NBA Power Rankings: Orlando season restart edition


The NBA is back! Probably. There are still a few things to work out, some serious issues to untangle for players such as the impact of a return on the Black Lives Matter movement, and their own health and safety. Still, our NBA Power Rankings are back; this is a basketball-focused look on where the teams stand going into Orlando (or, what the teams not headed to Orlando need to look at).

Lakers small icon 1. Lakers (49-14, Last Week No. 1). LeBron James wants to play and chase a legacy-defining ring in Orlando, and that’s good enough for some other players. They have the best duo in the league with LeBron and Anthony Davis. Just before the NBA shut down the Lakers beat the Buck and Clippers in one week, showing off an impressive defense, and if Los Angeles can get back to defending at that level (and using it to spark some easy transition buckets) they will be tough to beat. You know LeBron is in shape and ready to go.

Clippers small icon 2. Clippers (44-20, LW 2). The Clippers are one of the teams that may benefit from the extended break this season — a healthy and rested Kawhi Leonard should be ready to go in Orlando. The Clippers were just getting healthy and coming on when the season was shut down, and remember this team is 21-5 in games Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley are healthy and play. Will the relentless pace of games every other day slow down Leonard by the conference finals and Finals?

Bucks small icon 3. Bucks (53-12, LW 3). Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a couple of games with a knee injury right before the league was shut down and would have missed more — maybe opening up the MVP race for LeBron — but now, headed to Orlando, he is 100% and fired up. The lingering question with the Bucks in the playoffs remains: When it gets down to the conference finals and Finals, and another team cuts Antetokounmpo’s easy paths to the rim, can the Bucks go to a “Plan B” and still have enough offense to win games? It’s easy to say “yes” on paper, but they have to prove it (and Mike Budenholzer has to lead the adjustments).

Celtics small icon 4. Celtics (43-21, LW 5). Jayson Tatum broke out as an elite, All-NBA level player in the month of the season. Jaylen Brown was just a step behind him. Pair those two with veteran and scoring machine Kemba Walker and a healthy Gordon Hayward, and that is as athletic, versatile, and switchable 1-4 as there is in the league. Those players, and the Celtics fourth-ranked defense, make them a threat to make the Finals out of the East. The question becomes, are big men Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Robert Williams good enough to hang with the Bucks (and Philly in the first round, if that’s the matchup)? Teams with size will test Boston.

Raptors small icon 5. Raptors (46-18, LW 4). Toronto had the second best defense in the NBA over the course of the season and that can carry them a long way in Orlando, especially when combined with the breakout season of Pascal Siakam. Nick Nurse has done a Coach of the Year job of putting players in positions to succeed. However, the Raptors are 2-7 against other teams who are the top three seeds in either conference – Toronto beat the teams it was supposed to beat, but can it rise up and knock off the best teams in the playoffs without their closer from last season’s championship run?

Rockets small icon 6. Rockets (40-24, LW 9). More than 60 games into the NBA season James Harden looked worn down by the grind and the load put on his shoulders: In his five games played in March before the shut down he averaged 28.2 points a game (down from his 34.4 season average) and his True Shooting Percentage dropped to a league-average 55.3. He looked slower on defense, and he averaged a -10.3 in those games. Video workouts show he has lost weight and comes back rested and ready to run, and there is nobody in the league who can stop his setback. How far Houston can go with their extreme small remains to be seen, but they don’t have another option, and nobody has seen anything quite like it.

Nuggets small icon 7. Nuggets (43-22, LW 8). Skinny Nikola Jokic is real and that should worry the rest of the league — over the final month of the season he was already playing at a “consider me for the bottom of your MVP ballot” level. Denver has depth and versatility (likely enough to hold on to the three seed through the “seeding games”), but whether their pick-and-roll defense is good enough to advance them in the playoffs will be a challenge — every team is going to target Jokic and Jamal Murray in the pick-and-roll.

Heat small icon 8. Heat (41-24, LW 6). Miami added Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder at the trade deadline to join Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic in providing a veteran and winning presence on this team. Even so, how far Miami goes in the playoffs will depend on their young core of Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Can that young group handle the pressure and intensity of the postseason?

Thunder small icon 9. Thunder (40-24, LW 7). Oklahoma City is an interesting chess match on the court in the playoffs. When they go to a three point-guard lineup — Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — they are +16.2 per 100 possessions in the regular season, but will that hold up against better (and bigger) teams in the playoffs. Surround those three guards with Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams and the Thunder are +29.9 per 100 possessions (in only 177 minutes, but still). However, sub Adams or Gallinari out and the numbers fall of quick (defenses can ignore anyone else in that scenario and focus on the guards). Can Billy Donovan’s best lineups play enough minutes together in the postseason to win a series?

