On the morning of June 23, 2023, Boston Celtics fans woke up to shocking news. During the night, the Celtics traded Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies and received Kristaps Porzingis from the Washington Wizards in return as part of a three-team trade. Then, on Oct. 1, 2023, the wild offseason for the Celtics continued. The Celtics announed they traded Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon and two first-round picks in return for Trail blazers guard Jrue Holiday. With these two moves, the Celtics completely retooled their roster with the obvious goal of bringing home an 18th championship.
On paper, the Celtics have definitely improved. The additions of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis into the starting lineup are clear upgrades over Marcus Smart and Robert Williams. The Celtics may have the most talented roster in the league. Few teams can match the firepower of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford and Derrick White. However, it has certainly come at a cost, and only time will tell if the Celtics made the right decisions.
The Celtics’ offseason moves have not been easy for Brad Stevens and management to make. Marcus Smart was, in many ways, the face of the Celtics for the last decade. His unrelenting hustle, phenomenal defensive play and leadership won the hearts of many Celtics fans worldwide. More than anything, he was the identity and glue of this Celtics team that has had so much postseason success in recent years. Trading a player like him is a massive gamble. On top of that, the team traded Robert Williams, a spectacular defensive player, as well as Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
The Celtics have given up a lot to form their current roster. The only way they can justify trading away homegrown and beloved players such as Smart and Williams is to win the NBA Finals. Anything else would simply be a failure. They came close the past two seasons, losing in the NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference Finals. With the improvements made to the roster this offseason, many people have already penciled in the Celtics as the team representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this upcoming season. For example, ESPN analyst Kevin Pelton built a stats-based model that projects the Celtics to lead the NBA in wins this season, with 54.3 games, as shown in this article.
On the surface, this Celtics team has plenty of time to win a championship, as the majority of their key players are under 30 years old. However, this may not be the case upon closer inspection, as the window may be much shorter than it seems. The first issue is that Holiday is essentially on a one-year contract. He has a player option after this season, which he will most likely decline with the goal of signing a new lucrative deal. It makes sense for the Celtics to re-sign him since they traded a lot to get him. The problem is that this Celtics squad is becoming expensive. The team recently signed star Jaylen Brown to a massive $300 million contract and Jayson Tatum is likely to sign a similar contract next offseason. Besides that, Kristaps Porzingis recently signed a two-year, $60 million extension. The Celtics have a large sum of money tied up into these three players for the foreseeable future. With Al Horford, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard earning significant salaries in the upcoming years as well, it will be difficult to give Holiday the money he’s worth after this season. Yet, even if they can get a deal done with Holiday, the future holds another question mark as well.
Another issue that will plague the Celtics soon is the age of their center, Al Horford. Horford is now 37 years old, and history shows that NBA players past the age of 35 tend to fall off very quickly. The Celtics simply do not know how much longer they can rely on Horford to be a key contributor. The lack of depth at the center position is slightly alarming, as Horford and Porzingis are the only two trustable options at the position. With Horford aging, this position becomes uncertain. The Celtics must capitalize on their opportunity to win the championship this season while Horford is still a capable player.
This begs the question: is the Celtics’ season a failure if they don’t bring home the NBA championship? Many Celtics fans, if asked this question, would absolutely say so. Smart and Williams were two of the most hardworking, well-liked and loyal players the Celtics have had in recent history. The Celtics trading them would only be worthwhile if it resulted in a championship. Boston has had some heartbreaking playoff losses in recent seasons. Fans worldwide hope that this year is different and that the Celtics will be the last team standing in June.