The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were the final two teams standing for the third straight year in the 2017 NBA Finals. This marked the first time in NBA history two teams have met in the finals three consecutive years.
So, how long is this rivalry set to continue? These two squads were remarkably better than the league’s other 2018 in the 2016-17 season. Cleveland went 12-1 on their way to The Finals, and Golden State one-upped them by going 12-0.
The Cavaliers have the world’s best player in Lebron James, and the Warriors added Kevin Durant to a team that set the NBA record for regular season wins (73) the season before. Upcoming free agency will play a big part in determining if anyone will soon challenge these teams, but no one is in a better position to do so right now than the Boston Celtics.
Upcoming free agency will play a big part in determining if anyone will soon challenge these teams, but no one is in a better position to do so right now than the Boston Celtics.
Before we look at who the Celtics are in a position to acquire through free agency/trade, let us look at what they already have.
Their coach head coach Brad Stevens was hired prior to the 2013-14 season after he pulled off one of the most impressive feats in college basketball history by taking mid-major Butler to consecutive National Championship games.
Stevens has increased his win total from the prior year in all four seasons with Boston and now has a .506 winning percentage. This is very impressive considering we have seen unbelievable college coaches fail in the NBA such as Rick Pitino, John Calipari and recently Fred Hoiberg.
The Celtics are absolutely loaded with young talent. Despite being a playoff team each of the last three seasons, they were still able to pick No. 3 overall in the past two NBA drafts because of previous trades.
They used these picks to take Jaylen Brown from California in 2016 and Jason Tatum from Duke last week. The team also took Marcus Smart in 2014, who very well could be the point guard of the future after averaging 10.6 points and 4.6 assists per game this past season. Smart is also valued as a terrific defensive player.
The Celtics star in 2016-17 was point guard Isiah Thomas. The man that stands at just 5′ 9” played better than anyone ever dreamed he could by averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game. However, Thomas’ future in Boston is uncertain.
The before mentioned Marcus Smart is considered much better defensively, and Boston played much better in the Eastern Conference Finals without Thomas on the court against Cleveland. Thomas will be an unrestricted free-agent next summer. If Boston is going to accomplish something with Thomas running the show, it might need to be this upcoming season.
So we have established the Celtics are one of the best young teams in the NBA, but they will need to add some pieces in the next few weeks to have a chance at putting themselves on the level of the Cavs and Warriors.
One of the biggest free agent targets of this summer will be Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward. You would have to think Hayward will have the Celtics high up on his list after he played for Stevens at Butler. Hayward’s numbers have improved every season since coming into the NBA in 2010, and he averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds a game this past season.
The Celtics are sure to have their eyes on acquiring Hayward to add to a backcourt with Thomas. With Thomas will be a free agent next summer, they would waste no time going for a ring this upcoming season either.
A backcourt including those players and a stretch big man like Al Horford would set up perfectly for today’s perimeter driven NBA.
The famous “big threes” have dominated the NBA for some time, but the Warriors upped the bar in 2016-17. Three players will not do it anymore, NBA teams need to acquire four star players if they really want a shot at a championship.
Thomas, Hayward and Horford have all established themselves as stars in today’s NBA, and it would be a lot of fun watching them team up in Boston this fall.