The Celtics should continue their elite status in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future

The Celtics embarked on an unexpected run to the finals which included a caveat – don’t waste this opportunity, because the Eastern Conference will be loaded next year.

Forgive my ignorance, but I don’t see it.

Outside the Bucks, tell me who the Celtics should fear. Heat may be as harsh as nails, but it’s older than paint. The Sixers connect their wagon to James Babing Harden. Dysfunctional networks can’t decide whether to stick with Kyrie Irving or push him overboard, and Kevin Durant will now be 34, too.

Bulls and birds of prey are nice 4-5 seeds. Cavs and Hawks are both fodder for play. LaMelo Ball and Hornets are a lot of fun, but they can’t defend and they haven’t stayed there yet. Knicks? Ha! maybe actually Wants Kerry.

Celtics talk: What hints did Brad Stevens give about the Boston Celtics’ off-season plans? | Listen and subscribe | Watch on YouTube

I don’t see East getting ready to reload. I see a conference to take it, with the Bucks and Celtics checking in on everyone.

Despite all the frantic talk of trading Marcus Smart or bombing the roster to get Bradley Beal, the truth is that the Celtics don’t need to do much outside the sidelines. Their #1 defense isn’t going anywhere, and there’s every reason to believe they’ll play it from Opening Night instead of New Year’s Day now that they understand the Ime Udoka system.

The average age of core Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Smart and Robert Williams will be just 26 next year, making them one of the youngest founding quartet in the league. The only players on the list over 30 are Al Horford and Daniel Theis. Grant Williams is 23, Payton Pritchard 24, Derek White 27. This is a list that should continue to improve over time.

Celtics Menu Reset: Contracts Collapse, Free Agents on Hold

There are clear areas of growth. Brown can tighten the handle which often resembles ice fawn. Tatum will continue to grow as a facilitator, and you can bet he’s determined not to erode again if the Celtics take a deep run. Smart just completed his first season as a springboard, a move that changed the team even if we didn’t love our last appearance with him versus Golden State. Health will always be an issue with Robert Williams, but my goodness, if he’s right, he could easily replace Smart as Defensive Player of the Year.

Add a bit of shooting and ball handling to the bench, and the Celtics should be there. I’m not Chris Forsberg or Brian Robb, but who outside of Milwaukee could make that claim in the East?

The Heat has $28-37 million earmarked for Jimmy Butler, Pam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry. They’re trying to re-sign veteran glue agent PJ Tucker and possibly Victor Oladipo as well. They face a dilemma with this year’s sixth man, Tyler Hero, who faded into the playoffs, playing only choppy defense, and is looking to extend his maximum potential this summer. They must decide whether sniper Duncan Robinson is worth his $17 million salary after a crash campaign.

It seems difficult for anyone to discuss nets as serious competitors. If they keep Irving, they will make themselves prisoners of drama. If they let him walk, they couldn’t replace him.

The magic they work with unknowns like Max Strus and Gabe Vincent is credited to Pat Riley, but Butler is 33 in September, Lowry is already 36, and Tucker is 37. was the year.

It seems difficult for anyone to discuss nets as serious competitors. If they keep Irving, they will make themselves prisoners of drama. If they let him walk, they couldn’t replace him. They’ve been locked into the seniors list and may well be missing out on a meaningful role as Bruce Brown this summer.

If they could do it again, they would have found a way to keep Garrett Allen’s position in the Harden trade. Instead, they watched him turn into a defensive and All-Star threat in Cleveland. For all of Durant’s greatness, he entered his 15th season and was unable to beat the Celtics by himself in April. Oh, and did we mention Ben Simmons? Sheesh.

The Eastern Conference teams—Magic, Pistons and Pacers—with the most money to spend in the humble free agent category highlighted by Chicago’s Zach LaVine all finished at the bottom of the conference and none won more than 25 games. It is possible that someone will end up throwing money at someone like Jalen Bronson or Josef Nurkic.

Bill could change that picture if he chooses, but re-signing with Washington for five years and $247 million still makes more financial sense than accessing the open market for a maximum of four years and $183 million, especially when none of the destinations are His favorites, including Boston, have money to spend this summer.

So that leaves the Celtics and the Bucks. Milwaukee will benefit from the return of Khris Middleton, and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmue will not go anywhere. But the Celtics get along well with them, especially when Robert Williams is in good health. And with $140 million tied up in six players, plus a potential raise coming for local producer Pat Connaughton, the Bucks don’t have much wiggle room.

That’s fine. If Milwaukee and Boston bring them back next season with roughly the same rosters, they would easily be the Eastern Conference class. I like the Celtics’ chances.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch it on YouTube below.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: