Celtics Players with Most at Stake During 2022-23 NBA Season
The Boston Celtics are in championship-or-bust mode.
That's the primary takeaway from their 2022 NBA offseason, at least, as moves like acquiring Malcolm Brogdon and signing Danilo Gallinari felt like attempts at putting the final touches on a roster that ended last season just two wins shy of a title.
Expectations as enormous as these put a good amount of pressure on everyone involved, but the following three players will have even more riding on the 2022-23 season than their running mates.
The 2022 playoffs were, on balance, kind to Jaylen Brown.
He was the second-leading scorer and rebounder on the Eastern Conference champions. During the Finals, he paced Boston with 23.5 points. His handle and decision-making occasionally got the better of him, but for a 25-year-old in his first NBA Finals, he delivered.
It must have been humbling, then, to have his name surface in trade talks just a few months later. Granted, the chatter involved an all-time great in Kevin Durant, but that still had to be a gut punch for Brown, particularly given how bad a deal could be for his bank account. He has a chance to make himself supermax-eligible, but only if he stays in Boston.
To get such a colossal payday, he must make an All-NBA team, capture the MVP or earn Defensive Player of the Year. Sounds simple enough, right? Obviously any would be incredible feats, but so would the reward: a possible five-year, $273 million pact with the Shamrocks down the line.
While Jayson Tatum delivered mostly magical moments last season, he couldn't carry that over into the championship round.
There, the Golden State Warriors had an answer for everything he was trying, and he never found a rhythm. He averaged just 21.5 points on 36.7 percent shooting for the series (way down from 26.9 on 45.3 during the regular season) and flopped in the elimination game, going 6-of-18 for 13 points, committing five turnovers and failing to attempt a free throw.
"You're an All-Star, All-NBA first-team guy for a reason," Celtics coach Ime Udoka told reporters. "This is only the start of how you're going to be guarded and the attention you're going to draw. I think this is the next step for him. Figuring that out, getting to where some of the veterans are that have seen everything and took their lumps early in their careers."
No matter how good Tatum's supporting cast is, the Celtics won't win a title if he has another championship round like that. If that's not incentive enough to try leveling up even higher, he can also become supermax eligible by snagging another All-NBA roster spot.
The candidate list for this final spot is lengthy.
You could go with Marcus Smart, who has to prove he can lead a championship-level offense. You could choose Robert Williams III or Malcolm Brogdon, who have to show they can hold up for an entire 82-game season and a deep playoff run behind it. You have Al Horford fighting any age-related decline, Sam Hauser facing a potentially huge role increase and Payton Pritchard trying to recover from a rocky sophomore season.
Grant Williams has something different on the line: millions of dollars. If he doesn't sign an extension this offseason, he'll enter restricted free agency and perhaps find some massive offer sheets awaiting him.
His year will dictate the size of those deals, though. He needs to prove his shooting can hold up—he shot 25 percent from three as a rookie and 41.1 percent this past season—and it wouldn't hurt to bulk up another stat category or two. He's a nice role player, but he has a chance to convince teams he can be so much more than that.