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Nineteen what-ifs over the past nineteen Celtics seasons

It’s Historical past Week right here at CelticsBlog, and which means it’s time for reflection and introspection – a chance to understand the NBA moments which are most significant to us and to theorize about what may have been. This text will stay within the latter.

To rejoice each the current and pretty current historical past of the Boston Celtics, we’re diving into 20 “what if” situations. The notions you see right here shall be introduced with various levels of sincerity and intrigue, one for every season within the twenty-first century (which is about way back to this specific observer’s reminiscence might be trusted, a minimum of with regard to skilled basketball).

This guarantees to take some time, so let’s simply dive proper in. We’ll transfer our method in direction of the current by way of twenty years of enjoyable.

2000-2001: What if the Celtics had stored Joe Johnson?

It’s straightforward to overlook that former NBA All-Star and current day Large Three legend “Iso Joe” Johnson as soon as wore Celtic inexperienced. The easy scorer performed simply 48 video games in Boston earlier than getting shipped to Phoenix with Randy Brown, Belize’s best basketball product of all-time Milt Palacio, and a first-round choose.

In return the Celtics acquired Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers, each of whom turned out to be advantageous position gamers. Johnson in all probability wasn’t fairly adequate to have made all that a lot of a distinction in Boston’s historic ledger, however he, Paul Pierce, and Antoine Walker would have made for a reasonably attention-grabbing trio on the very least.

2001-2002: What if the Rick Pitino period had truly labored?

It’s nearly laughable to think about this idea. Pitino’s time with the Celtics was an utter catastrophe, but it surely’s a minimum of a bit enjoyable to consider what may have been had he had success. Maybe his technique of accumulating gamers from the college he used to teach at (Kentucky) would have caught on, and extra collegiate coaches would have made the soar to the NBA to create pipelines from their teaching alma maters.

Possibly Pitino by no means would have returned to the school sport, acquired caught up in a recruiting scandal, and wound up teaching in Greece. Possibly we’d all get some hours of our lives again to do one thing productive as a substitute of attempting to persuade ourselves that Ron Mercer was going to be a star.

Then once more perhaps issues could be worse. If Pitino by no means starred in his “”walkin’ by way of that door” press convention, then the web wouldn’t be capable of rejoice NBA obscurity in its purest type by way of the #PitinoGame on Twitter (largest of shouts to Amin Elhassan, its creator).

2002-2003: What if Paul Pierce hadn’t backed up all that trash he talked to Al Harrington?

This query is absurd on its face. Paul Pierce was all the time going to again up his trash discuss, as a result of he’s a person of unbelievable braggadocio. Actually this “what if” is simply an opportunity to look at Pierce bang residence a 3 in Harrington’s mug within the playoffs.

2003-2004: What if we may time journey Brandon Hunter to the longer term and he challenged Semi Ojeleye to a drugs ball throwing competitors?

I don’t bear in mind all that a lot in regards to the 2003-2004 Celtics, however I’m fairly positive Brandon Hunter managed to get a job within the NBA solely based mostly on the truth that he was tremendous jacked and labored actually arduous.

It’s arduous to think about anybody evaluating to Semi Ojeleye by way of pure energy – significantly in a contest that comes as pure to him as throwing a drugs ball (which apparently he does in opposition to a wall within the Celtics’ locker room with nice frequency) – however Hunter may give him a run for his cash.

2004-2005: What if Raef Lafrentz performed 10 years later?

Boston’s three-point bombing large man launched 2.eight three pointers per sport within the ‘04-05 marketing campaign, photographs he knocked down at a 36.four% fee. That’s not uber-impressive at first blush, however being that good of a shooter at Lafrentz’s dimension – 6’11” – could be thought-about a large energy within the trendy sport.

For context, Brook Lopez simply accomplished a season during which he was hailed as an incomparable flooring spacer for a yr during which he linked on 36.5% of his triples. The truth that he did so on greater than double the quantity of makes an attempt Lafrentz hoisted however, Boston’s former large man marksman would have had loads of suitors had he performed as we speak.

2005-2006: What if Gerald Inexperienced had found out every thing he realized abroad when he was in Boston?