Sixers small icon 10. 76ers (39-26, LW 12). Philadelphia is one of the teams that benefits the most from the coronavirus-forced break — they get a healthy Ben Simmons back from his back issues, and adding an All-Star to the starting lineup makes the team better. The issue remains shooting, which is why it is expected Brett Brown will bring Al Horford off the bench and start Shake Milton with Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid — but that five has played zero minutes together this season. Are eight seeding games enough for the Sixers to settle into a rotation that works? If so, this is a dangerous team in the East.

Mavericks small icon 11. Mavericks (40-27, LW 10). Don’t worry about Luka Doncic’s conditioning, he’s fine and will be good to go when play resumes. Dallas would like to get out of the seven seed in the West (and a date with the Clippers in the first round) but while they are just 1.5 games back of Houston and Oklahoma City (the two teams ahead of them), the Mavs have played three more games than either of those teams and lost them all. Dallas needs to get on a run in the seeding games to leapfrog either of them.

Pacers small icon 12. Pacers (39-26, LW 11). Indiana was starting to find a groove as Victor Oladipo worked his way back, they won six of the last seven games he played (but he sat out four games in the middle of that stretch). Combined with Malcolm Brogdon and a top-10 defense, the Pacers will be a tough out in the postseason (even without Jeremy Lamb, who is still out after his torn ACL). However, to win a playoff round would require the All-NBA level Oladipo to show up in Orlando and take over games.

Jazz small icon 13. Jazz (41-23, LW 13). A bigger concern than the Donovan Mitchell/Rudy Gobert issues and its potential impact on team chemistry (league sources say the two have worked things out) is the loss of Bojan Bogdanovic to a wrist injury. He became a critical secondary playmaker and the Jazz offense was 8.5 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court this season. His loss dampens Utah’s postseason hopes, they will need Mike Conley to quickly find a comfort zone and dominate in the pick-and-roll to have much hope come the postseason, even with Gobert and the Utah defense.

Blazers small icon 14. Trail Blazers (29-37, LW 19). No team benefitted more (not even Philly) from the forced three-month suspension of the league than the Trail Blazers. They return with a fully healthy Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins on their front line, essentially re-uniting the core that won 53 games and made the conference finals the season before. Is that enough to get Portland into the play-in games with Memphis, then beat the Grizzlies two games in a row? Maybe, maybe not, but Portland, led by the clutch shooting of Damian Lillard, has a better shot at that any other team in the West. This restart sets up well for them (they have the winning percentage advantage over New Orleans).

Pelicans small icon 15. Pelicans (28-36, LW 17). The league got what it wanted: Zion Williamson is in the bubble. The Pelicans were playing better basketball than anybody at the bottom of the West the final 10 games before the forced break (a +2.5 net rating) — and they got there because they were playing good defense. If the Pelicans can sustain that defense and mix it with an improving offense this team is a threat to make the playoffs. You know the suits at ESPN/Turner want that Brandon Ingram/Lonzo Ball against LeBron and the Lakers matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

Grizzlies small icon 16. Grizzlies (32-33, LW 15). Memphis earned the right to be the eighth seed in the West and the advantages that come with it thanks to the Rookie of the Year play of Ja Morant. Now they add a healthy Justise Winslow — with a training camp and eight seeding games to work him in — plus a 3.5 games cushion on everyone chasing them. The Grizzlies should hold on to the eighth seed heading into a play-in series. Then they just have to win one of two games — that’s the real test for this young team.

Magic small icon 17. Magic (30-35, LW 14). Orlando’s offense caught fire after the All-Star break, it was the best in the NBA. If they can recapture that fire, then add defensive stopper Jonathon Isaac (injured but working to return, although it’s a long shot), we could see the best of Orlando in, well, Orlando. That may well be enough to vault them past Brooklyn and into the seven seed, avoiding any threat from a play-in series (although it’s hard to imagine Washington catching up enough with Orlando to force those games anyway).

Nets small icon 18. Nets (30-34, LW 16). No Kevin Durant. No Kyrie Irving. And interim coach in Jacque Vaughn and a lot of uncertainty around the roster. That’s a lot of issues for Brooklyn to deal with during the restart. Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and company played good defense this season, they will need to sustain that and find some consistent offense or Orlando will pass them and maybe Washington can even force the play-in games. Brooklyn has some work to do.

