Boston Celtics Off to Disappointing Start

There’s no question that the Boston Celtics are off to a disappointing start in 2021. They head into the All-Star break sitting at fourth in the Eastern Conference at a mediocre 19-17. Two weeks ago, the Celtics dropped below .500 for the first time through at least 30 games since the 2014-15 season. The difference between that team and this year’s Celtics: that team was bad, and this team is supposed to be one of the NBA’s best. They are underperforming significantly.

So what’s the problem? This is a Celtics team that was a couple breaks away from a Finals appearance in the bubble in 2020, a team that has two All Stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, a guy making $141 million in Kemba Walker and supposedly one of the best head coaches in the league in Brad Stevens. They head into the All-Star break with a nice four game win streak, but it is simply not coming together for the Celtics this year, and it is extremely frustrating to watch as a Green Teamer. 

I love Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They are both averaging 25 points per game, which are significant jumps from last season. They are the best players on this team and they are going to be the best players on this team for years to come. What they are not doing is winning games. I think they are trying to do too much with the basketball. They are phenomenal scorers, but it is far too often that they are forcing up poor shots, taking an extra dribble or challenging a double team for too long, and that is hurting the team’s performance. 

What is the deal with Kemba Walker? I used to love the guy, but this year he has been atrocious. He’s only played in 20 games because of his lingering knee injury (which is becoming a bigger issue), but his field goal percentage is .388 and if qualified would be the third worst in the NBA. He is not doing a good job of complementing Brown and Tatum this season, and he’s just not playing well. He’s getting paid a boatload of money, and it’s looking like a terrible contract that GM Danny Ainge won’t be able to get rid of.

The lack of depth on this team is another issue. Their bench scores 32.5 points per game, sixth worst in the NBA. This team is unbelievably shallow and has no bench scoring. They don’t have any true three-and-D guys, and it’s just a mish mash of average talent behind the starters. They’ve been hurt with the absence of Marcus Smart, but no one has really stepped up off the bench. They only have four players who average more than 10 points a game, and everybody except Brown, Tatum, Walker and Smart has contributed very little. They need someone to step up, or they need to bring a new face in at the deadline. 

Another thing that frustrates me about this team and specifically Brad Stevens is his utilization of big man Robert Williams. I have been a Robert Williams stan since he got drafted in 2018. This guy is really good. He has a ton of raw talent and has improved a lot since he was drafted. But he never gets any playing time. His per 36 minute stats are some of the best in the league. Among centers, he is first in steals, fifth in blocks and eighth in rebounds. He deserves playing time because whenever he gets significant minutes he is a game changer. Play Rob Williams.

I do think the Celtics can turn things around after the All-Star break. They had an encouraging four game win streak heading into the break where they looked good and got a few quality wins. But they need a change, and that change needs to come soon.