The 2018-19 Boston Celtics are loaded. Danny Ainge seems to have acquired every piece necessary for a championship-caliber team. The most important being a mix of talented veterans and young players. One aspect viewers might overlook is the continuity on the coaching staff. The Celtics’ coaching staff has mostly remained in tact. Besides Walter McCarty leaving, the Celtics have been able to retain the likes of Jay Larranaga and Micah Shrewsberry. Reports swirled last season that Larranaga was interviewing for a number of jobs including the New York Knicks head coach position. With a group of talented players and coaches, and high expectations, Brad Stevens has a few new challenges this season.
The Development of Robert Williams
Danny Ainge struck again in the late first round of the 2018 NBA Draft. Robert Williams was a projected lottery talent in 2017 who came out in 2018 and fell due to off the court issues. Williams is a young, athletic center who can play above the rim, a piece the Celtics did not have last season. If Williams plays regularly, he will be taking some of Aron Baynes‘ minutes as the two players both provide strong defensive instincts. As we saw in the NBA Summer League, Brad Stevens will have to help Williams learn to be a professional. Williams missed a team flight and missed the first practice. He then injured himself in his first summer league appearance. Now, injuries happen but the optics of injuring himself after missing a flight aren’t great. Stevens and his staff will have to ensure Williams boards every flight and stays focused throughout the 82 game season. Williams making the news for the wrong reasons will be a distraction to a team with title aspirations.
The Celtics are title contenders
Last year was supposed to be the first year the Celtics contended for a title from the start of the season. Once Gordon Hayward went down, the pressure faded and fans seemingly buckled up for a roller coaster season with younger players. LeBron James‘ presence loomed a little larger without Hayward in the lineup. This year, Brad Stevens will have to manage expectations for the whole season given everyone stays healthy. If Celtics’ players regularly tell the media they expect to make the NBA Finals, like Jaylen Brown did recently, that could create a larger target on their back for other teams.
Unlike previous years, Stevens will feel the effects of managing stars . Kyrie Irving‘s contract will be a hot topic all year. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown‘s playing time could come into question when Hayward returns to full strength. Lastly, the Eastern Conference arguably got stronger with the addition of Kahwi Leonard. Games against the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers will be more hyped, especially against Philadelphia. Last years playoffs series against them has lit the match for a more heated rivalry this season with both team’s young players in the spotlight. Stevens could be faced with more scrutinizing questions for his decisions this year than ever before.
Kawhi Leonard on the Toronto Raptors
Do not look past this team! The Toronto Raptors are a better team than a year before after trading DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. When healthy, Leonard is a definitive top-five talent in the NBA and plays hard on both ends of the floor. For those who don’t remember, the Celtics looked physically inferior to Toronto during a February matchup at the Air Canada Centre, losing 111-91. The Celtics did split the seasons series, beating the Raptors both times at the TD Garden, but will need to prove they can win in Toronto, especially if they end up meeting in the playoffs.