The Boston Celtics were supposed to be a powerhouse of the NBA’s Eastern Conference in the 2018/19 season with fully-fit Kyrie Irving leading their charge to the NBA Finals. Their nemesis of the past two years LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving a path clear for the Celtics to take the Eastern Conference crown.
Without Irving for the final stages of the previous campaign and Gordon Hayward for the entire term, Brad Stevens’ youthful side forged their way to within one game of the NBA Finals and a showdown with the Golden State Warriors.
However, LeBron turned on the power in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals to send the Cavaliers in their stead, although they were ultimately crushed by Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and company.
LeBron’s departure to the Los Angeles Lakers left a void at the top of the Eastern Conference and the Celtics were expected to fill it, despite the prowess of the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo along with the Philadelphia 76ers and their rising talent.
It proved not to be the case as Boston were never able to rise to the occasion, struggling for rhythm and cohesion on the court, which appeared to spill into the locker room. Irving’s attitude more than most appeared to have an effect on the rest of the roster, particularly the younger players. Stevens’ side finished in the fourth seed, and although they cruised past the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the post-season, Giannis and the Bucks dumped them out in the semi-finals with ease.
Irving’s departure was greeted with joy by some Celtics supporters, while veteran Al Horford also left, leaving a void of senior talent at the TD Garden. Boston were quick to move for Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter to replace the duo on the court. In the NBA betting on bet365, the Celtics are backed at +700 to win the Eastern Conference behind the Bucks and the 76ers.
Kawhi Leonard’s exit from the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors has knocked them down in the thoughts of the sportsbooks, but the rising star of Giannis at the Bucks has established them as the dominant force in the Eastern Conference after their 60-win term last season. That is the challenge ahead of Stevens to move the Celtics back to the top of the Conference.
Boston do have talent on their roster with the move for Walker. He’s not quite the quality of Irving, but he appears to have a character that meshes with the identity of the franchise. Walker has already made an impact in the locker room to call for unity, but will need to produce his form of the last four seasons to spearhead a charge for the NBA Finals.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown underwhelmed in the previous campaign and were the reported targets of Irving’s ire.
However, both have immense talent and could be poised for breakout seasons to take the Celtics to the top.
Hayward struggled to find his peak form following his return from injury. Now two years removed from his devastating leg break, the 29-year-old will be expected to become the player that Boston paid a lucrative contract for in 2017. Talent is not the issue for the Celtics, but the campaign is a big one for the futures of their players and potentially Stevens to see if he can take the franchise forward.