Bench Questions Dominate Worn-Down Celtics’ Offseason Plans

Brad Stevens, Celtics president

Getty Brad Stevens, Celtics president

The NBA Finals post-mortems have been voluminous, and there is no chance they’ll cease to flow any time soon as the league goes through the draft and the summer free agent and trade season.

While the Warriors seem to be comfortable, with a strong veteran core and young players to develop already on board, the Celtics are in a rather odd position. They have to first figure out the right questions to ask before they can go in search of the answers. The Boston roster looks strong between the lines, but things are shakier between their collective ears.

It’s still difficult for many to process how the Celts could get so flustered in key moments and kick away what appeared to be a talent advantage.

As one NBA exec told Heavy.com this week, “Golden State wore down the Celtics mentally before the Celtics could wear down Golden State physically.”

The Boston offense fell apart too easily, the crisp passing and cutting giving way to one-on-one moves that quickly became one-on-two and three. It appears the Celtics need more consistent scoring off their bench, but they have to figure out if that scoring is already there and simply not used enough or nurtured.

It’s hard to imagine Payton Pritchard and even Aaron Nesmith not getting more touches and opportunities were they in Heat uniforms. And if what we saw at the end of the Finals is what Derrick White is going to be, then there are people involved who think the Celts would have been better off with Josh Richardson (and keeping that first round pick and potential pick swap that went in the trade that brought White to Boston).

Before trying to make his fixes, head of basketball operations Brad Stevens must decide whether the bench people aren’t good enough or if coach Ime Udoka isn’t using them enough. Regarding the latter, Udoka improved during the season as he became more comfortable in the big chair. It’s fair to expect he’ll be better next season.


NBA Exec: Kevin Durant ‘Frustrated’

With word that Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn are playing leverage games with his player option/contract extension, league types are wondering how this is affecting Kevin Durant.

One source believes Durant was already tiring of the drama (Kyrie not getting vaccinated, the Ben Simmons situation) during this past season and playoffs.

“It’s such a shi**show there,” he said. “I feel for KD. He’s such a great player. But I’ve never seen anybody in the NBA get beat up the way KD got beat up by Boston and have no reaction to it whatsoever. Like, he can’t swing an elbow at somebody? Just out of frustration alone?

“It’s easy to put it on (coach Steve) Nash and put it on Nash’s inexperience that he’s not putting them in the right spot. But KD’s played in enough big games and he’s got enough autonomy to do what he wants — what he needs. It just looked like he was pretty frustrated out there.”


Juzang Keeps his Draft Perspective

Johnny Juzang was a hot item after last year’s NCAA Final Four when he chose to return to UCLA in pursuit of a national championship and a higher spot for himself in the draft. And while he could still wind up in the right position to build an NBA career, it appears he’s gone 0 for 2 on the aforementioned goals.

“He didn’t really make the jump people were looking for this year,” said one NBA personnel man. “But he’s also a victim of the way teams are looking at things these days. A lot of them would rather take a chance on someone from overseas or someone they haven’t really seen much of against top competition than go with a guy who’s been in front of them a while.”

Juzang is keeping his head on straight about it.

“I wanted to come back and develop and work, get better and get another shot at it,” he told Heavy.com. “You know, college is only one time. You only do it once.

“But I feel like I got a lot better. You know, I never even really worry about projections or whatnot. As long as I know that I’m growing as a person and as a player — as long as I know I’m growing as a player, getting better, my game’s getting better — then I’m good with it. Once you get in, it’s all about what you do when you hit the court. So as long as I know I keep getting better, that’s all I’m worried about. All you want — and I’m lucky to be in this position — all you want is that opportunity.”

 

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