Kings small icon 19. Kings (28-36, LW 18). Sacramento was starting to pull itself together before the forced hiatus of the league, with De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic sparking an offense that was finding its footing. Add in Marvin Bagley III — who was injured but is expected back — and the Kings have an outside chance to end their 14-year playoff drought if they get hot in Orlando.

Spurs small icon 20. Spurs (27-36, LW 20). LaMarcus Aldridge is out for the restart following shoulder surgery, and that put a dagger in the Spurs chances, which were pretty long before that news. They do have Gregg Popovich as the coach and an interesting young backcourt with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, but a team that lives and dies on the midrange jumper (especially that of DeMar DeRozan) is not going to get hot enough in the seeding games to climb up into the postseason. Will Popovich realize that and experiment with lineups for next season? Popovich, and a lot of the Spurs staff, have been powerful when speaking on social justice issues in recent weeks.

Suns small icon 21. Suns (26-39, LW 21). Phoenix is expected to have Kelly Oubre Jr. back from injury for this restart. Combine him with Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio, Mikal Bridges, and Deandre Ayton and you have an impressive starting five that has been +20.2 points per 100 possessions (small sample size theater alert here, they haven’t played together much). Even with that group the Suns are not leapfrogging enough teams to get into the playoff mix this season, but it’s a chance for Monty Williams to lay groundwork for next season.

Wizards small icon 22. Wizards (24-40, LW 22). No John Wall. That means Bradley Beal is going to go to Orlando and put up numbers… which is what he did before the break, playing at an All-NBA level, and Washington is still 16 games below .500. Which speaks to this team having the worst defense in the NBA last season. Washington is a long shot even to force play-in games against Orlando or Brooklyn, let alone beat one of those two more talented and better-balanced squads two games in a row to make the playoffs.

Bulls small icon 23. Bulls (22-43, LW 24). How many changes Arturas Karnisovas will make this offseason — with its condensed timeline and likely reduced salary cap — remains to be seen, although Jim Boylen being out as coach is likely the big one. Still, there are a lot of questions. Can Coby White and Zach LaVine form a winning backcourt? Will a new coach use Lauri Markkanen in a better way? What is Wendell Carter Jr.’s role in a new offense? Is Kris Dunn part of the future in Chicago? There is some talent on this roster, and players have improved, but the pieces have yet to get together in a winning way.

24. Timberwolves (19-45, LW 28). D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns played just 25 minutes together and that leads to the biggest question for Minnesota going forward: Can those two play good enough pick-and-roll defense to make this a winning team? The offense will be strong, but can this team get stops. Expect Gersson Rosas to be aggressive in looking for shooters and defenders to go around his stars, but there are 29 other teams looking for defenders who can shoot, too.

Hawks small icon 25. Hawks (20-46, LW 29). Coach Lloyd Pierce didn’t get a chance to unleash a Trae Young/Clint Capela pick-and-roll on the world in Orlando, it will have to wait until next season (if Pierce is around next season, that is not a lock by any means). Atlanta needs to improve its ball movement on offense and improve its 28th in the league defense to take a step forward, but they have the talent on the roster to do all of that. Expect a leap from the Hawks next season.

Hornets small icon 26. Hornets (23-42, LW 23). It was fun to watch Devonte' Graham explode on the scene this year and make a run at Most Improved Player, but for my money the biggest question for Charlotte going forward remains: Who is it building this team around? Who is the future star? The team will have another lottery pick this season, and in 2021 should have cap space (once Nicolas Batum comes off the books), but they need to find a cornerstone player now that Kemba Walker is gone.

Knicks small icon 27. Knicks (20-45, LW 25). Leon Rose is running the show and soon Tom Thibodeau will be the head coach (or, maybe Kenny Atkinson, but the smart money is still on Thibs), which means changes are coming to Madison Square Garden. The question is what direction do they go: Build around their young talent such as RJ Barrett, Michell Robinson, and whoever they draft this season; or, use that talent and some money to trade for an established star (or get one in future free agency)? Or maybe they split the difference and try to do a little of both (which sounds very Knicks on the surface). It’s another redo in New York; we’ll see if this one goes better than the previous attempts.

