On Monday, the worldwide leader released its ninth annual NBA summer forecast for the 2016-17 Eastern Conference.
The ESPN panel responsible for these forecasts projects the Celtics to see a three-win improvement over their 2015-16 record, rising to a predicted record of 51-31. The panel estimates that Boston will finish the upcoming season tied for second place with Toronto in the Eastern Conference, six games behind Cleveland.
While Celtics fans might have hoped for a more impressive projected win-loss record given the marquee acquisition of Al Horford, the panelists maintain that their prediction of 51 wins would still mark an improvement three years in a row. Likewise, the panelists’ enthusiasm appears to be tempered due to the fact that Horford has only been a member of two 50-win teams during his nine years in the NBA.
By the time ESPN releases its Celtics-specific predictions at some point during the next several weeks, the panel may have to reevaluate its work. Although trade rumors have died down over the past few days, the Celtics may well see a substantial bump in the projected standings if indeed a blockbuster move for a star such as Blake Griffin or Russell Westbrook is brewing.
ESPN will expand its NBA summer prediction series in the coming weeks, with in-depth projections for each team and for end-of-season superlatives such as MVP and Finals champion.