3 holes the Boston Celtics must fill after adding Kristaps Porzingis

Boston Celtics (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images) /
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Boston Celtics
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The Boston Celtics must find leadership without Marcus Smart

While Smart’s absence strips Boston of some valuable playmaking and overall backcourt production, the three-time NBA Hustle Award winner provided Boston with something even greater: leadership.

Two seasons ago, Smart took the initiative to call out Tatum and Brown in an early-November postgame presser, subtly urging the two stars to pass the ball more and trust their teammates. The Celtics would go on to reach the NBA Finals that season with Smart locked in as their starting point guard along the way.

Such moments defined Smart and the imprint he left on both the Celtics and the city of Boston as a whole. With Smart and his leadership out of the picture, Tatum will need to make his voice heard more than ever. Over the years, Tatum has become more vocal as a leader for the Celtics, but he will have to tackle that role with the utmost energy heading into the fall.

Following the Porzingis/Smart trade, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla spoke to The Boston Herald about the irreplaceable impact of Smart.

"“You’re never going to replace a guy like him and everything he’s done on the court, what he’s done for his teammates, and what he’s done in the community, for the city of Boston. You’re just not going to replace that, so it’s not worth even thinking about that.”"

While Smart’s specific contributions to the Celtics cannot and will not be replicated, many players on the roster can add something similar to the mix.

For starters, Horford’s wisdom and toughness aren’t going anywhere. Time and time again, the Dominican veteran has provided a critical morale boost for the Celtics. His presence alone should motivate his teammates as much as anyone.

Early in the playoffs, Mazzulla lauded Horford’s leadership after a Game 1 victory over Atlanta.

"“He’s a lot of things for us. One of them is our emotional leader to where he has an innate maturity and an ability to bring a game back with a big shot or a blocked shot … We’re just really fortunate to have him. His ability is not only what he can do from a basketball standpoint, but what he brings from an emotional and leadership standpoint. Not only does it help us over the course of a season, but in moments of games, and it’s big for us.”"

On top of Horford and Tatum, Jaylen Brown needs to take advantage of his prominent role in Boston and lead by example. Derrick White can also lead by example with his supreme attention to detail and the contagious energy that comes with it.

A revamped coaching staff will be crucial to the Boston Celtics’ success

Whether the Celtics decide to look for extra leadership internally or externally, Mazzulla’s brand-new coaching staff could provide the most important leadership of all. Armed with his own hand-picked staff – rather than coaches exclusively left over from Ime Udoka’s old crew, Mazzulla will oversee a group led by former Celtics Sam Cassell and Amile Jefferson, along with lead assistant Charles Lee. Cassell won the 2008 championship with Boston, and Jefferson has a very close relationship with Tatum dating back to their time as Duke teammates in 2017.

Mazzulla’s new coaching staff has the potential to connect with the players on a more personal level while enforcing the on-court fundamentals required to finally get the Celtics over the championship hump.