Pistons small icon 28. Pistons (20-45, LW 26). They got out from under the contract of Andre Drummond, and there are some good young players on the roster such as Luke Kennard and Sekou Doumbouya (and Christian Wood, if they can re-sign him). However, Blake Griffin is still an anchor on the books. Derrick Rose may be better as trade bait with his $7.7 million contract. There is still a lot of rebuilding work to be done in Detroit, this process is just getting started.

Cavaliers small icon 29. Cavaliers (19-46, LW 27). Cleveland’s last two top draft picks, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, have formed a defensive disaster of a backcourt with questions about the offensive upside for either or both (depending upon who you ask). Andre Drummond is on the roster now but his size alone is not going to protect the rim and improve the defense, the Cavaliers need perimeter defenders. And just a lot more talent (hopefully they can pick some up in this year’s draft).

Warriors small icon 30. Warriors (15-50 LW 30). The question in the Bay Area is what draft pick do the Warriors end up with — 14% chance of No. 1, but a 48% chance of No. 5 — and what do they do with it. The expectation around the league is they will shop the pick, but in a down draft that may not be enough, so they may just use it to add some young talent. This team will still have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green next season, and if they can find a role for Andrew Wiggins and get decent center play they become a very dangerous, high seed team again.

New York Knicks part ways with GM Scott Perry

New York Knicks Introduce New Signees
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

When Scotty Perry came on board with the Knicks, they felt like chaos personified off the court, and on the court their best players were Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.

That era seems like another lifetime ago. Perry, first with former team president Steve Mills and then with the next president Leon Rose, brought professionalism and stability to the New York Knicks not really known in the James Dolan era. The Knicks may not yet be contenders, but they have built a 47-win team behind Jalen Brunson with 11 first-round picks in the next seven years (to use or trade for a star). The Knicks are well-positioned for the future and Knicks fans are as optimistic as they have been in decades.

Which is why it’s news that Perry and the Knicks are parting ways, something reported by multiple sources, including Ian Begley at Perry’s contract was up.

It will be interesting to see where the Knicks go from here. Former Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was added as an executive last season. The Knicks could give Rosas the full-time position or promote another front office member, such as assistant general manager (pro scouting) Frank Zanin or assistant general manager (college scouting) Walt Perrin. Brock Aller already has a vice president title (Vice President, Basketball and Strategic Planning), so it would be an odd transition for him to move to general manager.

Perry should have interest around the NBA should he want to return to a front office job. He will have options.

New York heads into the offseason poised to chase a star free agent, should the right one become available. They also have a clean cap sheet without bad contracts weighing them down, which anchored the Knicks in the standings for years.

Perry deserves some of the credit for that.

PBT Podcast: NBA Finals preview, plus Nurse to Philly, and Bucks as opera


The NBA Finals are here and it’s not the matchup anybody predicted: The Denver Nuggets vs. the Miami Heat.

In this latest PBT Extra podcast, Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson break down that Finals matchup and if the Heat have any chance of slowing down Nikola Jokić. First the pair talk the Heat’s Game 7 win over the Boston Celtics and what this says for the future of the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown era in Boston.

After the Finals, in Corey’s Jukebox, Corey compares the Bucks and the recent hiring of Adrian Griffin as the team’s head coach to the famed Mozart opera Don Giovanni — and that’s not a complement to Milwaukee.

Then the duo get into the news around the NBA: What does Bob Myers leaving mean for the Warriors? Is Nick Nurse a good hire in Philadelphia? And what the heck is Eric Lewis thinking?

You can watch the video of some of the podcast above or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at

Five things to watch in Heat vs. Nuggets NBA Finals (with betting tips)


Nobody had this Finals matchup on their bingo card (well, except ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez, who called this matchup before the season).

The Denver Nuggets were the best team in the West all season and kept improving as Jamal Murray got healthier and gained more confidence in his surgically repaired knee. Still, they entered the playoff facing doubts because we hadn’t seen them play at this level in the postseason since the bubble. The Nuggets answered all the questions.

Miami barely made the playoffs at all, having to come from behind in the fourth quarter of the last play-in game to beat the Bulls. But otherworldly play from Jimmy Butler, players like Caleb Martin stepping up, and a relentlessness no team in the East could match, sees them in the Finals after coming one shot short of this mark last season.

Who will hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy?

Here are four things worth watching, plus some betting advice from Vaughn Dalzell of NBC Sports Edge.

1) What is Miami’s defensive plan against Nikola Jokić?

Nobody has a good answer for stopping — or often even slowing — Nikola Jokić.