Gerald Inexperienced was a thrill to look at when he joined the Celtics as a rookie in 2005. He floated within the air in methods that only a few people have ever been in a position to. However for all his breathless athleticism, Inexperienced by no means put issues collectively sufficient to change into even an inexpensive rotation piece in Boston.

He frolicked in Minnesota, Houston, and Dallas earlier than leaving the NBA (or maybe higher mentioned the NBA pressured him to go away) to play abroad for 2 years. Seasoning overseas helped Inexperienced, and he returned to the NBA at 26 with a brand new perspective. Inexperienced carved out a job within the league, and remains to be taking part in to today.

His story is extra attention-grabbing due to the circuitous journey he took, however one wonders if Inexperienced might need had an excellent higher profession if he realized just a few of the habits he picked up outdoors the states when he was nonetheless on the Celtics.

2006-2007: What if Delonte West had been prioritized over Rajon Rondo?

As a long-time Delonte West supporter that is one thing of a pet venture for yours really. I nonetheless contend that the Celtics may have gained a championship with West as their place to begin guard through the second Large Three period had they given him the taking part in time he wanted and deserved to develop into such a job.

2007-2008: What if the Celtics had misplaced to the Lakers?

Sorry to make you concentrate on such an disagreeable situation, however Boston’s championship in 2008 has big historic ramifications. It wound up being Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett’s solely title. It stored Kobe stans from having yet one more ring to brag about insufferably. And most significantly it satiated Celtics followers who hadn’t seen their staff carry residence the Larry O’Brien since 1986. With out that ‘08 title, Boston could be in the course of a 35-year drought (of final NBA success, it has loads of different sports activities victories to say).

2008-2009: What if KG by no means acquired harm?

Boston misplaced to the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic within the 2009 Jap Convention Finals, and in so doing missed out on an opportunity to defend its championship from the season prior. Garnett, who was sidelined by harm, didn’t play a postseason minute.

It’s arduous to overstate the impression KG had on the Celtics. He was the most effective defensive gamers within the historical past of time and an extremely dependable launch valve for Boston’s offense from the mid-range. Boston by no means had a lot hope with out him, even within the wake some surprisingly valiant play from Glen “Large Child” Davis.

The Celtics had the products to beat anybody in a seven-game collection with Garnett at full energy. It’s a disgrace they didn’t have an opportunity to show it.

2009-2010: What if Kendrick Perkins by no means acquired harm?

The true query here’s what if the Celtics didn’t piss away Sport 7 of the 2010 Finals, however Perk’s harm, sustained one sport prior, works as a stand in. Dropping to the Lakers – specific the Kobe Bryant/Paul Gasol/Sasha Vujecic version – was painful sufficient, realizing that it was seemingly the top of the second Large Three’s actual aggressive window harm all of the extra.

Boston acquired a title with Pierce, Allen, and Garnett within the fold. That was the objective, and it deserves to be celebrated and remembered fondly, but it surely’s arduous to not marvel if just a few issues had gone in a different way (significantly KG’s harm referenced above), if the Celtics may have realistically pulled off a three-peat.

2010-2011: What if the Celtics by no means traded for Jeff Inexperienced?

We’d have all saved a bunch of time questioning why Jeff Inexperienced wasn’t higher.

2011-2012: What if Danny Ainge by no means traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett?

This can be a fascinating situation to think about. We all know for sure that Boston wouldn’t have contended for a championship for so long as Pierce and Garnett ate up important cap house. We all know definitively, as effectively, that the Celtics by no means would have had the treasure trove of picks they swindled the Nets for that introduced within the majority of the staff’s younger expertise.

Expectations seemingly by no means would have inflated the way in which they did as soon as Boston lastly spent all of the alternatives they earned from sending Pierce and Garnett packing, but it surely’s not truthful to recommend that the interim seasons between now and the time of the commerce would have been any substantively higher or worse than the way in which they performed out.

The Nets commerce was a seismic shift within the context during which the Celtics had been working, a lot in order that trying to research how issues might have performed out had it not occurred is sort of unimaginable. That solely makes it extra enjoyable.

(*Technically talking this occurred after the 2012-13 season ended, however simply go together with us.)

2012-2013: What if the Celtics by no means employed Brad Stevens?

