The Boston Celtics have struggled in the first half of the 2020-2021 NBA season. At 15-15, they have a .500 winning percentage from horrible losses to teams like the Pelicans, Pistons, Wizards, and Hawks. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are both having All-Star seasons, but the team as a whole is putting together many sub-par performances. What are their problems?
First of all, Kemba Walker is still easing back into the rotation after a knee injury sidelined him for the first 11 games. He has had occasional bad shooting performances but seems to be close to his old self. Walker, being a shorter player, handicaps their defensive potential, but his height is unchangeable.
It is obvious that the issues do not stem from the Celtics’ big three of Tatum, Brown, and Walker. The lack of contribution from the bench unit and the center position has hurt them greatly. The Celtics have given numerous opportunities to players who have not been effective.
Jeff Teague was signed in free agency to replace Brad Wanamaker as the backup point guard and lost his role to the rookie Payton Pritchard. It feels like Grant Williams has one terrific game followed by about five horrible games. Romeo Langford, the Celtics 2019 first-round pick, cannot even stay on the floor with his nagging injuries. The Celtics cannot catch a break with any of these players.
At the center position, they signed Tristan Thompson to play with the current Celtics big men Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. Thompson and Theis both have the ability to be effective on the offensive end but are very inconsistent. They also still have trouble guarding big and physical centers, an issue that has plagued the Celtics since the departure of Al Horford. Robert Williams is on the trajectory to become the exact center that the Celtics need, but is still playing limited minutes off the bench.
Aside from Semi Ojeleye, Payton Pritchard, and Robert Williams, there is not much support outside of the Celtics’ big three. They do have the opportunity to improve the team with the $28.5 million trade exception they received in the Gordan Hayward sign-and-trade. The Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge said that they are going to look to trade for some wing defense and shooting. After many seasons of Celtics fans begging Ainge to pull the trigger on a trade, it should be interesting to see what he does to put them back in championship contention.