NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Every team’s biggest question

Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images /
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images /

Boston Celtics: Who wins the game of Center Roulette?

Prior to last season’s disastrous finale, Brad Stevens’ tenure with the Boston Celtics has largely been defined by overachievement. On numerous occasions, the seventh-year head coach has demonstrated an ability to coax a team beyond its perceived ceiling as a unit. Though the Celtics suffered a worst-case scenario this offseason in losing Kyrie Irving to the Nets, the addition of Kemba Walker creates some much-needed optimism in Boston. Perhaps, newly free of expectations, these Celtics can once again sneak up on the rest of the basketball landscape.

It can’t be overlooked, however, that a crucial piece of that overachieving culture departed alongside Irving this summer: Al Horford. The All-Star center was a quietly an anchor for the team in each of the past three seasons, solidifying lineups on both ends of the floor with his jack-of-all-trades proficiency. There’s a not-unreasonable case to be made that Horford was more important to these Celtics than either Irving or Isaiah Thomas were, and his loss leaves a substantial void.

It’s a void that, right now, the Celtics don’t seem to have filled. Danny Ainge opted against making a major splash for a frontcourt player this summer, instead inking the outspoken Enes Kanter to a two-year, $10 million contract and incorporating him into a center-by-committee approach with sophomore Robert Williams, third-year big Daniel Theis and French import Vincent Poirier. Each brings a unique skill-set to the table, but on an individual level, none provides anything close to the value of Horford. As it stands, the Celtics will have to compensate for his loss with growth in other areas of the roster.

With Walker on board to lead a deep stable of talented wings, the Celtics should be a playoff team this season. Becoming anything greater than that, however, may hinge on a breakthrough in the paint.