• The Boston Celtics entered the 2023-24 season with high expectations following a tough loss in the previous year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Brad Stevens reshaped the team by trading Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis and acquiring Jrue Holiday for Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams III, forming a powerful lineup alongside Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Celtics achieved a historic regular season, finishing first in the Eastern Conference with 64 wins and setting records on both ends of the floor. In the playoffs, they defeated the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Indiana Pacers to reach the NBA Finals for the second time in three years. In the Finals, they faced the Dallas Mavericks and their former foe Kyrie Irving, winning in five games to win their 18th championship after a historic 80-win season.

    How’d It Go?

    After missing back-to-back NBA Final appearances with a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2022-23 season to the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics entered the 2023-24 season with questions surrounding the quality of their stars, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and whether they were good enough and/or could coexist to win a championship together. Additionally, Joe Mazzulla’s coaching collapse during the Conference Finals dampened what could have otherwise been considered a highly successful season for another team, leaving questions about the team’s future. The Celtics are the NBA’s winningest team, were tied for the most championships with 17, and anything less than a championship is not considered a success.

    Brad Stevens understood this and took matters into his own hands by making key acquisitions during the offseason, cementing the Celtics as clear title favorites once again. The Celtics decided to trade away the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year and the “heart and soul” of the recent Celtics, Marcus Smart, in a three-team deal involving the Grizzlies and the Wizards. Smart went to the Grizzlies, and 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis joined the Celtics after a highly durable and promising season. On October 1st, the Celtics shook up the league once more by trading Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams III to the Portland Trail Blazers for NBA champion Jrue Holiday, who had joined the Trail Blazers as part of the Damian Lillard trade, essentially forming a superteam on both ends of the floor.

    As a result, the Celtics entered the season with sky-high expectations. It was clear through the first couple of games of the regular season that the true success of this Celtics team would be judged based on their playoff performance. Anything short of another NBA Finals appearance or a championship would have been a major disappointment.

    The Celtics’ historic regular season laid the foundation for their 18th championship. They finished first in the Eastern Conference standings by 14 games, achieving 64 wins—their first 60-win season since 2008-09. The Celtics’ 122.2 offensive rating and 1.22 points per possession were the best in league history, thanks to their exceptional three-point shooting, making 1,351 attempts on 38.8% shooting—140 attempts more than their closest rivals, the Warriors. They protected their home court with a 37-4 record and scored the most points in franchise history. One of the key factors contributing to the team’s success was having three players—Brown, Tatum, and Porzingis—average 20 or more points per game. Jayson Tatum was first team All-NBA, while Derrick White and Jrue Holiday were selected to the 2nd All-NBA Defensive Team, supported by having the highest net rating of any team since 2000 with 11.7.

    With exceptional performances on both ends of the floor, the Celtics finished the regular season as one of two teams ranked first in both offensive and defensive ratings. Entering the postseason as the first overall seeded team, they awaited the Play-In round to determine their opponent and got enough rest to start their quest for the championship. The Celtics flexed their collective muscle throughout the playoffs, even without the services of Kristaps Porzingis, who suffered a calf strain in the first round. They dropped games here and there but were never in danger of losing series, with the closest call coming in the Conference Finals against the Pacers where Indiana repeatedly blew leads in the second half of games — Boston’s most treacherous postseason test ended up as a sweep. They had a date with Dallas and “old friend” Kyrie Irving in the Finals.

    The Celtics came out swinging to open the NBA Finals and took a very dominant home win in Game 1 behind exceptional play from Kristaps Porzingis and Jaylen Brown, and carried it into Game 2, taking a 2-0 advantage before heading to Dallas. Porzingis picked up a new injury during the second game that essentially ended his season. Without Porzingis, and a Celtics team that had so far been able to neutralize everyone except for Luka Doncic, and even Doncic at rare times for the Mavericks, many believed that Game 3 would be a turning point in the series and we would see a more competitive matchup. The competitive aspect was very true as the Mavericks opened up the game in the first quarter and took a 13-point lead, only to see the first quarter end with a one-point lead for them. Throughout the game, Kyrie Irving returned to his old self, scoring 35 points, but Luka Doncic fouled out after helping cut a second half 21-point Celtics lead down, only to see his team collapse behind some great defense by Boston for a 3-0 Celtics lead. A 38-point loss in Game 4 raised some doubts, but with a 3-0 series lead it was academic.