This query misplaced a bit little bit of its luster after final yr, throughout which Stevens struggled to recreate the tradition he was praised for therefore steadily in his first 5 seasons within the NBA, but it surely’s intriguing to consider nonetheless. Stevens acquired a ton of manufacturing out of some significantly hodgepodged and consistently altering rosters throughout his preliminary tenure in Boston.

He was a main motive the Celtics overachieved of their journeys to the Jap Convention Finals in 2017 and 2018, and the envy of most franchises all through the NBA as lately as one yr in the past. Hiring Stevens was a choice of appreciable organizational significance, final yr’s hiccup be damned.

2013-2014: What if the Celtics drafted Giannis?

This can be a go to “what if” for the fourteen groups that opted to pick out somebody apart from Giannis Antetokounmpo within the 2013 NBA Draft. Boston nabbed Kelly Olynyk two spots forward of the person who would go on to change into final yr’s MVP.

Olynyk turned out to be a stable position participant, effectively value his draft choice, however compared to the long-armed unstoppable pressure of nature that Antetokounmpo has became, it’s very tough to consider the Celtics choice as something however a monumental missed alternative. Think about if Boston had all its younger gamers, whom they nonetheless may have picked due to their bounty of Nets picks, surrounding the Greek Freak.

2014-2015: What if Jared Sullinger was truly good at taking pictures threes?

Jared Sullinger was all the time doing one thing on the court docket. Generally it was good, typically it was unhealthy, however a technique or one other, he was making issues occur. Too steadily that actuality got here within the type of missed three-point makes an attempt. Sullinger had good contact, and a seemingly respectable stroke, however very hardly ever did any of his appears to be like from deep drop.

He posted an abysmal 28.three% three-point share for the 2014-15 season, whereas launching three.2 bombs from past the arc per sport. That mark was by some means higher than his profession fee of 27.2%. Sullinger had a pleasant inside sport, respectable really feel, and an enormous physique that he used intelligently. He may have been an extremely versatile offensive weapon if he’d added the three ball to his arsenal (that’s why Boston inspired him to shoot so usually), but it surely simply by no means occurred.

2015-2016: What if Boston hadn’t performed Atlanta within the playoffs?

Boston didn’t stand a lot of an opportunity in opposition to the Atlanta Hawks within the first-round of the 2016 Playoffs. The Celtics competed valiantly nonetheless, finally shedding the collection in six video games. The staff’s play and the depth of the gang was sufficient to catch the (extremely stunning) eye of 1 their opponents, Al Horford, who would be part of the staff as a free agent that summer season.

Whether or not or not Horford’s expertise of taking part in in opposition to Boston within the TD Backyard actually influenced his choice to signal with the Celtics in a major method is up for debate, however he a minimum of gave lip service to the concept.


Picture by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe through Getty Pictures

2016-2017: What if IT by no means acquired harm?

Would he nonetheless be in Boston? Would he have gotten his Brinks truck? Would the Celtics have decided that Thomas was the higher match and by no means pushed their chips in to get Kyrie Irving? Might they’ve then traded for Anthony Davis mid-season? That is a type of threads that can unravel the entire sweater when you carry on pulling it.

Thomas’ hip harm and subsequent incapability to return to type from it has been one of many saddest story traces within the NBA the previous few years. He was invincible in Boston, and has been nothing however damaged ever since. One factor is for sure, the world could be a a lot happier place if IT had stayed wholesome.

2017-18: What if the Celtics drafted Markelle Fultz?

I do know what you’re anticipating right here. What if Gordon Hayward by no means shattered his leg 5 minutes into his tenure with the Celtics? That’s truthful sufficient, however the Fultz risk is endlessly fascinating.

If Boston had drafted Fultz, would he have sustained the identical unusual harm and no matter else is plaguing him that has rendered him basically unplayable? Is it attainable that he could be the star-level prospect he was projected as? Would the Sixers have Jayson Tatum proper now? Would Hayward have discovered Boston as interesting with out him?

So many questions, with so many attainable solutions.

2018-19: What if we simply pretended this season by no means occurred?

We’d in all probability all be higher off for it. Let’s get pleasure from 2019-2020.

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