The dog days of the NBA season are here, but that didn’t stop a few of our writers from participating in Chris Forsberg’s Summer Forecast for the Boston Celtics. In day one, the writers gave their predictions for how many games the Celtics would win this season. I was actually the highest, pegging them at 57 wins:
Halfway through last season the Celtics were a .500 team that was still struggling to find an identity. When they finally made the decision to go small, their season took off. This season, the Celtics come in with an identity and a big boost in talent. Fifty-plus wins should be the expectation.
The reasons for my high prediction stem from a couple of factors. One, it’s important to remember that last season the Celtics started the year with David Lee and Tyler Zeller in their front court, and they didn’t commit to playing more small-ball lineups until halfway through the season. By then, the Celtics were 22-20 and still fighting with the likes of the Knicks for playoff positioning. It’s fair to remember that in David Lee’s time, the Celtics offense rating dropped 10.5 points, and he had a negative effect on virtually every teammate he was paired with.
The next point is the injuries. The Celtics suffered major injuries from Marcus Smart (missed 21 games), Kelly Olynyk (13 games), and Jae Crowder (9 games). The losses of Crowder and Olynyk were especially hurtful because they occurred in the second half of the season when the club was in a three-way battle for the number 3 seed. In Crowder’s case, the depth was so weak at the wing that Stevens at one time opted to start Marcus Smart at small forward.
The Celtics rash of untimely injuries plus paying half the season in a style that didn’t match their personnel made 48 wins more of an underachievement than an underdog exceeding expectations. This year, the team will be coming off back-to-back playoff runs with a coach who will waste no time playing to his team strengths. The continued youth development and the huge acquisition of Al Horford will make this team substantially better. When you factor in the fact that last season’s team was probably a 50-win team to begin with, it’s not far-fetched to believe that a high-50s win total could be in the works.