By Eduardo Monk Jr
The Boston Celtics rock headlines once again with their signing of All-Star Gordon Hayward to a four year, 128 million dollar contract. After getting manhandled by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals despite being owning the first seed this previous season, it’s clear Danny Ainge is doing whatever’s possible to acquire as much talent as legally possible to avenge this fact.
They loaded up on future firsts and landed Duke star Jayson Tatum on draft day and now they nabbed Hayward from right under the Jazz’s noses in free agency. There’s no doubt they’re trying to revoke that reputation as the Cavs’ little brother and as the worst first seed in NBA history. But this leads to the question-is all this enough?
Through all these draft day splashes and adding another All-Star to compliment Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, do they have the tools to contend?
Now the hard part of this question is the plain old fact that there is not a team in the league that can stand up to the Golden State Warriors, even despite the NBA Arms Race that is in full swing. A Big Three of Thomas-Hayward-Horford simply isn’t going to stand up to the Big Four juggernaut in Oakland.
But it’s not impossible they can overcome Cleveland and represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals this year.
The addition of Hayward already puts Boston in heavy competition with Cleveland. However, it all comes down to their prospects and how well they can develop and contribute that will decide the series for good.
It’s no secret that Danny Ainge is arguably the best GM in the league after the highway robbery known as the 2014 Nets trade. In this deal, they landed 4 first round picks and more for their aging veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and DJ White. With 3 of those picks so far have given them James Young, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum with one more seemingly top 5 pick on the way.
It’s these picks that are the secret to beating the Cavs.
What’s that I hear you say? The Celtics now have Gordon Hayward? That’s all they need to win? Well, you’re only half correct there, fellow NBA fan. As good as Hayward is, just adding him won’t change a 20.4 point gap.
But what will is Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Yes, folks, whether or not the Celtics are Finals bound or not is their rookie and sophomore can deliver. The Celtics are not good enough to defeat LeBron James, even with the addition of Gordon Hayward. They’re close but not close enough.
But Brown and Tatum is where the Celtics gain a massive edge. They’re a deep team but not star studded enough to defeat the top heavy Cavaliers. But if their bright youngsters can be even solid sixth men averaging 12 points a game each, the series scale will be tipped heavily in their favor.
Cleveland is a team heavily reliant on their Big Three in Kyrie Irving, LeBron and Kevin Love. From there, Kyle Korver is the highest scorer with 10.7 points. And at his age, his production isn’t going to get any larger than that. No other player on the roster came close to scoring double digits.
They have a starting lineup drove by their Big Three tagged with basically role players. There is no exciting young talent who could realistically take another step and focal point LeBron isn’t getting any younger. This is a paper thin roster that outside of their Big Three make a strong case for the first overall pick in this year’s lottery.
The Celtics, on the other hand, are a team without a couple of superstars like the Cavs but now have multiple All-Stars. They’re a roster deep as the Mariana trench with their starting lineup this past season all scoring in double digits and among the strongest benches in the league.
But what can put them over the edge is Tatum and Brown. Tatum is one of the most polished offensive prospects ever and despite being very raw, the hyper athletic Brown as flashed star level talent often this past season. It’s an exciting duo and paired with Thomas, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Al Horford is more than enough to conquer a see-through roster in Cleveland.
It’s a lot of pressure to be put on the shoulders of basketball players not even legally able to drink yet. However, it’s them that give the Celtics the much-needed edge in the Eastern Conference Finals. Could they make the Finals with just Hayward? Probably. But a dynamic duo of Brown and Tatum is everything Boston needs to be undisputed.
Even though they’ll probably get swept by Golden State in the Finals.