Boston Celtics: From Championship Run to Rebuild

The Boston Celtics…a quarterly inclusion of “Title Town” in Boston, Massachusetts. They have made the most bold and smartest decisions a team could make, so let’s breakdown what they did in the past to win their 17th NBA Championship back in 2008, and all the way to present-day in 2020 with their famous rebuild.

 

The Championship Run started at the 2006 NBA Draft on June 28th, when Boston drafted point guard, Rajon Rondo. Unfortunately, they lost Paul Pierce and shooting guard Tony Allen to injuries and finished the season 24 – 58. Despite their 2nd best odds of winning the draft lottery the next off-season, they landed the fifth pick in the 2007 draft. The number one pick was small forward, Kevin Durant, who was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics. On Draft Day on June 28th, the Celtics traded big man Wally Szczerbiak, forward Delonte West, and their 5th overall pick to the SuperSonics to get both shooting guard Ray Allen and center Glen Davis. Two days later, they traded guards Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, center Al Jefferson, forward Theo Ratcliff, and two first round picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves in order to acquire power forward Kevin Garnett. Their 2007 – 2008 starting lineup looked like this:

PG: Rajon Rondo

SG: Ray Allen

SF: Paul Pierce

PF: Kevin Garnett

C: Kendrick Perkins

This looks like a dominant roster to me, just saying…

 

They finished the year 66 – 16 for a 42 game improvement. They earned the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference. They struggled throughout the playoffs. In Round 1, they beat the Atlanta Hawks in 7 games. In the Semi-Finals, they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in 7 games as well. In the Eastern Conference Finals, they beat the Detroit Pistons in 6 games. Although with a long road behind them, they made the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987. They won their 17th Championship against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games. In the 2008 – 2009 season, they lost Kevin Garnett to a late injury and lost to the Orlando Magic in the Semi-Finals. In the 2009 – 2010 season, however, they reached the NBA Finals again. Unfortunately for them, they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in their rematch of 2008. The Lakers won their second championship in a row, having just one more championship behind the Celtics with 16 total. The Boston Celtics made the playoffs in the next year, but they got eliminated by LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh, and the rest of the Miami Heat in the Semi-Finals. Once again, they got eliminated by the Heat in 2012, this time in the Eastern Conference Finals in 7 games.

 

That 2012 off-season, Ray Allen decided to leave the Celtics’ Big Three and join LeBron, Wade, & Bosh in Miami. Without Ray Allen, this is what their starting lineup looked like:

 

PG: Rajon Rondo

SG: Courtney Lee

SF: Paul Pierce

PF: Kevin Garnett

C: Brandon Bass

This was an ageing roster that was set for the 2012 – 2013 season.

 

They disappointingly finished the season with a 41 – 40 record, losing to Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks in the first round. On June 25th, 2013, they traded away their head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first round pick in 2015. Three days later, they traded away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and D.J. White to the Brooklyn Nets for forward Gerald Wallace, guards MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, forward Kris Humphries, a 2017 1st Round Pick Swap, and the Nets’ 2014, 2016, 2018 First Round Picks. On July 3rd, 2013, they hired Brad Stevens as head coach. He was previously a college head coach for the Butler Bulldogs, with Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward. To no one’s surprise, they finished the season with an awful record in 25 – 57, missing the playoffs for the first time since the Big 3 era. In the 2014 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics selected shooting guard Marcus Smart as their 6th overall pick. On December 18th, 2014, they traded away Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to the Dallas Mavericks for small forward Jae Crowder, Brandon Wright, and point guard Jameer Nelson with additionally, a 2015 first round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick. At this point in time, they wanted to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the deadline, but the Cavaliers beat them to it. So this told the Celtics that the best thing to do would be to start from scratch and strip everything down. In two months, this became the most unfair trade in the 2010s. The Celtics traded away forward Marcus Thornton and their 2016 Cavaliers first round pick to the Phoenix Suns for the 5’9” point guard in Isaiah Thomas. They finished the season 40 – 42, after winning 22 of their last 34 games with the little guy Thomas. They earned the 7th seed and were hoping to lead their team to at least another round. But the off-season before, LeBron James announced he was coming home to Cleveland. They welcome the Celtics to the playoffs by sweeping them in the first round. 

