The Boston Celtics were the frontrunners to sign Gordon Hayward this offseason. With this in mind, they traded away a defensive stud in Avery Bradley, and allowed a couple core players to walk in free agency to make more cap space. Hayward ended up signing with the Celtics, and all signs pointed at a smooth start for the Eastern Conference finalists. But, Thomas’ hip injury lingered on, and the team infamously jettisoned the 5’9 point guard in a blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving.
The Celtics went all in, sacrificing the little depth they had for Hayward and avoided granting Thomas a max contract next season by bringing in Irving. And the new additions to the team seemingly outweighed the subtractions, at least for the first five minutes into opening night. Hayward going down with a horrific ankle injury in their opening matchup against the Cavaliers set the team back to the same position they were a year ago: An All-Star point guard, veteran and former All-Star big man, and a young lineup with not too much playoff experience. In fact, last season’s squad had eleven returning players and was in a much better position than this season’s, with a mere four players returning. This season will definitely be a season full of growing pains for the Celtics.
This core has much more potential compared to last year’s group, with both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum showing more flashes at a younger age than Bradley and Crowder ever did.
With that being said, the top teams in the East have at least two All-Stars. The Cavs have LeBron James, Kevin Love and, depending on his health, Isaiah Thomas. The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and the Wizards have John Wall and Bradley Beal. I don’t see the Celtics having a better record than any of these teams with Kyrie Irving as their only star. I don’t even see the Celtics finishing better than the Bucks this season, as Giannis Antetokounmpo is more inclined to lead the Bucks further than Irving is capable of doing.
Just as it’s been throughout the NBA’s history, more than one All-Star is needed to truly compete for a title, unless you’re a dominating presence on court like LeBron. It’ll take much more than Irving to take over games by solely scoring. Even if he actually does adapt to a facilitating role, he’s still playing without an All-Star.
Both the Celtics’ offseason and regular season began with injury storylines. Now all the team can hope to do is mesh well without Hayward, and continue to do so upon his return.