2021-22 Kia Season Preview

2021-22 Season Preview: Boston Celtics

Boston welcomes a new coach and several new faces in hopes for a deeper playoff run.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

Is Jayson Tatum ready for a larger leadership role in Boston?

Brad Stevens’ eight-year tenure as coach of the Boston Celtics ended with a disappointing, seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference and a quick, first-round exit in the 2021 playoffs. Stevens’ tenure as president of basketball operations began with a series of trades that have reshaped the supporting cast around All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier and Tristan Thompson are out. Al Horford and Enes Kanter are back, joined by Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson and Juancho Hernangomez.

Tatum and Brown are a pair of two-way forwards that 90% of the league would love to have. The former scored 50 points in both of the Celtics’ postseason wins. The latter was one of four players — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Paul George were the others — who averaged at least six catch-and-shoot points and at least six pull-up points per game. But those guys need help and the Celtics’ season could be determined by the impact of new coach Ime Udoka.


BIGGEST QUESTION

Might we see OKC Schroder again? Two seasons ago, Schroder had the best year of his career, averaging 18.9 points on an effective field goal percentage of 53.4% off the Oklahoma City Thunder bench. But that was the only of his eight seasons in the league in which he’s had an effective field goal percentage over 50%, and he took a step backward last season, unable to keep the Lakers’ offense afloat with LeBron James and Anthony Davis dealing with injuries. L.A. made a big change at point guard and Schroder was left hanging in free agency until the Celtics were able to get him for the tax-payer mid-level exception (for one year). A return to OKC form would certainly help Schroder earn a better contract next summer. It would also help the Celtics compete with the best teams in the East.


SEASON PREDICTION

Last season, the Celtics’ most-used lineup played just 131 minutes together (fewest for any playoff team’s most-used lineup) and included Daniel Theis, who was traded at the deadline. Better health and continuity could result in a bounce-back season, but there are multiple wildcards among the new additions. With Tatum and Brown, the floor is relatively high. But other teams in the East have better talent further down the roster. Predicted finish: 44-38.


PROJECTED STARTING FIVE

Dennis Schroder: Was a little more of a creator last season. Led the league with 1.4 secondary assists per game.

Marcus Smart: Remains a beast on defense and an erratic shooter on offense. Extension runs through 2025-26.

Jaylen Brown: Has gone from 13.0 to 24.7 ppg over the last two years, with increased efficiency.

Jayson Tatum: Scoring is there (26.4 ppg last season) and he’s taken steps forward in regard to making plays for others.

Al Horford: He’s 35, but played only 782 minutes last season after getting shut down by OKC in March.


KEY RESERVES

Payton Pritchard: Surprising contributor as a rookie. Shot 41% from 3-point range, including 47% on catch-and-shoot attempts.

Romeo Langford: Missed most of his second season, but scored a career-high 17 points as the Celtics were eliminated.

Josh Richardson: Could start if the Celtics prefer Schroder off the bench. Has seen a 3-point percentage drop in each of the last three seasons.

Robert Williams III: Disruptive defender, strong finisher and decent passer who could start at the five. Still seeking consistency.


LAST 5 SEASONS

How the Celtics have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …

Season W L PCT OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2020-21 36 36 0.500 113.1 10 111.8 13 +1.2 13
2019-20 48 24 0.667 112.8 4 106.5 4 +6.3 3
2018-19 49 33 0.598 111.3 10 107.0 6 +4.3 6
2017-18 55 27 0.671 106.8 18 103.2 2 +3.6 7
2016-17 53 29 0.646 110.6 7 108.0 14 +2.6 8

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


STAT TO KNOW

44-15 — Over the last two seasons, the Celtics are 40-45 (0.471) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and 44-15 (0.746) otherwise. That’s the league’s biggest such differential.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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