Sports Q

Who will be the Celtics’ X-factor in the 2019-20 season?

Debate the answer with Chad Finn and Boston sports fans at The Sports Q.

Jayson Tatum (left) and Jaylen Brown (right) are perfectly acceptable answers. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

Welcome to’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through TwitterFacebook, and email. He’ll pick one each weekday to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation. 

Which player is the biggest X-factor for the Celtics’ next season? – Michaela

I think it has to be Gordon Hayward, doesn’t it? There are probably a half-dozen candidates that have some level of expectation and a potentially wide variance on performance. We talked about Robert Williams here last week, and while he’s definitely an X-factor, I just can’t see him figuring out on offense and defense in such a short period of time. He’s going to get opportunity, but I think he’s still a year away at least from being a major contributor.


Jaylen Brown is another. He had a better year than Jayson Tatum in a lot of ways, he stood up to Kyrie Irving, and he played pretty well at the end of the year when a lot of stuff was falling apart around him. He needs to improve his ball handling and passing and be more consistent in his effort when things are going wrong, but in a way that’s encouraging. He’s a very good player already who has improved a lot and still has room for more growth. I believe in him.

Tatum also belongs in this conversation. He’s coming off a disappointing second season. You know the reasons. Too many bad shots, too careless with the ball, struggled to finish in traffic, and so on. But we know what it looks like when he’s on, and it looks like a superstar in the making. He stagnated in Year 2. The opportunity he wants is there to be seized. It’s up to him to take it.


But … I think Hayward is the obvious choice. He’s entering his second season after the awful injury, and he showed flashes of returning to his All-Star form last year before a shocking regression in the playoffs. I get the sense he’ll be happier playing with Kemba Walker than with Kyrie Irving, and those mental and physical barriers will be smaller if not gone entirely. If he can be 90 percent of the player he was in Utah, Celtics fans are going to adore him, especially because he shares the ball even when he’s playing with a scorer’s mentality.


The Celtics’ biggest mystery is their front line, though if Enes Kanter is indeed coming here that’s a heck of a pickup, at least on one end of the court. But even with that question and the potential X-factors, we can say this: If Hayward returns to form, the Celtics are going to be better than anyone realizes right now. He’s the ultimate X-factor on a team with more than a couple.

But what does everyone else think? Who is the main X-factor on the Celtics in the coming season? I‘ll hear you in the comments.

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