Jayson Tatum is busy playing on an international stage for the Olympics while Jaylen Brown is rehabilitating from wrist surgery this summer despite being busy himself. The future of the Celtics is bright because of their two All-Stars, both of whom are long-term locked up.
But there are still some question marks behind it. Boston’s team strength comes from its wings, but the depth was an issue last season amid COVID-19 and injuries.
That puts the spotlight on the many younger Celtics prospects that they will rely on as they delve deeper into their careers. Guys like Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford are fascinating pieces, while Boston is looking to revamp its roster this off-season. Both are former first-round picks who have shown talent as NBA players.
But how much improvement can the team expect from their wings?
Langford has been on the brink of injury throughout his career, but he’s finally entering a healthy off-season to work on his game. He missed the entire first half of last season and then contracted COVID-19 when he was ready to return to the field.
Nesmith had a busy rookie season during the pandemic when normalcy was never expected. He started slowly, hardly played, but found a rotation place under Brad Stevens as the season progressed. Nesmith’s style of play – one with a kind of reckless devotion – quickly made him popular with Boston believers.
Both players have similar skills, although they are at different levels. The Celtics hope that they will become role-players who can defend and hit 3-pointers.
There are levels of depth, however. Stevens tinkered with Langford at point guard last season and possibly tapped into his game-making self. Nesmith shot 37% 3-handers on the year, including a renewed sense of confidence towards the end of the year.
As a bonus, both players get a full summer to work on their games. They will do so knowing that they are getting a new head coach in Ime Udoka who is expected to be tenacious but able to get in touch with the players. While Udoka’s time in Boston will be judged by how he keeps his stars, his development will be another unimportant factor by the likes of Nesmith and Langford.
The Las Vegas Summer League should also be another avenue for the young players, including someone like Payton Pritchard. Langford doesn’t have to play because he’s a third year player, but he has only played 50 NBA career games in two seasons. The 21-year-old only benefits from more playing time.
Nesmith and Pritchard, both 2020 first-round picks, found themselves in the same awkward spot where Summer League wasn’t an option for them due to the pandemic.
That put Nesmith in a particularly brutal position. Nesmith’s final season at Vanderbilt was briefly injury-related, which meant a long, extended period of time not playing live basketball prior to his first NBA season. It shows how he fought pro ball in his first few months considering how heavy it was.
Langford and Nesmith were bench pieces used occasionally in 2020-21, although this depends on health, of course. If either or both of them can be bonafive rotation players, that will ease the pressure from the Celtics. That’s the kind of improvement Stevens mentioned after the season ended in Boston.