Everything was set up for the Boston Celtics to dominate the Eastern Conference this season.
When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Celtics had their full complement coming back, led by All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and the return of Gordon Hayward to (nearly) full fitness, it seemed the path was wide open for Boston.
However, reality turned out to be a a slap in the face for the Green, as they were never more than lukewarm in the regular season and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
After a sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the playoffs and a blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks on the road in Game 1 of their second-round series, the Celtics fell flatter than three-day-old ginger ale.
Milwaukee won the next four games and sent the Celtics home with a whimper. There were plenty of complaints during the season about Irving not being the leader they needed and Hayward having a difficult time readjusting following his gruesome ankle injury.
Few teams were more disappointing than Boston, and with free agency approaching, it appears players such as Irving, Al Horford and others could leave.
While those are key issues, the team will have money to spend on free agents if "The Departed, Part II" plays out in Boston. One of those free agents could be superstar Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets.
Marc Stein of the New York Times noted the Celtics are becoming players in the Walker market:
The 28-year-old is a three-time NBA All-Star, and he averaged 25.6 and 5.9 assists for the Hornets in 2018-19. If they lose Irving, he would be a wonderful player to make up for the loss.
While Irving seemed unhappy much of the time, Walker would have a clean slate and would bring his sensational talent to the team.
The thought of losing Horford is fairly devastating to the Celtics, and that seems like it will be a reality since he decided not to take his player option for the 2019-20 season.
The 33-year-old has been an integral part of the Celtics since joining in 2016-17 after nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 53.5 percent from the floor, and he also has helped hold the team together during its most difficult moments.
Stein tweeted that "numerous teams" believe a four-year, $112 million contract will be offered to Horford at the start of free agency. While he did not specify a team that would be offering that deal, he did say the Dallas Mavericks do not appear to be the team.
It should be noted Horford danced with the Houston Rockets before signing with the Celtics in 2016.
Irving appears to be all but officially gone at this moment. Justin Leger of NBC Sports pointed out he didn't like living in Boston, had problems with general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens, and he also had issues with a couple of his teammates.
With just days to go before the start of free agency, B/R Betting listed the Brooklyn Nets as the favorites to land Irving at -400, while the Los Angeles Lakers were second at +300 and the New York Knicks third at +1000:
The Celtics weren't even listed in the graphic.