Hornets duo reminds Boston Celtics fans of what could have been

The Boston Celtics had one of the most talented rosters in the league two seasons ago, but now many members of the 18-19 C’s are excelling elsewhere.

It’s entirely possible that I remember the 2018-19 Boston Celtics with rose-colored glasses because I took the helm here at Hardwood Houdini during the height of the team’s playoff run. At the beginning of the season, after LeBron James took his talents to Tinseltown and vacated the Eastern Conference crown, Brad Stevens’ Cs seemed poised to take the crown.

Kyrie Irving had other plans. While many say it’s not fair to pin all of the team’s underachieving on one man, the anecdotal evidence from the season prior–and following–point clearly to a singular force holding the team down.

Look at the scoring explosion Jayson Tatum just treated us all to last season. He upped his scoring a full eight points in his first season post-Irving and has since upped that ante to 27 points per game. Jaylen Brown topped the 20-point plateau after returning to the starting lineup, and now he is at 26 points per game.

The Jays would have never taken off with Irving in tow. But could this rise still have been possible with Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward on the roster?

If you break down the numbers, it’s possible they could have been retained. Think of it this way, the Cs could have not taken part in the sign-and-trade that directly sent Rozier for Walker. He’s certainly looking like a better asset right now, with Walker still out with the injury that slowed him down over the summer in the bubble and Rozier now topping the 20-point-per-game plateau.

Hayward, who has not been replaced by the $28.5 million traded player exception his departure has created, is playing at his 2016-17 All-Star levels. His points and rebounds are identical, and he’s even dishing out more assists and shooting at a better clip.

While I will never regret trying to spend Hayward’s salary on other pieces, I am regretting that no plan was put in place to replace him.

If the Queen City duo cools off, this conversation is moot. Right now, though, it is not a good look that these two are thriving with the Hornets in a way that seemed impossible in Boston.