The 2023-24 Boston Celtics will take some getting used to.
Their offseason started with a bang when they acquired Kristaps Porzingis but parted ways with their longest-tenured player Marcus Smart in a three-team trade with the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies. A couple of weeks later, they shipped Grant Williams to the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade.
Oddsmakers still have the C's listed among the frontrunners to win the NBA championship next year, but are they better or worse than last season's group after the moves they've made this summer? Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix joined Tuesday's "Arbella Early Edition" to share his take.
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"As of now, mid-July, they're worse," Mannix said. "It really is Kristaps Porzingis for Grant Williams and Marcus Smart. That, to me, is a step back because Marcus Smart, even though he was flawed, you know what he is. Grant Williams, as bad as he was in the second half of the season, he shot 41 percent from 3 in the first half and I think getting a contract and security would have made him better going into this season.
"And Porzingis, I'm sorry, he worries me. He does. He had a great year last year, but he was in a contract year playing for a team that went nowhere. Now, he's going to have the security of a long-term contract playing for a team that needs him to fit into a system to be highly successful. I just have my concerns at how seamless he's going to fit into this mix."
Porzingis averaged a career-high 23.2 points per game while shooting 49.8 percent from the field for the Wizards in 2022-23. The soon-to-be 28-year-old gives Boston another consistent scoring threat alongside stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown while bolstering what was a thin frontcourt.
Despite those positives, Amina Smith joins Mannix in being skeptical about the state of the team.
"I do think that this team got a little bit worse," Smith said. "Not drastically worse with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis, but I really don't know what Kristaps Porzingis can bring to this team. The one thing that worries me is that injury history throughout his entire career. But also, you lose Marcus Smart, the former Defensive Player of the Year and really the only guy that held your superstars accountable. He held Jayson Tatum accountable, held Jaylen Brown accountable.
"And then you lose Grant Williams, which I know a lot of people are torn over about whether or not he was a good part of this team, but he was good, he was versatile on the defensive end, on the offensive end as well. Honestly, I just don't feel comfortable saying that this team got better when you lose Marcus Smart and Grant Williams and only get Kristaps Porzingis."
Porzingis' injury history is a legitimate concern. Besides last season, during which Porzingis played in 65 games, the 7-foot-3 Latvian hasn't played in more than 60 games since his second NBA season in 2016-17. If he misses an extended period of time in the upcoming campaign, that would be a major blow to a Celtics frontcourt that currently consists of an injury-prone Robert Williams and a 37-year-old Al Horford.
There are plenty of question marks, but our Chris Forsberg offered an optimistic outlook on the situation.
"I feel like they do have more top-end talent, which ultimately is what drives success in the NBA," Forsberg said. "And so, if Jayson, Jaylen, and Porzingis give you a real Big Three, I do think they are better equipped to handle the playoffs. But they need to figure out that grit. They've got to figure out (how to replace) what Smart brings. And one thing I push back on with Grant: If the coach isn't going to play him, is it really that big of a loss?"
The Celtics could still look to make an addition or two before they return to the court. President of basketball operations Brad Stevens recently expressed a desire to bolster the team's wing depth or add a "4/3 type" at some point this offseason.
You can watch the full conversation between Mannix, Smith, and Forsberg in the video above.