While we await the addition of more reinforcements (I’d take Austin Rivers), let’s check in with the main cast members…
Jaylen Brown: I don’t feel good about it, but it’s the truth. The longer this strange delay in signing Brown to a supermax contract goes on, the more I wonder if the Celtics would be better off if there had been an ideal trade to find a more compatible matchup for Jayson Tatum.
Brown is a special scorer, but I’m still more apprehensive about paying around $300 million to a player who isn’t a particularly willing or skilled passer (he had 68 assists and 66 turnovers in the playoffs, an awful ratio). More damning, unofficially led the league last season in catnaps while his husband toasted him on a backdoor.
Brown’s regression (indifference?) on defense belies the work he’s put into honing other parts of his game — or at least creating shots for himself. A simple way for the Celtics to improve this coming season is for the holdover players to add variety to their skills and repertoires.
When Brown does eventually sign, hopefully he won’t view the massive contract as a total validation of how he’s playing. There is more to do.
Jayson Tatum: I can’t make up my mind how Game 7 against the Heat would have gone had he not sprained his ankle and rendered himself practically stationary on the first possession, but I reckon there are two outcomes: The Celtics would have won and completed the comeback from down 3-0 in the series. The Celtics would have blown a 10-point lead with four minutes left and lost on a Jimmy Butler dagger. One or the other. Anyway, Tatum: He always comes back with something new in his repertoire, and the most important thing he can do this offseason is figure out how to become more efficient, especially in the midrange. I trust he will.
Kristaps Porzingis: Concerns about his durability are valid, and given how frustrated he would be in Dallas when Luka Doncic would go into iso-ball mode, it’s fair to wonder how he’ll stack up with Tatum and especially Brown. But I think many of us — especially those who are still sad that Smart is no longer here — underestimate Porzingis’ gifts as an offensive player, and it will almost feel like a pleasant surprise when we finally get to see him play.
Derrick White: His approval rating after emerging as the ultimate glue guy and, many nights, the Celtics’ second- or third-best player last season must be 99.99 percent. And whoever it is that is in charge of the 0.01 percent is obviously a douchebag. The Celtics could use two more Derrick Whites. Maybe three. I wish everyone on this team thought about the game the way he does.
Robert Williams: Speaking of the team improving via individual players improving, how encouraging was that video of Williams working on his perimeter game the other day that was all over social media? Williams has a legitimately deft touch around the hoop, and this is the first offseason in a while where he’s not coming off an injury. If he can add a consistent 15-footer to his game, the Celtics will be better for it.
Al Horford: Recent prejudice seems to have caused some fans to have buyer’s remorse over signing the 37-year-old Horford to a two-year, $20 million extension in December, when that deal apparently kept the Celtics from being able to keep Grant Williams. I’d rather have Horford, even at his advanced age, at that bargain price than pay Williams $54 million over four years. Horford has lost a step defensively and his shooting dipped in the playoffs, but if his coach can resist playing him 31 minutes per game. game again this season, he can still be an effective player and he will always be a smart and selfless one.
Malcolm Brogdon: I know the $22 million annual price tag is steep, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who remembers how important and effective he was during the regular season. The Celtics would have won the title two years ago if he had been on the roster then. The Celtics are better off with him still on the roster now, and while he was in score-first mode last season, he’s able to pick up some of the playmaking power after averaging more than 7 assists per game. match at some point in his career.
Payton Pritchard: He can help as a bench scorer and he deserves the opportunity. But he creates better for himself than he does for others. The Celtics still need a true backup point guard.
Sam Hauser: Among true contributors, he’s a bit of a forgotten man, in part because Joe Mazzulla buried him during the playoffs. But he is a real sharpshooter and holds up well enough defensively.
Jordan Walsh: I’m probably in the minority, but I don’t think the 19-year-old will be a contributor this season. His shooting mechanics suggest his production from the perimeter in Summer League was a bit of a fluke. But he will ultimately be a difference-maker on defense, and Brad Stevens clearly found a future rotation player in the second round.
And while we’re on the subject of end players for 2023-2024, am I alone in wishing they’d bring back Blake Griffin? Talk about putting your ego aside and knowing your role. There must always be room for someone like that.