The 2022 NBA Finals are over, and once again the Golden State Warriors are champions. Hitting their stride at the right time, the Boston Celtics became overmatched over the last two games. But what happened to the fiery Jayson Tatum-led team? After displaying his love for the Mamba Mentality, Tatum and the rest of his team lost their edge. So with the 2022-2023 offseason here, can the Celtics return to the finals again? Are the pieces in place to make another run at an elusive 18th NBA Championship? Based on this year’s playoff performance, the coaching is right. But there is always room for improvement. Let’s look at three changes the Boston Celtics need to make this offseason.
How the Celtics were in the Locker Room after losing to the Warriors in the NBA Finals 🏀😂🤦🏾♂️ pic.twitter.com/Fsp5oVFGUv
— Mark Phillips (@SupremeDreams_1) June 17, 2022
Three Changes The Boston Celtics Need To Make This Offseason
Help Jayson Tatum Find His Own Mamba Mentality
Three key stats stood out during the entire run of the NBA Playoffs when it came to Tatum. The first was turnovers as he now has the distinction of having the most turnovers in NBA Finals history. Add on to the fact that the Celtics had 23 turnovers in Game 6 does not make it better. But it is Tatum, subsequently, put on a pedestal as the next mega star who lost that hunger that celebrated him defeating Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets. Averaging under 40% in field goal percentage, under 70% from free throws, and only scoring 2 points in the first half of your last game looks embarrassing.
For Tatum, this will be a key offseason for him. For Boston, it’s getting him the help he needs. Either albeit a chance to use Boston facilities with his trainer this Summer or hiring a specialist to help with endurance, it will be up to Danny Ainge and his staff to make sure Tatum is well prepared next season. But improvements will not come on the back of one player, it will be a team effort. One that Tatum can rely on when he cannot carry the physical and mental burden alone.
Explore All Free Agency Options
The heart of Al Horford will go down in NBA Playoffs history. From his consistency with his shot to his hustle on defense, Horford became what the Celtics needed at the right moment. But like Tatum, he cannot do it alone. With about $17 million available, if they don’t pick up player options, the money is there. Throw in a $9 million mid-level exception, and Boston can add depth that was visibly missing during the Finals.
One player that comes to mind is Brooklyn’s young center, Nicolas Claxton. Brooklyn’s tendency to develop high usage centers has been uncanny. From Brook Lopez to Jarrett Allen, many props go to their scouting team. Claxton can belong in that same conversation. Rangy in length and a smooth touch at the rim, Claxton adds switchability the Celtics desperately need. Having your center able to defend guards and wings was valuable throughout the playoffs with several teams. The Celtics should take that opportunity as it doesn’t hurt to have a Robert Williams-level player coming off the bench.
Nic Claxton working on moves with a new cut! pic.twitter.com/XvGYkzvEoI
— Brooklyn Netcast (@BrooklynNetcast) June 12, 2022
Another interesting piece could be someone who the Celtics just played against, the incumbent free agent Otto Porter Jr. Adding a ring to his resume solidified what many thought coming out of Georgetown, Porter is an NBA mainstay. Between his intangibles on defense to the consistency behind the arc with the 2nd best three-point field goal percentage on the team, Porter was key all series. But does Golden State have the finances to pay him and their other players looking to cash in this off-season? The answer is no, and with the development of Jonathan Kuminga, the Warriors may be OK with letting Porter depart.
Adding Porter as a small-ball four with catch-and-shoot ability adds an improved dynamic the Celtics were missing throughout the Playoffs. But that was not the only piece missing throughout this run. Consistency hurt this Boston Celtics team on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, this can end up being a result of Ainge making a very impactful and sudden decision many may not see coming.
Trade the 2022 Defensive Player of The Year
Marcus Smart may have been considered the most snubbed NBA Defensive Player of Year. But this year, Smart earned his trophy and turned it up a notch throughout the NBA Playoffs. With a sudden urge to become a potent offensive threat, Smart became the perfect third piece next to Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Unfortunately, he could not maintain the level needed for a tampered-off Tatum and a defensively locked Brown. In a case like this, it would be unfair to put all the pressure of a loss on Smart, but the NBA is a business.
To make this work, Stevens and his office will have to be crafty with who they trade with. In this case, the Indiana Pacers and their guard Malcolm Brogdon may be the answer. A swap that includes Daniel Theis to match money, and the Celtics get a shot-making defensive-minded point they haven’t seen in years. Either a one-two pick-and-roll punch with Brown or backdoor cuts from an on-a-run Tatum, Brogdon could put this team past the Warriors next year.
For the Pacers, this is smart money. While Brogdon has the talent to carry this team, his younger counterpart in Tyrese Haliburton is the point guard of the future in Indiana. With Theis and the uncertainty of Myles Turner going into next year, you have a solid veteran to play the 5 until a permanent decision is made.
But would the Celtics be willing to part with one of the core reasons why they were able to make the 2022 Playoffs this year? There are many decisions to be made before the start of the 2022-2023 season including motoring Robert Williams’ health going into training camp. Whatever becomes of the Celtics going forward, they should give themselves credit. It is impressive having 4000+ championship odds in the preseason to defying those very same odds by playing in the Finals. To make that next step, some poignant decisions must be made.