It’s been the case for three years now, but especially in these playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers had the best defense in the NBA after the All-Star break and the best defense through the first two rounds of the playoffs, all anchored by an elite defender in Anthony Davis. Jokić averaged a triple-double of 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists a game against them and the Nuggets torched them.

The challenge in guarding Jokić is nobody can do it all that well one-on-one, but the second the help comes — if it comes from where he can see it in particular — he carves a team apart with his elite passing skills.

Miami’s best option to defend Jokić — and what they did in the team’s regular season matchups — is to put Bam Adebayo on him and not send much help. Adebayo is not stopping Jokić one-on-one, but he’s strong and agile enough to make him work for it. Plus, if Jokić is primarily a scorer the Nuggets’ offense is less dangerous — if he scores 35+ points but with five assists the Heat can win; if he has 25 points but 12 assists the Nuggets win handily.

That strategy comes with risks, primarily foul trouble for Adebayo, but also it removes him as a roaming help defender (one of his strengths). The Lakers started with Davis on Jokić but had relative success with others taking the primary job — Rui Hachimura, LeBron James — which allowed Davis to double and help on others. Who on the Heat can take on that assignment? Caleb Martin or Jimmy Butler? Too small. Maybe Cody Zeller or Haywood Highsmith off the bench, but the Heat hurt their offense with those two out there, and neither is exactly an elite defender.

Expect heavy doses of Adebayo, with the Heat strategy being to front the post and make passes into the Joker difficult, and then live with him as a scorer but try not to let him get rolling as a passer. When Jokić is in pick-and-roll actions with Jamal Murray or on the move, expect a team defense to collapse on him.

That all sounds good, but Jokić figures defenses out, which brings us to how the Heat flummoxed the Celtics.

2) Can Denver solve Miami’s Zone?

Miami ran more zone than any team in the NBA this season (in fact, more zone than any team in more than a decade). It works for them because it’s not a conventional zone, they have active defenders out top who push out high, then they have an elite defensive decision-maker and rim protector in the back with Adebayo. More than anything, the Heat play zone with the intensity of man-to-man (something few teams do at any level).

Denver had an impressive 121 offensive rating against zone defenses this season, according to the NBA tracking data at Second Spectrum (for comparison, the Kings had the best offense in the NBA this season at 119.4). The Nuggets have had the best offense against a zone defense in the regular season and playoffs.

One key way to beat a zone is to get the ball to a good passer in the soft middle of the zone, around the free throw line — the Nuggets have Jokić. Denver is also loaded with shooters who can and will knock down shots over the top of the zone (don’t expect a Celtics-like regression in shooting).

Miami will run some zone as a change-up, but it won’t work as a steady diet as it did against Boston.

3) Aaron Gordon on Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler is a tough cover because he is too strong for guards to stop from getting to his spots but too quick for most forwards to stay in front of.

Denver will bet Aaron Gordon is quick enough to at least give Butler trouble (he’s done well these playoffs against Kevin Durant and LeBron this postseason). Gordon has the advantage that Butler is not a natural 3-point shooter, so he doesn’t have to play up incredibly high on him, and Gordon is strong enough to handle Butler’s physicality.

Butler is going to get his, but if Gordon can make him work for it, be physical, and start to take his legs out from under him a little, it’s a huge advantage for Denver.

4) Vaughn Dalzell’s betting recommendations

Game 1 Over Trend: Game 1’s are usually strong bets for the Over. All four Game 1’s of the second round went Over the opening total and both of the Conference Finals went Over the total in this postseason, so Game 1’s are on a 6-0 run to the Over. In the NBA Finals, four of the last five Game 1’s went for 227 or more points. Denver averages 122.0 points per game in three Game 1’s during the postseason and Miami averages 120.0 points per game in three Game 1’s. The total opened at 218.5 and is up to 219.5, so the Over looks like a solid bet.

Game 1 Favorites of -5.5 or More: Since the start of the 2013 postseason, NBA Finals favorites of -5.5 or more points have gone 14-3 on the ML and 12-4-1 ATS. Denver opens as a -8.5 point favorite. Home teams are on a 5-0 ML streak and 4-1 ATS in Game 1’s with an average margin of 14.0 points per victory. The Nuggets’ spread has a lot of value historically, despite -8.5 being such a large number.

(Check out more from Dalzell and the team at NBC Sports Edge.)

5) Wild card role players: Martin and Vincent, or is it Michael Porter Jr.

Role players always make a difference in the Finals.

