Boston Celtics 2024 NBA offseason preview: It's time to think about defending the title

2023-24 season: 64-18

Highlight of the season: Remember that one time in mid-November, they went on a 8-2 run in the second quart... stop it! They won the actual championship. If that isn’t the season highlight, no one knows what is.

In eternal glory. The Celtics made it back to the Finals after losing to the aging Golden State Warriors in 2022 and finally secured the title they’ve been seeking for years. No more Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat standing in their way. No more Warriors. No more coming close, only to let go of the rope in the end. They made it across the finish line and brought home title No. 18 to Boston. It could not have ended any better.

So, what made the difference? First and foremost, the Celtics weren’t afraid to tinker with their roster, despite the accomplishment of making the Finals in 2022. They didn’t just sit still, and they didn’t just rotate some role players. They went out and traded for Kristaps Porziņģis. They went out and traded for Jrue Holiday. They relinquished Marcus Smart, who felt like an eternal Celtic if ever there was one. They gave up draft compensation to get there.

Ultimately, the Celtics doubled-down on their own philosophy of identifying and acquiring players capable of playing on both sides of the court while functioning within a team scheme. They put an emphasis on players able to make the extra pass and players with the capability of making the right reads, on both ends, ultimately leading to a dominant Finals display.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 17: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics holds up the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award after Boston's 106-88 win against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Five of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 17, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics are the NBA champions. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

One might even go as far as theorizing that the blueprint used by the Celtics to make this team ultimately allows them to stay relevant for a long time. Not being afraid to make substantial changes, as long as those changes fit within their own lines, suggest the Celtics won’t ever stand still, even on the heels of a championship.

Now the Celtics enter the offseason, where they do actually have to start a process of finding a long-term replacement to a key player. Al Horford is 38 years old, and while he may stick around for a little while longer, the Celtics are well-aware that eventually they’ll need someone to take his role.

Will they go the route of the draft to find a young player who can, eventually, be molded into a Horford-type of player? Or will they seek to find veterans flying under the radar whom they believe can be integrated in a similar way? That remains to be seen. They could even explore retaining Xavier Tillman Sr. and see if he’s up for that task.

A versatile big man who can provide minutes at power forward and center, preferably someone who fits the same timeline as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Boston is one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and has a lot of options with the 30th pick. They could add some scoring and playmaking with 6-foot-5 Cal guard Jaylon Tyson (averaged 19.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game) or some size on the perimeter with Bobi Klintman, a 6-10 forward who played for the Cairns Taipans in Australia's NBL. — Krysten Peek

Draft picks: Nos. 30 and 54

Key free agents

Xavier Tillman (UFA)

The Celtics are currently projected to be slightly over the second apron, so we’ll see if they make a concerted effort in getting under. They ultimately won’t have money to spend, and they’ll be handcuffed by the stricter CBA that’s been put into place.

However, with the main core locked up for next season and a title just secured, they’re more than likely willing to pay to keep this team intact.

Rule of thumb: If you win a championship, your goal is to defend it the following year. The Celtics are no different.

The Boston Celtics are finally raising their 18th banner after a season of unparalleled dominance. Their 16-3 record in the postseason was the 10th-best winning percentage in NBA playoff history. And let's not overlook having the best record in the regular season. Regardless of your perspective on their path to get there, they executed at a high level to secure the franchise's first title since 2008. And they're not about to fade into the background; the East runs through Boston.

The Celtics' starting lineup is a rare gem from a fantasy standpoint. Unlike many teams, all their starters have the potential to finish within the top 80 in fantasy. Tatum, a perennial first-rounder, is a reliable choice because of his availability and top-tier production. Porziņģis and Derrick White's 3-point shooting and defense elevate them to third- and fourth-rounders. It might sound crazy to give White that type of respect, but he's earned it, and the hefty bag coming his way.

Brown, the NBA Finals MVP, is interesting because while he's typically a fourth-round guy, his free-throw shooting and turnovers drive his value down a bit. He also took fewer shots this year, with more talent surrounding him. Still, we'll see a better version of him after he put up the best postseason of his career. Making an All-Defensive team is next on his hit list, and I'll likely pick him earlier than usual because of it.

Holiday sacrificed the most production-wise this season, and I'd expect his draft capital to tumble. He's still an effective fantasy player who offers a mix of assists, stocks and threes with strong shooting splits that you can get for an attractive price. Horford is a reliable insurance policy for Porziņģis, so he'll again hold some value in the later rounds of drafts.

Boston has the perfect blend of youth, experience and star power, and it's on top because of it. — Dan Titus