately making the team better is in fact the plan, for as Jolicoeur points out, it seems as if Stevens and the Celtics front office are looking ahead of this season after being linked to upcoming free agents and star guards in Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal and Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine. “It is clear that the team is positioning for a blockbuster move-either at the deadline or in the summer, or both. To be successful they need to maximize the value of the current players,” said Jolicoeur.
Senior student and Celtics fan Nate Yaffe says that the plan is risky because while players such as Beal and Lavine are needed to win in a superstar-driven league, the value needed to get said players would not be worth the acquisition. “I don’t think any player at all is worth the value that would be given up to get a superstar like Beal, but I also think that you need superstars to win in the league today, and I don’t think we [the Boston Celtics] can win with the team we have now,” said Yaffe.
Jayson Tatum has proven himself to be a viable star of a championship team, but the question remains if Jaylen Brown can be the second option, or if he has to be a number three. Heller points out that Brown has the ability to be a second option. “The third pieces don’t always have to be like Durant, you just need that third component,” said Heller.
There is a chance former Lakers point guard Dennis Schöder can be that third piece. Stevens waited out the point guard market and signed Dennis Schröder on a prove-it, one-year 5.9 million dollar deal. Schröder is believed to be a starting-caliber point guard, and he might be able to flourish without standing in the shadows of Lakers superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. “This is a great move for the Celtics—you got this talented player who wants to make his name, he gets to be more of the forefront of the offense than he was going to be with the Lakers,” said Heller.
Walker might be a better talent than Schröder, but paying Schöder approximately 21 million dollars less makes the new Celtics point guard more valuable for the team. “I think he is a starting-caliber point guard, I think we are severely underpaying him [Schröder] for what he is worth, and he is a great Kemba replacement because we were overpaying Kemba and now we are underpaying Schröder so it’s great value,” said Yaffe.