Miami needs that to happen to have a chance. Caleb Martin was almost the Eastern Conference Finals MVP averaging more than 17 points a game and will have to play at that level again. How much Gabe Vincent meant to this team was obvious in Game 5 against the Celtics when he was out. Max Strus and Duncan Robinson also will be critical — and need to defend well enough to stay on the court — if the Heat are going to make a run.

For the Nuggets, Michael Porter Jr. is a walking matchup nightmare at 6’10” and with the ability to get red hot from 3. Teams tend to put a guard on him — and Miami likes to play small — and Porter Jr. just knocks down shots over the top of them. He could win Denver a game this series just with his shot.

Prediction: Nuggets in 5. This is not a knock on an impressive Miami team and run to the Finals, they earned their way here. Denver is just this good. LeBron said this was the best team he has played against since coming to Los Angeles, and that should tell you all you need to know. The Finals will be a coronation for Jokić.

Supermax for Brown? Bring back Mazzulla? Expect patience from Celtics this summer


This was supposed to be the season these Celtics took one final step forward and hang banner 18. Last June, Boston reached the NBA Finals, only to fall to a more disciplined and relentless team. In the wake of that loss, all the right words came out of the Boston locker room about lessons learned.

This season, the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to a more disciplined and relentless team.

Boston’s Game 7 elimination on their home court is the kind of loss that makes a franchise re-evaluate itself. It’s also a loss that summed up much of the Celtics’ season: Inconsistent play, struggles when their 3-point shots didn’t fall, and a defense that was strong in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs.

Now the Celtics head into the offseason with big questions about what is required to take that finals step.

The answers will be likely to essentially run it back. For now.

Those questions start with Jaylen Brown, who was second-team All-NBA during the regular season but against the Heat, to use his own words, “We failed. I failed.” Because of his All-NBA status, Brown is eligible for a five-year, $295 million supermax contract. Some of his public comments this season could be read as him telling the Celtics he expects that max.

Expect the Celtics to pay it.

While the book may still be out on the ceiling for the Brown and Jayson Tatum pairing, the fact remains the Celtics have the kind of elite wing duo around which a championship roster can be built. Or so it would seem. Some of the concerns about this team’s inconsistency have to fall to its stars, but having those stars entering their prime gives this team a chance for growth.

There have been calls from corners of the fan base to trade Brown, and his name did come up in trade rumors — for Kevin Durant. If the Celtics can land an all-time great still playing at a high level they have to consider the trade, but if it’s not KD or someone of that stature, who is Boston getting back in a trade that is better than Brown?

The smart move by Boston is to re-sign Brown, try to win, and if in a couple of years it doesn’t work consider their options.

This leads to the next big question: Is Joe Mazzulla the coach who can lead this team to a title?

Expect the Celtics to be patient and give him time to prove he can.

That said, also expect changes in his staff, something now reported out of Boston. Mazzulla was thrown into this hot seat after the unexpected suspension (and later release) of Ime Udoka days before the start of the season, there was no time to remake his staff. It makes sense to put an experienced head coach by his side to help smooth some rough edges. The Celtics are a patient organization, one more likely to support a young coach and help him grow rather than cut him off too young. That’s how you end up with Erik Spoelstra one day.

Also, expect changes in the role players on the roster. Some of that is financial — with 12 people on the roster next season (assuming Danilo Gallinari picks up his $6.8 million option), the Celtics are already more than $4 million into the luxury tax (that is this season, with the extension for Brown kicking in next season and a future max extension for Tatum looming). The repeater tax and the second “lead apron” in the new CBA could hit this team hard in the coming seasons without some spending reduction.

Expect one of the team’s three rotation guards to be traded: Marcus Smart, Derrick White or Malcolm Brogdon. While the Celtics might want to move on from Brogdon and his $22.5 million next season, finding another team willing to take that on without a pick as a sweetener would be difficult.

Can Boston afford to re-sign restricted free agent Grant Williams? That may depend on what happens with the guards above, but if a guard is traded the Celtics could free up enough money to offer Williams something in the $10-12 million a year range. The risk is that another team that sees him as a good fit — San Antonio next to Victor Wembanyama? — might come in with a higher offer.

Boston is looking for size in a backup center who can give them solid minutes and take on a larger role when needed to keep Robert Williams III healthy. They may want a more traditional, play-making point guard to help unlock Tatum and Brown. But these are role players, Boston can’t afford a third star.

The Celtics are largely going to run it back.

Whether they can take that final step forward next season will depend more on internal growth — can Tatum and Brown finally find that consistency this team needs — than tweaks around the edges of the roster.