How Celtics Stack Up As Eastern Conference Teams Improve In Free Agency

It's fair to think Boston's roster took a step back from last season


Many teams around the Eastern Conference used the opening days of NBA free agency to get better for the 2021-22 campaign and beyond.

The Boston Celtics, however, don’t seem to be one of them.

And now the Celtics, who flirted with a .500 record throughout much of the 2020-21 campaign en route to a first-round exit, probably have a roster with less talent.

Josh Richardson was acquired from the Dallas Mavericks as Evan Fournier insurance, and he’s probably not as productive offensively as Fournier — especially from long range. The Celtics traded Kemba Walker who, for his faults as an expensive guard that didn’t play on back-to-backs, still was the third best offensive option on the team.

The reported deal for Kris Dunn along with the trade for Al Horford, along with Richardson, should immediately make Boston a better defensive team, but unless Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown go from stars to superstars, the C’s are another middling team that could find themselves right back in the play-in tournament.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, got a heck of a lot better in free agency.

Miami brought in external talent with a sign-and-trade for former Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and signed defensive matchup extraordinaire P.J. Tucker, who was a key piece for the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Free-agent forward Markieff Morris reportedly finalized a deal with the Heat on Tuesday night, too. And they also re-signed Duncan Robinson and extended star Jimmy Butler. The Heat, it seems, are right back in contention to for an NBA Finals appearance.

And while Miami probably is the best example these last two days, they’re not alone.

The Chicago Bulls added former Lakers guard Nick Caruso on Monday and conducted a sign-and-trade for ex-Spurs star DeMar DeRozan on Tuesday. The Brooklyn Nets added a boost to their bench with former Spurs guard Patty Mills. The New York Knicks signed Evan Fournier away from the Boston Celtics and re-signed Reggie Bullock. The Milwaukee Bucks reunited with veteran George Hill and signed ex-Celtic Semi Ojeleye. The number of deals, while varying in importance, all are conducted as teams look to improve.

The Celtics, on the other hand, haven’t done anything.

And it means Boston could be in a tough spot come the 2021-22 season, prior to getting to next year’s free agency where they could make a splash.

Because in addition to everything that has transpired throughout the last few days, it’s impossible to overlook the Nets, who could return to health with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile the defending NBA champion Bucks still have two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo & Co.

The Celtics, as currently constructed, will be relying heavily on Tatum and Brown to reach that next level. And if they do, well, we’ll see how it plays out. And if they don’t, well, we probably already know how it will.

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