It’s still hard to believe that the 2019 Kyrie Irving led Boston Celtics failed to get out of the second round of the playoffs. And yet, despite the disappointing finish, it’s time to turn the page. Here’s a look at the Celtics’ current depth chart and what to expect when the regular season gets underway two months from now.
POINT GUARDS: Kemba Walker, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters
Irving’s, and subsequently Terry Rozier’s, absence left the Celtics in need of a starting point guard and the front office did a pretty darn good job filling the void with the capable Kemba Walker. Before signing with Boston, the 6-foot-1 microwave had spend his entire eight year career in Charlotte. He quickly became a fan favorite and eventually a three-time all-star, racking up 25.6 points and 5.9 assists per game last season.
Walker figures to be a seamless fit; his offensive skillset rivals Irving as he can score with the best of them, and his locker room presence has been described as nothing but pleasant and positive. He’s a team first guy, a leader and a heckuva player.
Carsen Edwards projects as Walker’s backup, with the rookie coming off a great Summer League and a brilliant college career at Purdue before that. Finally, fellow rookie Tremont Waters (selected second round, pick No. 51) slides into the picture as an insurance plug.
SHOOTING GUARDS: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Brad Wanamaker, Javonte Green
After regressing early on last season, the 22-year-old Jaylen Brown became on of the most consistent Celtics in an otherwise disappointing campaign. In fact, many fans and journalists alike were lobbying for Brad Stevens to give the young talent more minutes, as he was often held out late in close games in favor of the underachieving Hayward. All signs point to a breakthrough year for Brown.
Marcus Smart, the heart and soul of this team, was another important returning piece. His early season success from distance may unfortunately have been a fluke, but he more than makes up for it with his hard-nosed defense and contagious energy. Smart is the guy you hate playing against but love playing with, and the Celtics need that.
The seldom used Brad Wanamaker also returns to the fold for a second season in Boston. The 30-year-old appeared in just 36 games last year but was effective when called upon, connecting on nearly 48 percent of his field goals and 41 percent of his threes. He’s proven to be a serviceable reserve and at this point, a wily veteran worthy of spotty minutes. Javonte Green was a surprise addition this offseason. The 26-year-old averaged nearly 20 points in Europe last season, but went undrafted out of Radford back in 2015 and has yet to play in an NBA game.
SMALL FORWARDS: Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye
Gruesome leg injury aside, Hayward was a monumental disappointment last year. He had his moments throughout the regular season but was never able to string together a strong stretch — and he wasn’t much help in the playoffs. I firmly believe much of that was mental, and there’s still hope that a fully healthy, still only 29-year-old Hayward can return to form in 2020.
Many people scoffed at the Cs’ most recent first round draft choice in Romeo Langford. Taken with the 14th overall pick, Langford was selected before Nassir Little, Ty Jerome and of course, Bol Bol. But a deeper look into Langford’s scouting report reveals many of the qualities that made Boston eager to select the 19-year-old out of Indiana. At 6-foot-6 and boasting a 6-11 wingspan, Langford’s sheer length — coupled with next level athleticism — is a problem defensively. He’s built for the pros (216 pounds of muscle) and could certainly be a useful piece off the bench at some point this season. If he can improve his questionable jumper to become more of a two-way scoring threat, Langford could blossom sooner rather than later.
Semi Ojeleye has often been a guy who can eat up minutes in a pinch when injuries or rest situations pop up, but never has he been a reliable, nightly rotation player and it’s been hard to see his potential in such limited minutes. The 2020 season will likely bring about similar challenges for Ojeleye as he battles for minutes, and an increased role in the lineup is far from guaranteed.
POWER FORWARDS: Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams III, Grant Williams
Expectations surrounding second-year standout Jayson Tatum were extremely high entering last season. While he was certainly solid all season long, it’s safe to say he didn’t make quite the leap we thought he would. Tatum averaged 15.7 points (up from 13.9 as a rookie) but shot worse from the field (45 percent compared to 47.5 percent in Year 1) and 3-point range (37.3 percent compared to 43.4 percent in Year 1). With Irving out of the mix, Tatum should have more room to operate offensively and feel more comfortable doing so. If this isn’t the year he breaks out to near all-star status I’ll be as surprised as everyone else.
Robert Williams didn’t get much of a chance to contribute as a rookie last year. But he’s still only 21 and his burly 6-foot-10, 241-pound frame can definitely be of use down the line. Meanwhile, the Cs’ other first round draft pick in 2019, Grant Williams, is another young player fighting for minutes early as he begins career. The Tennessee product is undersized at 6-foot-7, but he’s strong (240 pounds) and can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting.
CENTERS: Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, Vincent Poirier, Tacko Fall
Al Horford’s departure leaves a major void in the frontcourt, and by bringing in Enes Kanter, the Celtics have a scoring big man to help make up that production. He’s also already a fan favorite thanks to his outgoing and sometimes controversial personality, and he has the skills to back it up.
In regards to Tacko Fall, the 7-foot-7 UCF graduate was originally thought of as a Summer League roster fill. But the big fella impressed enough during that short two week stint to earn a contract with the franchise. Fall is going to be a fun player to follow, and honestly, his unprecedented height and surprisingly well put together skillset could be of use to the Cs in certain matchups.
Daniel Theis has been a reliable option off the bench in recent years and should continue to be just that, and the Frenchman Vincent Poirier could serve a similar role. He’s only 25 but he’s played professionally in Europe for the past five seasons. He’s every bit of 7-feet, but like many Euro players today his game resembles that of a guard.
Nick Giannino can be reached at NGiannino@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGiannino_SN.