This is a thought exercise I like to use to manage my own expectations for an upcoming season. What’s the best that can happen and what is the worst* that can happen?
* It is at this point that I knock on wood using a horseshoe while rubbing a rabbit’s foot and plucking four-leaf clovers. I also use this opportunity to clarify that I’m not talking about catastrophic injuries (see Hayward, Gordon), World War III, or meteorites cracking the Earth like an egg. We have enough things to worry about.
Basically if you plot all of the season’s fairly reasonable outcomes and come up with a nice bell curve of probabilities, how far out are the outliers? Obviously, “within reason” is highly subjective and results may vary depending on your preference and current intake of beverages. This is just my best guestimate.
The very best version of this team is going to include Jayson Tatum being a top-3 MVP candidate and Jaylen Brown as a first or second team All-NBA guy. In this world, Ime Udoka has the team defense working like a gang of bullies playing in the orchestra (punching you in the mouth, but connected on a string). The ball is popping around like DJ to Bird to Parish and your dad is nodding with respect at the TV instead of complaining about how the game used to be better in the 80’s.
Richardson has his South Beach groove back in the West End. Dennis Schroder is a 6th man candidate. Robert Williams looks older and wiser and Al Horford looks younger and spryer. Nesmith and Pritchard are hitting shots from outrageous distances like Dude Perfect. Marcus Smart is loved and trusted by all. Enes Kanter takes on the role of Human Victory Cigar with great enthusiasm by literally doing the Gino dance when he enters the game and the team is up by 20 points in the 4th.
Even with all of that goodness, I’m still not sure if we beat either the defending champion Bucks or the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals, but hey, you never know, right?
Disclaimer: Guests with a medical history of heart issues are encouraged to skip this ride.
Basically, last year repeats itself but this time with even more gusto. Injuries and COVID outbreaks prevent any sort of cohesion or stability. The defense doesn’t show up as advertised and random opposing guards make a habit of dropping 30+ points against us. The offense resembles the Fire Swamp in Princess Bride: There are the Flame Spurts (heat check shots that don’t hit anything), the Lightning Sand (the quicksand paced offensive “movement”), and the R.O.U.S’s (Reserves of Unusual Stinkiness).
Ime Udoka is completely overmatched, Al Horford looks washed, Richardson is afraid to shoot, and Schroder is starting literal fires in the locker room. Jaylen Brown asks Udoka “what does Government mean to you?” and Jayson Tatum follows Wizards owner Ted Leonsis on Instagram.
Even with all of that hyperbole, I feel like the Celtics have enough talent to be back in the play-in game and earn themselves a first round series in the playoffs.
A lot of where the Celtics end up in the standings will obviously depend on the teams around them. I feel like this team is most likely in the 3 to 8 range. If everything goes right they could have a puncher’s chance of getting out of the East (but wouldn’t be favored). If everything goes wrong, they could be back in the play-in and seriously questioning major moves in the offseason that include shopping Jaylen Brown.
The good-ish news is that the actual outcome of the season probably ends up somewhere in between those two extremes. There may be some injuries, but also some continued growth. There maybe be some struggles but also some real bright spots and pleasant surprises. That’s why they play the games after all.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this thought experiment. Feel free to play along in the comments below.