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2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Early Edition: No. 4 Boston Celtics

Boston: Mar 18, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma (33) looks on against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

TThe Boston Celtics missed a chance to go to back-to-back finals last year. The Celtics also made one of the biggest splashes this offseason with the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis. But there are now questions surrounding the C’s point guard position. This is why Boston is ranked fourth in my early edition power rankings.

2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Early Edition: No. 4 Boston Celtics

Boston and the Milwaukee Bucks went toe-to-toe for the top seed in the Eastern Conference last year. The Celtics eventually finished second with a 57-25 record, although they went further than the Bucks in the playoffs. The Celtics advanced to the conference finals for the second straight year, marking the fifth time they have done so in seven years. But they couldn’t recover from a 3-0 series deficit to the Miami Heat and fell in seven games.

Boston’s 57 wins were its most since compiling 62 victories during the 2008-09 season. The Celtics accomplished this feat despite considerable drama surrounding coach Ime Udoka’s departure and with rookie coach Joe Mazzula in the first seat. The C’s were the only team ranked in the top 3 of the league in offensive and defensive rating, ranking second in both categories.

Boston had quite an eventful summer. Besides trading for Porzingis, the Celtics extended Jaylen Brown, maxing him out in the process.  The Celtics traded Grant Williams and Marcus Smart while making several other small deals. The C’s also signed free agents Oshae Brissett, Dalano Banton, and  Svi Mykhailiuk.

Best Offseason Move: Trading For Kristaps Porzingis

The acquisition of Porzingis fixes the Celtics’ biggest problem last year, which was at center.  The C’s five men ranked 24th in efficiency. The biggest issue was the C’s lack of offensive production, as Robert Williams only played in 35 games, and Al Horford produced his worst season ever.

Horford averaged 9.6 points on just 7.6 shots a game last season. Both were career lows. While the 37-year-old compiled a 62.7% effective field goal percentage, he got to the free throw line once every three contests.

Another issue with Williams missing so much time was the C’s lack of depth. Luke Kornet was forced to play 69 games, seeing nearly 12 minutes a contest,  and Blake Griffin saw most of his minutes at the five.  The group of centers defended decently well but struggled on the glass.

Enter Porzingis. The 7-3 Latvian is one of the most big men in the league. He is coming off one of his finer seasons in 2022-23, as he was highly efficient. Porzingis produced 23.2 points, 8.4 caroms, and 2.7 assists while shooting .498/.385/.851.

Porzingis gives the Celtics a Big 3 and one of the top starting lineups, with Brown and Jayson Tatum leading the way. Derrick White will take over starting duties at point guard, with Horford being the final player on the floor at tip.

The biggest concern surrounding Porzingis is his health. Porzingis played in 65 games last year, his most action since appearing in 66 contests in 2016-17.

Will have to see if Porzingis, who signed a two-year, $60 million extension with the Celtics this summer, can stay healthy all season. Forced out of the World Cup due to plantar fasciitis, Porzingis expects to be ready by the start of camp.

Worst Offseason Move: Not Upgrading Backcourt Depth Quality

Malcolm Brogdon

For the Celtics to acquire Porzingis, they had to give up one of their top point guards. While Boston made the right decision to bring Porzingis aboard, trading Smart as part of the deal hurts a little. Smart was the little of the team and is one of the top defensive lead guards in the league.

Even without Smart, the Celtics have two solid starting caliber point guards in White and Malcolm Brogdon. But Brogdon reportedly has hard feelings about being included in the initial proposed trade for Porzingis that would have sent the 31-year-old combo guard to the Los Angeles Clippers. Concerns about Brogdon’s elbow injury prevented the trade from going through.

Will Brogdon’s attitude — being “pissed” about being traded — carry over into the season. If so, the Celtics could have some chemistry issues going forward.

The Backcourt Currently

Just as concerning is if Brown, White, or Brogdon is sidelined for a while. That leaves the Celtics with Payton Pritchard, Banton, Mykhailiuk, JD Davison, and Jay Scrubb on the roster.

Pritchard is a solid shooter who wanted a bigger role this year. He should be the C’s fourth guard, so he should get some good run this season. A career 40% 3-point shooter, Pritchard is a good ball-handler, though he could improve defensively.

Banton, a 2021 second-round draft pick of Toronto, has seen sparse minutes in his 95 career NBA appearances. He is a two-way player who doesn’t do anything great and doesn’t shoot it well from deep at all.

Known as a knockdown shooter, Mykhailiuk had an excellent 19-game stint with the Charlotte Hornets, averaging 10.6 points and 2.7 assists a game. He does struggle on the defensive end.

Davison and Scrubb are on two-way contracts. Davison is an outstanding distributor but struggles shooting from a distance and with turnovers. Meanwhile, Scrubb is a high-volume scorer who has yet to be more than an emergency fill in his three NBA campaigns.

What’s Next? Boston Signs Lamar Stevens

Boston made a move on Friday that likely gave the Celtics 15 players under contract with a standard deal as the Celtics and Lamar Stevens came to an agreement, per Shams Charania.

The details of his deal are unknown, though it is likely a standard contract with at least some guarantee.

Stevens potentially fills some void left by Grant Williams’ departure. Like Williams, Stevens is a good defense player. He averaged 5.3 points and a career-high 3.3 rebounds last season with a shooting slash line of  .448/.316/.702.

Stevens gives Boston 20 players for training camp. Taylor Funk and DJ Steward (not official) have training camp players, with Funk’s deal possessing Exhibit 10 language. Neemais Queta joins Davision and Scrubb with two-way contracts. Kornet has a nonguaranteed deal, while Mykhailiuk and Banton have partial pacts.






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