It?s time to turn the page on 2021 and look toward 2022. NESN.com has you covered this week by rolling out several pieces of review/preview content ahead of the new year. Next up: Boston Celtics predictions.
The Boston Celtics made a handful of splash moves following a disappointing 2020-21 campaign.
Boston replaced president of basketball operations Danny Ainge with Brad Stevens and then hired first-year head coach Ime Udoka to take over on the sideline. One of Stevens’ first moves came when the C’s traded point guard Kemba Walker, which in turn brought back Al Horford. Stevens made other moves by signing free agent Dennis Schröder while signing Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and first-year Celtic Josh Richardson to extensions.
However, for all the offseason moves and for all the optimism that a new 2021-22 campaign brought, it’s been much of the same for the underwhelming Celtics. Boston again has hovered around .500 while nearing the midway point, and the group currently is the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference.
So, as we get set to flip the calendar forward, here are five random Celtics predictions for 2022:
1. Celtics do not trade Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum
Boston’s struggles have caused many to think one of the two pillars of the organization– as Udoka put it upon being hired — could be shipped out of town. At times it’s turned into a debate regarding who the Celtics would be better without. We’re of the belief neither will be moved in the coming year. The reasoning is simple. While the Celtics have struggled to do much of anything these past two seasons, Stevens and the Celtics’ brass could look at it as too early to move on from either All-Star given that they’re 25 (Brown) and 23 years old, respectively. They’re both under team control through the 2023-24 campaigns and neither have tried to push their way out of town yet.
2. Celtics trade Dennis Schröder
This trade is both far less pivotal and far more likely. Schröder, as mentioned, was one of Stevens’ best free-agent signings on a very modest one-year contract. However, with the Celtics failing to look like a contender, and with the point guard being on that aforementioned one-year deal, it makes him a very attractive trade deadline acquisition. Contending teams will be calling the Celtics about Schröder ahead of the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline, and it probably would be wise for the Celtics to get a shooter to help space the floor. If that player acquired has term left on the deal, that’s all the better.
3. Celtics finish as a top-10 team in defensive rating
It hasn’t been an overwhelming positive season thus far, but Udoka arrived in Boston and said he would put an added emphasis on the defense, and when the Celtics are completely bought in, they’re much improved on that end. The Celtics currently rank ninth in defensive rating. If the C’s can return to health during the second half of the season, they’ll be led by what they can do on that end of the floor.
4. Celtics make playoffs; eliminated in first round
The Celtics are digging themselves into an early hole, as they currently would take part in the NBA play-in tournament for one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference. Boston has the talent to win that play-in game, but if that’s where it lands, then the C’s likely would have to see one of the top seeds in the first round. Boston would have no chance against the current No. 1 seed Brooklyn Nets, for example.
5. Celtics add third piece either in free agency or trade
Some Celtics fans may think this prediction flies directly in the face of the fact that neither Brown nor Tatum will be traded. After all, for the Celtics to land any star that’s currently under contract — Damien Lillard, De’Aaron Fox, etc. — the asking price would start with Brown. It’s probably true. Well, maybe the C’s instead try to attract a potential free agent (cough, cough, Bradley Beal?) For that to happen, a sign-and-trade may need to take place, but with Stevens having signed players to extensions, perhaps that could be enticing to other teams. In the situation of Beal, especially, that package likely would have to include Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, but it’s certainly possible.