In the 2015 NBA Draft, they selected Terry Rozier as their 16th overall pick. Boston finished the season 48 – 34, earning the 5th seed in the playoffs. They lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, but the team led by All-Star Isaiah Thomas was creating some buzz around the league. Here’s the thing, Isaiah Thomas was a great leader, one who didn’t want to play anywhere else but here in Boston. Boston made him great, and he returned the favor by winning and always put the team first. He was a “ride-or-die” kind of guy, and he, along with all the other Boston fans, agreed that this team needed more talent. They did so, by signing center Al Horford on June 8th, 2016. On Draft Day, they selected shooting guard Jaylen Brown as their third overall pick. Boston surprised everyone the next season and went 53 – 29, locking up the 1st seed in the East. Isaiah Thomas had a breakout season in 2016 – 2017, becoming an all-star and finished 5th in the MVP Voting. As the broadcaster from the NBC Sports Boston telecast would say: “He was MESMERIZED by the LITTLE GUY!” Unfortunately, they reached the Conference Finals but lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 5 games. During that series, Thomas injured his hip and missed the last 3 games. Luckily, the Boston Celtics got the first overall pick in 2017 by winning the draft lottery. They traded it away, because they were unlikely to pick point guard Markelle Fultz in the draft. They gave it away to the 76ers, for their 3rd pick in the 2017 draft and Sacramento’s 2019 first round pick. The Celtics selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum as their 3rd overall pick, and signed all-star small forward Gordon Hayward. Then, things were starting to brew down in Cleveland’s city.

Flashy point guard Kyrie Irving was having enough of being in LeBron’s shadow and wanted to play for a different team. The Celtics took notice and traded away reasonable players in Jae Crowder to unlock Hayward’s spot in the starting lineup, 2016 second round pick in Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick and their current second round pick. They declined the offer, so the Celtics traded ….”WHOO?? Isaiah Thomas?!!”, I said reading this from my phone a few years ago. So this would be their starting lineup:

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Jaylen Brown

SF: Gordon Hayward

PF: Jayson Tatum

C: Al Horford

Sixth Man: SG Marcus Smart

This looks like a championship team to me…

 

In the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gordon Hayward broke his ankle in one of the ugliest injuries on the court today, and needed season-ending surgery. The young core stepped up big time and kept winning without him. Jayson Tatum became an emerging superstar overnight as he dominated everyone in his path. Unfortunately, in February of 2018, Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the season and the entire playoffs with a hip injury that also needed surgery. The Celtics still grabbed the 2nd seed with a 55 – 27 record. The Celtics made it to the Conference Finals against the Cavaliers, but lost to them in 7 games. Without injuries, this team could have beaten LeBron out of Cleveland faster than you can confront his ego, but there always has to be a downhill….especially if you’re in Cleveland now. LeBron left the Eastern Conference entirely and joined the Los Angeles Lakers. Charles Barkley even said that the Cetlics were the team to beat in the East. One even said this on a talk show: “Eastern Conference, I have some bad news. You’re going to get your butts kicked this year by the Boston Celtics.”

In the beginning of the season, Kyrie Irving announced in their home TD Garden arena that he was planning on re-signing that next offseason. Later on, reporters asked him again to confirm his decision. He stated: “We’ll have to wait and see on July 1st.” Well…the Boston Celtics had issues in the locker room because of the amount of talent that was developing. There was just “too much” for them and they got eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Semi-Finals. In the off-season, Kyrie Irving…along with Kevin Durant, signed with the Brooklyn Nets, while the Celtics signed former UCONN point guard Kemba Walker. Kemba Walker has been a great fit for Boston and they have been on a roll this season. Unfortunately, Al Horford’s contract was up, too. He went to Philadelphia for 4 years. He was lost in that whole Kyrie mess. But, because of the amount of talent on the roster, it was like a penny in the bucket for them. They are showing it this year, as they are 3rd in the Eastern Conference with a 42 – 22 record. Forward Jayson Tatum just became an all-star, and Jaylen Brown has been a key performer for them the past 3 years. I think they will definitely become a threat this postseason, maybe even make the NBA Finals.