Brad Stevens faced an important challenge in his new role as Boston Celtics president of basketball operations this offseason: Surround young All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with the best possible supporting cast.
Stevens tackled that challenge head on with a flurry of moves: Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier and Tristan Thompson are out, while a new group of veteran players -- big men Al Horford, Enes Kanter and Bruno Fernando and guards Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson and Kris Dunn -- are in.
Dunn and Fernando reportedly could get dealt in subsequent trades, but Horford, Kanter, Schroder and Richardson bring a wealth of NBA experience to Boston. That quartet alone boasts an average of 9.5 seasons in the league, and their additions increase the average age of the Celtics' roster by a full year to 25.8.
That experience could prove valuable on a team built around two young stars under age 25 in Tatum and Brown and led by a first-year head coach in Ime Udoka.
"I think that it is an important thing. I do think experience and 'been there, done that,' is a good thing," Stevens told reporters after Boston added Horford in the Walker trade earlier this offseason. "We have a lot of promising young players, so there's a balance there."
Most importantly, the Celtics now have veteran depth at every position. Schroder comes to Boston after a season with superstar LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers and can join Marcus Smart -- the C's longest-tenured player -- in helping second-year guard Payton Pritchard improve his game.
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Richardson, who's been to the playoffs with three different teams and worked alongside young star Luka Doncic on the Dallas Mavericks last season, brings a veteran perspective to the wing position, where the Celtics need recent draft picks Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith to make strides in 2021-22.
Horford and Kanter are the most seasoned of the new group with a combined 24 seasons between them, and both have seen Robert Williams' development in their first stints with the C's. The 35-year-old Horford has already said he'll be "in (Williams') ear" as the fourth-year big man aims to build on a promising 2020-21 campaign.
"He knows and understands -- is starting to understand everything like taking care of his body and making sure he's putting in the work," Horford said. "I'm really excited for what's ahead for Rob."
After being undone by inexperience and chemistry issues last season, the Celtics enter the 2021-22 season with lower expectations: 12 teams currently have better odds to win the 2022 NBA championship than Boston.
But that means the C's also have a chip on their shoulder, and the combination of Tatum and Brown with a new veteran group that knows what it takes to succeed in the NBA could lead this team to surprise some people in the fall.