It’s not often that both teams that met in the Eastern Conference Finals undergo massive roster changes in the offseason.
It’s even more rare that the two teams directly engage in a major trade with each other.
But, that’s exactly what happened this offseason when the Boston Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two draft picks. Prior to that, the Celtics were able to sign highly-coveted All-Star Gordon Hayward in free agency and were forced to trade defensive stopper Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for forward Marcus Morris to make the Hayward deal happen financially.
Boston also drafted forward Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, signed veteran center Aron Baynes in free agency and will likely welcome 2016 draft-and-stasher Guerschon Yabusele to the mix after he spent part of last season overseas and part in the G-League.
Therefore, there will essentially be an entirely new roster, as key players have come and gone. The team will likely start Irving at the point, Jaylen Brown at shooting guard, Hayward at small forward, Tatum at power forward and Al Horford at center while Morris, Marcus Smart, Baynes and Terry Rozier will also assume major roles either off the bench or in the starting lineup depending on how Brad Stevens decides to set rotations.
Based on all of the movement, Rozier predicts that his team will experience some growing pains.
"I'm pretty sure we're going to probably have some rough patches at the beginning," Rozier recently told 98.5 The Sports Hub's Adam Kaufman, per Jay King of MassLive.com. "It's common for a team that just got together. But I think we're going to be pretty good. And that's the goal. So I'm not really so much worried about comparing this year to last year. We were a heck of a team last year, but I think we'll be pretty good this year.”
He understands that team chemistry is going to be a major initial concern for perhaps the best Eastern Conference team (on paper).
"That's the famous question that we all want to know," Rozier told Kaufman. "I'm pretty sure this is our job. We're all professionals. So when we all meet each other and get going we'll make it easy for one another to adjust in that regard. As far as last year, we had a heck of a season, heck of a group, a lot of great guys, a great locker room. It's going to be tough to make that up, especially at the beginning. But I think we can get it done and still be a great team this year.”
Based on the championship-winning culture in Boston and the respect that coach Stevens demands, it seems like it’s more probable than not that the team will find success, but as Rozier points out, they might not have to get off to a hot start.
If you remember back to the beginning of the Miami Heat’s Big Three era, the team struggled initially before heading to four-straight NBA Finals, winning two titles. Therefore, as long as the Celtics are clicking when it matters most, they can afford to experience some initial losses if it takes time to gel.