The Boston Celtics were 2 wins away from winning the NBA Championship last season. After an eventful offseason, can this team put together a banner year or will it be a disappointing year? Let’s break down this season’s preview by answering some questions (courtesy of SBNation).
What’s the ‘Best Case’ scenario for your team this season?
The best case for the Celtics is always another banner raised in the rafters. When you come as close to the title as Boston did last season and retain the same core of players, that’s not just the goal, it’s the expected outcome. How they get there is a little more fun to think about.
If this team is going to maximize their talent and experience, then at least a few of these scenarios would likely have occurred.
- Jayson Tatum finishes in the top 3 of MVP voting (maybe even winning it outright)
- Jaylen Brown makes All NBA
- Marcus Smart repeats as Defensive Player of the Year (or is top 3 in votes)
- Malcolm Brogdon is 6th Man of the Year (or one of the top vote getters)
- Robert Williams returns to full health and maintains that health through the playoffs
- Al Horford continues to defy age and provides elite defense, playmaking, and shooting
- Sam Hauser enters the discussion of best shooters in the NBA
- Support players like Derrick White, Grant Williams, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet continue to add to their games and provide valuable contributions in their roles
- Interim coach Joe Mazzulla learns quickly on the job, relying on the continuity of the group to get him through any early season learning curve issues. By the end of the year he has put his own stamp on the team and is ready to lead this franchise for years to come.
At the end of the day, all that matters is the title. If the team can block out the outside noise and come together as a team, then they have as good a chance of reaching that goal as any team in the league.
What’s the ‘Worst Case’ scenario for your team this season?
I always hate this question because I’m a little stitious and the answer is always “Everyone gets hurt and the Lakers win the title.” However, if you assume some level of reasonable health, you get a more nuanced answer.
The most obvious question surrounds the head coaching position. As a rookie head coach, Ime Udoka gave this team a winning identity of accountability that worked magnificently last year. Can the Celtics count on catching lightning in a bottle twice? Or will rookie (interim) head coach Joe Mazzulla struggle to find the right mix?
With Robert Williams III not expected to return until close to 2023, will the Celtics league leading defense lose their identity and effectiveness? A double big lineup featuring Luke Kornet doesn’t strike nearly as much fear as the Timelord does. If the lineups skew smaller, then that puts more pressure on the guards and makes some some players have to guard up a position at times.
On the offensive side of the ball, there’s always a danger of bad habits sneaking their way back in. You only have to go back a calendar year to find examples of stagnant iso ball, lack of ball movement, predictable sets, poor shot selection, and oh so many turnovers. The offense will go as far as Tatum and Brown carry them, and Tatum in particular has a habit of starting off slow.
Thankfully I don’t find this scenario to be all that realistic. Which brings us to...
What’s the ‘Most Likely’ scenario for your team this season?
If I start from the Best Case scenario and dial it back with some level of realism, then I come up with a team that might start off a little slow (not nearly as much as last season) as they integrate a new head coach, a new 6th man (Brogdon), and tread water at the big man spot until Robert Williams returns.
Last year’s team followed up their terrible start by scorching the the Earth good stretch to finish the year. That doesn’t seem sustainable for a full season and it may have led to the team’s stars feeling drained by the end of the playoffs.
I’m picking the Celtics to finish with 53 wins, which is a two game improvement from last season. I don’t think there will be the wild swings from last season and they should benefit from the continuity of the core group of players. However, the top of the East is as good as ever and the team may not feel as much pressure to win every single game as they did last season.
What are you most excited for going into this season?
I can’t wait to see how Malcolm Brogdon adds to the offense. He is used to being one of the main options on a team, so (assuming good health) he should be able to lead the 2nd unit. What should be interesting to watch is how he blends in with and accentuates the stars when he’s on the court with them. In the Finals last year, this team struggled mightily with taking care of the ball and initiating offense. Brogdon brings those elements along with excellent outside shooting. He also should be a plus defender, taking nothing away from an elite defense.
Predict your team’s win/loss record for the season
Predict your team’s conference seeding
2nd - I could see the Bucks or Sixers finishing the year with the best record in the Conference, but the Celtics should be contending for one of the top 3 seeds in the East.
Malcolm Brogdon, Danilo Gallinari (injured, likely out for season), JD Davison (2-way), Mfiondu Kabengele (2-way), Blake Griffin, Noah Vonleh
Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan
Last season’s team record
Last season’s conference ranking
Last season’s offensive and defensive rating (per Basketball Ref)
- Offense ranked 6th (115.37)
- Defense ranked 2nd (107.71)
- Net rating 1st (7.66)