As the anticipation continues to grow for the season ahead, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement for the year ahead. So let’s stay grounded as we take a look at five realistic possibilities for the Boston Celtics’ 2023-24 season.
There may be a slight decrease in Tatum’s points per game and rebounds per game, but an increase in his assist numbers
We all know that Tatum is one of the most well-rounded players in the league, showing very few faults in his game, but with the additional offensive options that the Celtics boast this year, I think it’s reasonable to assume his point-scoring and rebounding numbers may dip slightly this season as the scoring will be more distributed.
Kristaps Porzingis is a significant offensive addition to the team this season. Although he isn’t exactly known for his ball distribution, his rebounding and point-scoring have been his main strengths throughout his career while playing at the power forward and center positions. Last season Porzingis averaged 2.7 assists per game, an improvement on his career average which currently sits at 1.8 per game. Even with relatively low assist numbers, his rebounding and point-scoring are the main standouts from Porzingis’s game with an impressive average of 8.4 RPG and 23.2 PPG last season from impressive efficiency – 49.8 FG% and 38.5 3P%.
Having a player like Porzingis as an offensive option takes some of the weight off Tatum’s shoulders, giving him more opportunities to create for his teammates, including Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and the big man himself. Realistically, we could expect Tatum’s PPG to dip slightly from 30.1 to around 27, and his RPG could decrease from 8.8 to about 7. However, his APG could see a bump from 4.6 to 6 or more, due to the increased spacing and scoring options at his disposal.
27 PPG, 7 RPG, and 6 APG would still be impressive numbers for the Celtics star considering the circumstances.
A similar situation occurred when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined the Celtics ahead of their 2008 championship season. Paul Pierces’ rebounding and scoring numbers took a slight dip while his assists numbers went up. With the addition of more offensive talent, it’s understandable that some stats might decline slightly and I could see the same happening with Tatum this season.
There might be difficulties in the Boston Celtics backcourt due to injury concerns
It’s no secret that the big men of Boston have had their injury issues in the past with Robert Williams and Kristaps Porzingis missing many games during their career so far. Williams’ injury history resulted in sporadic appearances over the past few seasons, with varying low numbers of games played and started. Porzingis, on the other hand, faced a significant injury in the 2018-19 season but has shown mixed durability since.
The potential issue lies with either one or both of these stars having the same problems occurring throughout the season. In such a scenario, the Celtics might have to rely heavily on Al Horford and Luke Kornet, limiting rotational options. However, the team does have the flexibility of deploying Jayson Tatum at power forward, Jaylen Brown at small forward, and Malcolm Brogdon at shooting guard if necessary.
Ultimately, the Celtics’ frontcourt health will play a crucial role in determining the team’s success in the upcoming season. While an injury-free season promises excitement for Boston fans, any persistent injury problems could lead to complications.
Payton Pritchard could get good rotational minutes
On a positive note, one realistic possibility that stands out is the potential for Payton Pritchard to secure a more prominent role coming off the bench during the upcoming season.
Pritchard has already demonstrated his scoring prowess in the limited opportunities he’s had. Throughout his three seasons in Boston, Pritchard has consistently shown his scoring capability along with his ability to do so with remarkable efficiency, boasting an average shooting percentage of 43.0% from the field and an impressive 40.0% from beyond the arc. With the departure of Marcus Smart occurring this offseason, a larger rotational guard role has presented itself, with Pritchard, along with Malcolm Brogdon, being poised to fill the key rotational backup roles for Derrick White and Jaylen Brown.
During the summer, Pritchard made waves by playing alongside former Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas in the Canadian “Ball Don’t Stop Pro-Am”, and what a performance it was. Making a huge buzz on social media, his name was echoed as he broke the scoring record during the game, putting up a whopping 61 points and giving Celtics fans something to be excited about in the process.
Given his scoring prowess and the need for an extended role, it’s not far-fetched to assume that Pritchard will receive more minutes on the court in the upcoming season. A big year appears to be on the horizon for Pritchard, and his scoring ability and efficiency could very easily be a significant asset for the Celtics off the bench.
Joe Mazzulla could prove that he is the right man for the Boston Celtics HC role
After the unexpected and abrupt departure of Ime Udoka, Joe Mazzulla was handed the reins of the Boston Celtics only days before the season started, being made to burden the heavy weight of expectations that come with that.
In Mazzulla’s first season with the Celtics, he led the team to a very respectable 57 wins during the regular season, along with a deep playoff run that heartbreakingly ended in an Eastern Conference finals loss. Despite the tidal wave of criticism that came his way, Mazzulla managed to block it out, keep a cool head, and focus on what happened on the court.
In an interview following the Game 7 loss to Miami, Mazzulla was asked about him “being thrust” into the job only days before the season started and how he will reflect on this experience, and this team.
"“What do we have to do to get better I think is what we have to learn from that, regardless of those circumstances,” Joe explained. “You know the guys in the locker room showed a sense of toughness and togetherness, you know, starting out the season a certain way and getting to this point and we just gotta figure out how to be better”."
Throughout his first year, there were many positive signs from his style of play as he managed to achieve the highest offensive rating the Celtics have ever had. Now with a year of experience under his belt, and a revamped starting 5, I believe Mazzulla will prove the doubting critics wrong with a successful 2023-24 season.
The Boston Celtics could win Banner 18
With everything being said, is winning championship No. 18 a realistic expectation? I think so.
Given our playoff success in the last couple of seasons, reaching three Conference Finals in 2020, 2022, and 2023 and making one NBA Finals in 2022, the talent is evidently there. This year, the Celtics’ array of talent has only gotten better and has gained some new faces, revamping the starting five and rotation in the process.
With Tatum and Brown having a 3rd stellar offensive option in the form of Kristaps Porzingis, in addition to our exceptional guard depth of White, Brown, Brogdon, and Pritchard, our defense being the 3rd best in the league last season, and our offensive rating being the highest it’s ever been during the same season, I believe winning a championship to be a realistic expectation. In addition to these factors, the players will be fuelled by the playoff heartbreaks of the last few seasons, beginning the year with an unprecedented determination with Joe Mazzulla at the wheel, driving this team forward with his additional experience of coaching them.
If there is any year the Boston Celtics could, and should, hang an 18th banner in the rafters of TD Garden, it’s this year.