1. It Ain't Broke, So Ainge Won't Fix It
Despite my trepidations about breaking the press, the one thing that ain't broke is whatever mojo the Celtics have going right now. Ainge will field phone calls like he always does. He'll be involved in rumors. He'll dangle his late draft pick for the right price. He might even pick up a future pick by facilitating a three way deal. But at the end of the day, largely because of the salary restrictions, he won't be able to swing a trade that is beneficial enough to mess with the chemistry. There's always the chance he might sign someone from the D-League to be on the inactive list in case of injury, but there won't be any rush for that either.
But they will win at least 60, thus breaking the record for the greatest turnaround (26 games - set by the Duncan led Spurs) in league history. The season is just too long for the team to keep winning at a 89% clip. Not that they couldn't do it if they really set out with that as a goal. Yet somehow I see getting to 72 wins to be a little too taxing for a veteran team. No need to push it too hard. The goal is a title and the regular season sets you up for the playoffs. If they can secure home court advantage, that's the only thing that really matters.
3. The Celtics Will Win Banner 17
I'm sticking with this. This team just has a feel about it. They are blessed with something intangible. They are eager to win, but patient enough to wait for the right moment. They are humble enough to share the spotlight but confident enough to play with a swagger. They command both fear and respect from opponents. They are strong willed and experienced yet coachable and learning new things every day. They know they can win by themselves, but insist on winning as a team. This is a special, special team and there's no limit to what they can do.
In the playoffs I think they will have to go through the Magic or Cavs, then the Pistons, then the Spurs. It will be a long road with many hard fought battles, but I think this team has what it takes. Banner 17 is within reach. They just have to reach out and grab it.
4. KG Will Be MVP
Once again I see no reason to change this preseason prediction. Paul Pierce will also receive votes because people are going to have to start paying attention to everything he's doing on the basketball court. Still, the linchpin is Kevin Garnett. He anchors the defense and drives the emotions of the team. A lot has gone into making this team what it is, but it all starts with KG, and that's why he's the most valuable.
5. Doc Rivers Will Win Coach Of The Year
Who else in the East deserves it? Maybe Van Gundy in Orlando can make a case for it by making that team a contender before people thought they were ready, but they have to follow through first. Same goes for Atlanta and Washington.
Here's the kicker though: My secondary SWAG is that Tom Thibodeau will get a head coaching job in the NBA at the end of the year, thus leaving Doc to prove himself all over again next year. He will still have KG and the main pieces from this year's team but people will want to know if the C's can maintain their defensive superiority without the mastermind around to drill it in the players' heads.
Oh, and I think it goes without saying that Ainge will win Executive of the Year.
As you can tell, I have a really good feeling for 2008.