It’s hard to argue that the Boston Celtics didn’t have a busy offseason. They picked up a top-five prospect in the draft, acquired an All-Star in free agency, and added another All-Star in a blockbuster deal last month. All this led to Kyrie Irving becoming the ringmaster of his own franchise. No longer in the shadow of LeBron James, can Irving silence the critics and lead the Celtics to a successful season?
Let’s make this clear, Irving is a great player. Last season he averaged 25.2 PPG and shot over 40 percent from three. Even if some consider him a ball hog, he averaged nearly six assists per game. The offense will go through him. Sure, Gordon Hayward is there to lighten the load but Irving must make sure everything works like a well-oiled machine.
Irving already had the chance to lead a team and it was not very successful. In Irving’s first three seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to post a winning record. In his first two seasons, Irving played less than 60 games. Irving doesn’t have the best track record as the go-to guy but things are different now. He is no longer a young kid who just entered the league, he’s now grown into stardom and stands poised to positively impact a team. He has experience in the Finals and has honed his clutch factor, making him deadly in crunch time. Experience is his biggest asset and Irving has played with and against the best players in the world for years now. If any young player has learned the NBA, it’s him.
Next comes his teammates. Boston is filled with veteran and young talent, a great mix for a franchise preparing to be relevant for years to come. Irving and Hayward must click for this thing to work. Hayward was lured to Boston to aid Isaiah Thomas (now in Cleveland) and will serve the same function with Irving at the helm. The Celtics are filled with young wing players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who stand to get decent playing time on this new roster. Irving gets to be the point guard now, not just an outlet for James. There are a lot of weapons on this team waiting to be utilized and it’s up to Irving to use them wisely.
Boston should keep their eye on his contract. He has three years left and is a flight risk once he’s a free agent. It’s important to have Irving buy into the idea of being a Celtic and negotiate a way to keep him long term. This is all assuming that he’ll pan out in Boston but no one has reason to believe otherwise at this point. What’s important now is winning games this season.
This is the million-dollar question, will this team win? They’re in the Eastern Conference so they stand a good chance of at least making the playoffs. Remember that the Celtics’ starting five from last year has been completely dismantled, Al Horford is the only returning starter. With so many new pieces it’s hard to gauge the strength of this roster since the East did get weaker with the departure of Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jimmy Butler going to the Minnesota Timberwolves. No one made major moves in the East outside of Boston. It’s safe to say that the Cavaliers and the Celtics will be at the top of the East again and a meeting between the two in the Eastern Conference Finals is likely. The Cavaliers have a leg up since their roster is relatively unchanged but if Thomas re-injures himself in the postseason next year it’s anyone’s game.
Kyrie Irving now is the time to prove how good of a leader you are. No one doubts your playing abilities or your stats. All you need to do is win. Boston is a storied franchise with a dozen NBA legends in its history book. It’s time to fill your page. How many championships will you win? Will you go down as an All-Time great or a mere footnote? With the season edging closer and closer, the world gets to see whether you have what it takes to lead the Boston Celtics to greatness.
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