Boston Celtics: Why this year’s team is the real deal with Kemba Walker

NBA Boston Celtics teammates Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker . (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NBA Boston Celtics teammates Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker . (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

 The Boston Celtics are ushering in a new era with another new guard in Kemba Walker. Here’s why this year’s team is significantly better than last year’s

There are a few reasons why the Boston Celtics have a much better feel to them this year compared to last year. The arrival of Kemba Walker and the departure of Kyrie Irving has sparked an obvious change in the attitude for the ball club.

Not only are they currently the third seed in the East and playing well this season, the change in energy and how much the players enjoy being around each other is apparent.

The Celtics of last year felt like an entitled team who thought they can cruise through the regular season and flip a switch when it came time for the playoffs. Throughout the season, there were many insinuating reports about the team locker room.

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The player who got traded to the Celtics in 2017 and was expected to be the leader, Kyrie Irving, told everyone just wait until the playoffs start. The playoffs arrived and it welcomed them four-straight embarrassing losses in the second round to the Milwaukee Bucks, exiting the Celtics from the playoffs.

To be fair, Kyrie Irving does not deserve all the blame for the team underachieving. After that amazing playoff run by the Celtics in 2017 when Kyrie Irving got hurt, you can feel that sense of entitlement the young Boston team had.

Terry Rozier, who is now in Charlotte, wanted a bigger role and felt like he should’ve gotten more minutes. Jayson Tatum, a player with superstar potential, did not know how to deal with taking a step back after his great playoff run. The return of Gordon Hayward, off a gruesome leg injury which he needed time to get used to, put a dent in the development of Jaylen Brown, as well as Tatum. Head coach Brad Stevens admittedly struggled to try to find a balance with so much young and hungry talent on the team.

With all this being said, Kyrie did not show any real leadership skills and if we are going to praise the best players when a team succeeds, they should also shoulder most of the blame.

Fast forward to the 2019 offseason and out goes Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets and in comes Kemba Walker from the Charlotte Hornets. Someone can convince you Irving is a better overall talent than Walker and although he might be, he is not a better fit for this team. Irving was supposed to come to the Celtics with his championship experience and lead this group of players to a championship.

After all, Boston is called “Title Town” and the Celtics haven’t hoisted a title in over a decade.

Instead, Irving was constantly hurt throughout his tenure as a Celtic and didn’t display any true leadership skills, deeming his time in Boston as truly disappointing. The same is happening so far in his time as a Net. He has been injured for most of the 2019-20 season, and even when he has played, the Nets have been a below .500 team. There is no denying the amazing talent that Irving is, but is becoming more revealing by the day that you can’t win with Kyrie as your best player.

With that being said, I don’t think anyone is proclaiming the Celtics to be world beaters with the addition of Kemba Walker, but the energy around the team is encouraging. A healthy Walker is coming in to replace Irving and finds himself in a great situation. A player who isn’t the ball stopper Irving is, it is refreshing for him to play on a team with other really good players and finally have a real chance to win.

The last time Walker tasted any success was in college at UCONN, and even then, they were not a serious contender until they got hot late in the season and snuck into the NCAA tournament. Now, he is in a setting with better players, a better head coach, and a city embracing him after what transpired the past two seasons.

Most of the time, you would take the more talented player with championship experience but in this case, it is interesting how the dynamic is working. Walker, someone with no championship and rarely any playoff experience in the NBA, seems to be a better fit compared to Irving, who is considered a top 3 point guard with a championship to his name.

The emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as the resurgence of Gordon Hayward, has the Celtics finding themselves in a favorable position. All three players are averaging north of 16 points per game with Tatum and Brown over the 20 points per game mark. This was a problem with last years team with players not being able to get their shots consistently and that problem seems to have evaporated this year. There are no reports of players not being happy with their role which is important when there is so much talent on one team.

Jayson Tatum, who loved the midrange game the first two years of his career, has adapted to the modern NBA and started to drive the ball more and take more 3-pointers. There is no doubt he needs to pick up his field goal percentage but it is encouraging to see how much he has added to his offensive arsenal. Not only has his offensive game improved but he is also making strides on the defensive side of the ball, becoming an extremely skilled two-way player.

Jaylen Brown’s game has taken a huge step in the right direction as he has improved in almost every aspect, from 3-point shooting to his ball-handling, etc. An already great defender has improved his offensive game making himself even more dangerous. Gordon Hayward, a few years removed from his injury, has seemed to have regained his confidence and is playing his best basketball as a Boston Celtic.

The on-court play of the team has improved but another advantage the players had was being able to play for Team USA over the summer. Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and new addition Kemba Walker all played for team USA and although the team drastically underachieved, there is no doubt that experience helped the Celtic players on that team bond and get ready for the upcoming season. There are many instances in which the players have credited the experience of being able to spend time with each other over the summer, in helping them prepare for the season.

Getting Walker to replace Irving was the best thing to happen for the Celtics. The loss that hurt the Celtics the most was losing Al Horford. A swiss army knife big man, who can truly do it all, went over to the Philadelphia 76ers and teamed up with the arguably the best center in the league, Joel Embiid. The one player who gave Embiid fits and it showed in the playoffs, is now playing alongside him.

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Even if the Celtics don’t win this year, it is a great start to the new era in Boston with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown really coming into their own. Gordon Hayward is getting back to his playing level which once made him an all-star and most importantly, Kemba is fitting in perfectly and everyone is having fun. Time will tell what the ceiling of his Boston Celtics team will be long term but the future seems bright for the franchise.