The dawn of a new NBA season is close on the horizon, and hoards of ravenous New Englanders are waiting impatiently for the start of the Boston Celtics’ latest quest for their 18th championship in franchise history. The Celtics have come up just short in the last two trips, falling to the Golden State Warriors in the 2021 NBA Finals and bowing out to the Miami Heat in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. However, after a busy offseason, pundits and homers alike are confident that the Celtics can get it done this time.
In an NBA offseason filled with high-profile moves, the Celtics made a dramatic change when they swapped reigning NBA defensive player of the year Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 unicorn” renowned for his ball skills, rim protection and consistent shooting from a distance. While Porzingis is a special talent and game-changing floor spacer, Celtics fans felt the loss of Smart, who had served as the spiritual core of the roster since he was drafted by Boston in 2014.
Moving for Porzingis signified to the league the Celtics’ intent to size up their roster for the upcoming season. Last year, the average height of the Celtics’ starting five was 78.2 inches, tied for 23rd in the NBA. They relied on the three-point shot and consistent defense to grind out wins, which drew the ire of many Bostonians. A large portion of the fanbase grew tired of watching the Celtics live and die by the three, which may have inspired Boston’s series of offseason moves.
Most expect second-year head coach Joe Mazzulla to utilize Porzingis’ size and scoring flexibility to space out defenders on the court. Mazzulla used Al Horford in a similar role last year, as the veteran big man saw significantly improved shooting numbers from a distance. Now, with these two weapons alongside superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, teams will be unable to rope off the paint and will be forced to confront Boston’s top-scoring threats on the perimeter and inside.
On the backs of their aggressive offseason and recent streak of dominance, the Celtics were clear favorites in the Eastern Conference until just last week, when the Milwaukee Bucks shockingly acquired megastar point guard Damien Lillard from the Portland Trailblazers. Lillard joins perennial MVP candidate Giannis Antetekunmpo in Milwaukee, giving opponents even more reason to fear the deer. It’s safe to say that the Celtics will meet their match in the Bucks and that NBA fans will be treated to four electric regular season clashes between the two teams.
The 2023-24 season also marks the first in which the NBA will feature a mid-season tournament, where all 32 franchises will compete for prize money and a shiny new trophy in select regular season games, which will determine the seeding for the tournament. Teams are sorted into groups, and the winner of each group will advance to the tournament proper. The Celtics’ group this season includes the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic.
While the inclusion of this tournament adds new stakes to an already tense game, it appears that Celtics fans will be unsatisfied with anything but their coveted 18th NBA title. It remains to be seen whether the Celtics’ new approach will take them far, but it will surely be interesting to monitor during the coming season.