Sitting at sub-.500, the team could use some course correction from the two captains guiding the ship.
Brad Stevens: Will there be a busier Celtic this year? You would hope not. Brad Stevens cleaned up a mess moderately quickly with little flexibility by trading Kemba Walker, adding medium-sized contracts to the books, filling depth and prioritizing defense, but much more work remains and the hope would be that he’s here for the long haul in this executive position. A strange transition that eventually landed Danny Ainge in Utah within the past month still leaves questions about why Stevens is the GM of the Celtics, but without knowing the answers to those we can only assume he’s moved on from coaching and is leading the organization for at least the length of his contract. Immediately, he needs to consolidate the Celtics’ roster and assets, a process long overdue, and perhaps too late to effectively achieve, that his predecessor couldn’t finish. Can Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard turn into anything? Can Josh Richardson, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III actually land the Celtics some value in trading up? Those questions should be answered in short order. With Jaylen Brown’s free agency two summers away once this season ends, the Celtics need to start proving they are supporting and accentuating their stars, and making every effort to do so. This group of players hasn’t done that. After the team evaluates what they have in their young players by season’s end, by trading veterans like Dennis Schröder and possibly Richardson who aren’t drastically altering the team’s fortunes before the deadline, Stevens should evaluate what he can feasibly trade up into alongside Brown and Tatum, or move on from some of the youth that isn’t showing any upside like he did with Carsen Edwards last offseason. Find new prospects that haven’t maximized their potential elsewhere and could fit in here. Find the next Daniel Theis, hopefully, rather than Vincent Poirier, overseas. Finally, Stevens should explore what’s out there for Smart, Williams III, Al Horford and picks. Would some combination of them get you a player like Domantas Sabonis with picks? Could picks alone find some shooting, playmaking or reliable depth for this roster? If all that fails, the Celtics should see what they can get for Brown, but not rush to move off him unless it makes sense. Don’t sell low for the sake for change. Worst comes to worst, and that fails too, reports of Stevens in Europe and at college games are encouraging. All he’ll have left at that point is to draft far better than Ainge did, from difficult positions. The team’s developmental track record and the clock ticking on their stars should make that a last resort though, perhaps even behind moving Brown. At some point, if they wait too long, they’ll see Brown’s value depreciate too, if it hasn’t already, and they’ve let far too many players leave for nothing when their contracts expire. – Bobby Manning
Ime Udoka: In a COVID era where lineups are a mess and brand new players are introduced to the locker room on a weekly basis, judging a head coach based on the performance of whomever is available makes little sense. While the Celtics start to the 2021-22 campaign has been less than ideal, Ime Udoka escapes a great deal of the responsibility for the poor start.That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways in which Udoka can improve to right the ship. Boston’s offense, even when at full-strength, has been very isolation-driven and features less ball or player movement than we all envisioned when he took the gig. The C’s are 22nd in assists per game but 5th in secondary assists, which means when the ball moves, everyone touches it and not one person is responsible for setting up their teammates for a shot. That tells me that in order to get ball movement, scheme and play design needs to be involved.We’ve seen Udoka have a great deal of success when he wants to roll up his sleeves in an ATO situation. The Celtics have run a few great hammer actions to get corner 3-pointers, even an innovative double hammer re-screen against the Cleveland Cavaliers just before Christmas. If Udoka is willing to take on the burden of designing a few more plays in the playbook and reclaim control from his top players, the C’s might be able to chip away at some of their isolation worries. – Adam Spinella