    They regrouped and came back on Game 5 with the same intensity that the Mavericks used on them in Game 4 to play an extremely dominant game behind Tatum and Brown’s leadership, clinching their 18th championship after an incredible season.

    Coaching

    Joe Mazzulla assumed the head coaching role two years ago amidst a turbulent offseason that saw Ime Udoka’s suspension from the organization after leading the team to the NBA Finals. Mazzulla, a product of the Celtics’ coaching tree since 2019 and one of the youngest coaches in the league at the time, initially served as interim head coach, guiding the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season, where they narrowly lost to the Miami Heat in seven games.

    Mazzulla’s coaching philosophy draws influences from diverse sports like soccer, UFC, and strategies akin to killer whales. While unconventional to some, Mazzulla boasts an impressive 73.8% winning percentage over his two-year tenure, demonstrating his adeptness at leading a highly competitive team.

    Heading into the 2023-24 season, questions lingered about Mazzulla’s ability to guide the Celtics to a championship, especially following their previous season’s collapse against the Heat despite their strong roster. The offseason saw major acquisitions further bolstering the team’s talent, presenting both an opportunity and a challenge for Mazzulla.

    Mazzulla not only embraced the challenge with confidence but also crafted a historic superteam. His coaching style, known as “Mazzullaball,” emphasizes ball movement to find open shots, defensive versatility with all players capable of guarding multiple positions, and a strategy of setting back-to-back screens to free up their star players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for high-percentage scoring opportunities.

    Under Mazzulla’s guidance, the Celtics have thrived with a balanced approach that integrates sharpshooters and efficient scoring tactics with high-energy, dominant defensive efforts. His ability to adapt and lead a team of young superstars, along with his first NBA Championship, has solidified his position as a strategic, innovative and elite coach in the league.

    The Players

    Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics
    SeasonTeamGPGSMPG FGMFGAFG% FTMFTAFT% 3PTM3PTA3PT% PTSREBAST STLBLKTO
    23-24 BOS 74 74 35.7 9.1 19.3 47.1 5.6 6.7 83.3 3.1 8.2 37.6 26.9 8.1 4.9 1.0 0.6 2.5
    22-23 BOS 74 74 36.9 9.8 21.1 46.6 7.2 8.4 85.4 3.2 9.3 35.0 30.1 8.8 4.6 1.1 0.7 2.9
    21-22 BOS 75 75 36.0 9.3 20.7 45.0 5.3 6.2 85.2 3.0 8.6 34.8 26.9 8.0 4.4 1.0 0.7 2.8

    ADP: 5.4/4.3 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 9/11 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 15/15 (8/9-cat)

    Jayson Tatum has been a stalwart top-10 pick across all fantasy formats for the past few seasons, consistently delivering reliable and productive performances. Known for his durability and versatility, Tatum has played over 72 games in each of the last three seasons and contributes across all major statistical categories at a high level. At 26 years old, he continues to be a cornerstone of the Celtics’ success, with his scoring prowess and overall impact pivotal to the team’s performance.

    While Tatum’s scoring average dipped slightly from 30.1 points per game to 26.9 points per game in the regular season, he maintained consistent production in assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals compared to the previous year. Notably, his three-point and overall field-goal percentages improved, showing his efficiency and value on the court.

    Despite a slight dip in his individual statistics that put him short of his lofty ADP, Tatum remains a crucial figure in the Celtics’ stacked lineup, alongside co-star Jaylen Brown. His contributions were instrumental in securing the Celtics’ 18th championship, further solidifying his status as a top-tier fantasy option and a perennial NBA First Team player.

    As fantasy managers prepare for the upcoming season, Tatum’s consistent performance, versatility, and role within a competitive Celtics team make him a reliable choice for a high draft position. Expect Tatum to continue delivering elite-level fantasy production and remain a cornerstone of fantasy lineups for the foreseeable future, even if the depth of talent Boston has will likely keep him from hitting his true fantasy ceiling.

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