The Boston Celtics finished the 2020-21 season 36-36. This was their worst season since going 40-42 in the 2014-15 season. After going to three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics were bounced in the first round in a gentleman’s sweep to the Brooklyn Nets. Although this season was an overall disappointment for the Celtics, there were a few bright spots the team can build on moving forward.
Rookie of the Year: Payton Prichard
The Celtics drafted Oregon guard, Payton Prichard, with the 26th pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. Prichard was a consensus first-team All-American and the PAC-12 player of the year. He had a very steady season and brought Boston a consistent spark off the bench. Prichard played 66 of 72 games and averaged 19.2 minutes in his rookie season.
Honorable mention goes to the other rookie, Aaron Nesmith. The Celtics selected Nesmith with the 14th overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. He struggled early in the season but really found his game down the stretch.
Best in-season Acquisition: Evan Fournier
Former President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, was very active at the trade deadline this year. He acquired three players at the deadline. This was the first in-season trade Ainge had made since he traded for Isaiah Thomas in 2015.
The Celtics traded two second-round picks to the Orlando Magic in exchange for nine-year veteran Evan Fournier. Fournier struggled in his first few games with Boston. He improved a lot down the stretch and was one of the Celtics’ best players in the first round of the playoffs against the Nets. Fournier averaged 13 points per game with the Celtics. He was one of their most reliable sources for bench scoring by the end of the season.
Most Improved Player: Robert Williams III
Robert Williams saw a lot of improvement in his third season as a Boston Celtic. He seemed to have a much better idea of where to position himself on the court to make plays on the offensive end. Williams also exceeded expectations on the defensive end of the floor. He averaged 1.8 blocks per game and had the ninth most blocks in the NBA.
Robert Williams’ biggest improvement was his number of games played. He played in 52 of the Celtics’ 72 games this season compared to 29 of 72 last year and 32 of 82 his rookie year. Availability will be important for the Celtics moving forward.
Most Valuable Player: Jayson Tatum
The most obvious award goes to Jayson Tatum. Tatum continued his development to superstar status with his second straight All-Star game appearance. Tatum averaged 26.4 points per game this season. He also saw an increase in his assist and rebound numbers, averaging 4.3 assists per game and 7.4 rebounds per game.
In addition to his consistently high numbers, Tatum exploded for a few high-scoring games. He scored 44 points against the Golden State Warriors, 53 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a career-high 60 points against the San Antonio Spurs.
Jayson Tatum was clearly the Celtics’ most valuable player this season and will continue to be moving forward. The number one priority for President of Basketball Operations, Brad Stevens, should be to surround the young superstar with talented players that will transform the Boston Celtics into a perennial championship contender.
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