After going .500 and going out in the first round, there is not much more the Boston Celtics can do to be any worse than they were last season. With some roster changes, coaching changes, and scheme changes, the Cs will be right back to where they left off after the bubble: at the top of the Eastern Conference competing for banner #18.
Brad Stevens and Celtics management will undoubtedly make more moves, but it is unlikely most of the Celtics’ top young players get dealt this off-season due to their contract value. With Bradley Beal, Steph Curry, and Zach Lavine all hitting the market next summer, the Celtics know they must keep their books clean in the event one of those stars shows interest in Bean town.
So for now, newly appointed coach Ime Udoka is going to have to roll with some more young guys than he might like, but it’s not all bad. With a depth chart stocked to the brim with young players comes unexpected improvements from them.
After getting thrown into the fire last season, the Boston Celtics’ young guys might have an easier time adjusting to Udoka’s style of play than they did Stevens’ due to having to undergo the shortest off-season in league history.
This article will take a look at some potential breakout (or further breakout) candidates on the Celtics roster. With a new coach, new system, new roles, and new complementary pieces, anyone on the Celtics could have an award-winning season, but these three are the most likely to grab the Most Improved Player award:
MIP candidate #1 for the Boston Celtics: Aaron Nesmith
The 2020 draft class had the most challenging learning curve in recent NBA history due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Their offseason was shorter; there was no summer league, their training camp was more transient, and most were unable to train during the outbreak after their collegiate seasons were cut short.
The fast transition had an even more significant impact on shooters like Aaron Nesmith. In the NBA, everything becomes exponentially quicker. It can catch rookie shooters, who already play quickly, off guard, which was no different for Nesmith. The transition led to multiple DNP’s, low-minute games, and many cold shooting nights.
Eventually, Nesmith got his feet under him and finished the year strong, shooting 44% from downtown in the season’s last month. Nesmith’s grit leads me to believe he will significantly benefit from the Celtics extended offseason. The Celtics development staff will have more time to perfect his form, and Nesmith will have more time to familiarize himself with Udoka’s new system.
Nesmith won’t be an All-Star or anything close to it next season, but the Cs don’t need him to be. All Udoka needs from the young swingman is an improved shooting release, better balance, and more control on both the offensive and defensive end. Boston does not need Nesmith to work on advanced creation techniques, just his shooting, driving, and defense. If he can do that, Nesmith will be in the green for a long time.