The Boston Celtics are rightfully receiving their flowers in all the right spots heading into the 2023-24 season — for the most part.

Two weeks before Opening Night, the NBA released its latest “GM Survey,” revealing how executives across the league feel about the offseason by answering 50 questions. That covered almost everything, including Boston’s most recent front office push for Banner 18.

But was the league’s glowing view on the Celtics entirely deserving?

Well, no, not really.

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Granted, the Celtics are more than deserving of being among the league’s top teams in terms of praise. They polished their coaching staff with some experienced names, enhanced the lineup by adding Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, and, most importantly, retained Jaylen Brown. Those are all the critical checkpoints and then some.

However, that didn’t resolve everything, therefore, the Celtics aren’t exonerated for one crucial area that hindered them throughout last season and could trigger a deja vu effect yet again: Defense.

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The Celtics were deemed the best defensive team in the NBA, receiving 47% of the vote — a substantial lead ahead of the second-place Memphis Grizzlies who racked up 17% of the votes. That’s questionable for a number of reasons.

First, the offseason was certainly promising, but that doesn’t negate its losses. Boston parted ways from Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III — their undisputed defensive leaders. That’s a major toll on the defensive identity that, under former head coach Ime Udoka, pushed the Celtics to their last NBA Finals appearance. So entering a year where Boston’s defensive identity needs to be re-established, one could imagine the losses of Smart and Williams will be even more felt.

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Boston is banking on a repeat defensive year from Derrick White, now paired with Jrue Holiday, who’s regarded as one of the league’s best defensive guards. There’s a favorable possibility that those two lock it down on that end of the floor, but again, that doesn’t cancel out the front court’s red flags.

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No Williams means that Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla will have to lean toward Al Horford, who’s both aging and reliant on an outside shooting role to remain valuable, and Porzingis, who’s built an injury-prone reputation. That’s not a sure thing in terms of Boston’s rim protection which last season relied on Tatum who led the C’s with 8.8 rebounds a night.

The Celtics recorded a defensive rating of 110.6 which was only second to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. It was also a major drop-off from Boston’s 106.2 rating under Udoka the year prior, unsurprisingly leading the C’s to an inexcusable playoff exit to a No. 8-seeded Miami Heat group.

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That’s fueled an ongoing trend of underachieving that the Celtics have constantly failed to shake off, regardless of the fragile excuses to reach for.

No league-best defense should fail to dominate a playoff run against the Atlanta Hawks, Philadephia 76ers with a 50% Joel Embiid and Heat. The Celtics weren’t destined to win last season and that was all on them. And if that effort repeats itself with no improvement, the TD Garden rafters will be cold and dusty for another year.

Featured image via Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports Images