The 2021 season has not been too kind to a handful of teams across the NBA. Thanks to how fluid the COVID-19 protocols are, partnered with the newly structured schedule, some teams have thrived on the new normal, while others have suffered.
The Boston Celtics roster has been among the list of organizations that have been directly impacted both by the COVID-19 protocols, in addition to nagging injuries obtained by a handful of players through the first half of the season. With general manager Danny Ainge’s recent comments regarding the structure of the Boston Celtics roster coming out, what is in store for the Celtics come the second half of the season?
Danny Ainge Says The Boston Celtics Roster Is Not A Contender As Is
Danny Ainge’s Comments
After splitting a back-to-back last week with a win against the Denver Nuggets and a tough loss against the Atlanta Hawks, Danny Ainge spoke with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich to address the current state of the Boston Celtics roster. Quite honestly, the Celtics being at 15-15 at this point in the season and only sitting at the fifth seed in a loaded Eastern Conference feels like sort of a miracle and should ease a few tensions regarding the team’s playoff hopes.
Ainge was very open about the Celtics roster in his weekly appearance on the show. He put much of the Celtics’ recent struggles on himself and put the blame on him for not assembling this Celtics roster that may not be ready to contend this season. However, that is not to say this team does not have time to turn it around.
The Celtics fanbase has pointed to a number of issues that they want the organization to address. From Kemba Walker’s continued rehab to an inexperienced bench, to Brad Stevens’ coaching ability, it seems as though the fanbase demands absolute perfection in all departments at all hours of the day. While several of the Celtics roster deficiencies can be resolved with time and patience, there are a few valid arguments from the fanbase.
However, when the general manager says himself that the Celtics roster is not a championship contender, there may be a few routes to address the matter.
Use The Gordon Hayward TPE
If the Boston Celtics roster wishes to improve, then the coveted Gordon Hayward TPE has to be utilized to bring in another player to contribute scoring where the team is not getting it from. Aside from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker, the Celtics roster lacks that last bit of scoring that has been largely responsible for their inability to close out games.
After Sunday afternoon’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, where they saw a 24-point lead in the 3rd quarter turn into a five-point loss in overtime, the Celtics roster clearly needs an added scoring punch to prevent any such disastrous collapses again.
There are a handful of names on the market, or better yet, ones that the Celtics are linked to, and some that can potentially put the Celtics roster over the top and turn them into a contender. The Hayward trade exception covers $28.5 million, the largest in NBA history, and if the Celtics wish to have any sort of championship aspirations, then that exception cannot go unused.
That cap space can cover a handful of players across the league and could allow the Celtics to forfeit a much less detrimental package than if such an exception did not exist. The key now is, they have to use it.
Time To Hit The Panic Button After Sunday’s Collapse
Going back to my earlier point, Sunday night’s loss was ugly. When Kemba Walker goes 5-21 (1-12 from 3pt) and Jaylen Brown shoots 7-23 (3-10 from 3pt), the offense is going to be stagnant, and while he has shown to be capable, Jayson Tatum cannot provide the offensive production himself. But Sunday’s loss was eye-opening in a very negative fashion.
It marked the first time all season that I have acknowledged the fact that the panic button exists for this Boston Celtics roster. I am not yet ready or willing to smash the panic button, but I understand that it is in the room and sitting right in front of me.
Is this an ugly first half of the NBA season for the Celtics? Maybe. Does it have to continue through the second half? No, and if it continues to, then the Celtics are still likely to be a playoff team come postseason. Despite what the record states in the standings, this Celtics roster is a bit of a unique one. When they are right, they look like a cohesive team hitting on all cylinders (but that typically goes down the drain during the second half of most games). But on the other side, they have looked disastrous on more than a few occasions.
The odd thing about this Celtics roster, in the event that Danny Ainge does not pull the trigger on a trade before the deadline, they may still find a way for playoff success. They have young players like Robert Williams, Payton Pritchard, and Aaron Nesmith who continue to develop and have shown many positives to this point, but consistent production may just take time. With a handful of veterans like Tristan Thompson, a former NBA champion, Jeff Teague, Daniel Theis, and Kemba Walker, the team has a nice blend of personalities and insight to help out the Jays.
This Celtics roster has looked good in sprints, which is what the playoff push truly is. It does not have the same toll that an 82, or 72, game season has, with plenty of ups and downs along the way. With enough talent on the team, if the Celtics can put together any sort of consistency and mental toughness, a strong playoff sprint is still very much a possibility for this stumbling Celtics roster.