The Celtics finish 54-28 – tied for the best record in the NBA with the Bucks – and earn the No. 2 seed after losing the season series to Milwaukee. Boston makes another deep run to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. At that point, the Celtics either lose to Milwaukee or win it all. They won’t lose in the Finals twice in a row, so getting past the Bucks again will be the biggest hurdle.
The Celtics are built to win in the regular season (and, quite frankly, the playoffs too). The addition of Brogdon gives them another playmaking threat and even more depth than last season. We’ll finish 52-30, number two in the East behind the Bucks; MIL’s mad about last season’s finish and have added an excellent Australian by the name of Joe Ingles to their bench, so they are definitely the favorites in the East. The Bucks make it back to the finals after beating the Celtics in the ECF.
The NBA is in a weird place. There are a lot of great teams, but the teams at the bottom are also very, very bad. I expect a top-heavy East (and West), and I’ll go with a 55-win season for the Celtics. That should be good for second in the East (behind the Milwaukee Bucks, in my opinion). As far as the playoffs, another trip to the Eastern Conference Finals should be the baseline. At that point in the season, anything can happen with injuries, emerging stars, and other things, but the ECF should be the minimum, with a Championship being the obvious goal.
In a vacuum, I think these Celtics are the most talented team in the Eastern Conference at the current moment, and one of the two or three most talented teams in the entire NBA. Attrition is always a factor in the regular season, though, and I think this team has enough injury concerns (and cause for precautionary rest, in Al Horford’s case) that I think I lean somewhere around 51 or 52 wins, under their betting line of 53.5. In the postseason, however, this team should be in the Eastern Conference Finals unless something goes cataclysmically wrong, and I think they have the firepower to take out anybody in the East in a seven-game series. Call me a homer if you must, but I still absolutely see this as a Finals-ready roster.
The answer to all of these questions depends on so much going right, and I’m bullish on any of them being sure things. Robert Williams III won’t play until Christmas, and that’s on the early side of his recovery timetable. Malcolm Brogdon is never a sure thing when it comes to health. Do I even need to mention the fact that the coach that turned things around for them last season is suspended for a year, mired in scandal? I’d be stunned if the team doesn’t regress slightly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t still finish towards the top of a top-heavy conference. I have them finishing 51-31, good for third in the East behind Milwaukee and — gulp — Philadelphia. As far as the playoffs go, I think the Conference Finals is their ceiling, so I’m predicting a heartbreaking second-round exit. I’m totally prepared to be wrong, but something about the rollercoaster of an offseason has me very, very uncertain.
The Celtics went 51-31 last year despite vomiting on themselves for almost three months of the regular season. There were more than a handful of bad, awful, and plain no-good losses that wouldn’t have happened if they had their stuff together even on the level of, say, an average team. I’m going 57-25 (first in the conference) this year based on growth from the core three players, added depth (even with the injuries to Rob Williams and inevitably players like Brogdon, Smart and even Brown). The Celtics will make it back to the Finals, and depending on the matchup (I’m hoping for the Clippers), the Celtics will be hosting ring night this time next year.
Based on the team’s success last year under a rookie coach, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that the Celtics will be able to repeat similar success under Joe Mazzulla. Brad Stevens managed to net Malcolm Brogdon without sacrificing major rotational pieces, and with him in the fold Boston’s second unit is looking extremely solid. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown seem poised to have stellar seasons, with the Finals loss fresh on their minds being used as fuel and motivation. Derrick White seems to be a lot more comfortable, and if his shooting stroke is real, Boston will have another option off the ball to kick out to. Grant Williams is in a contract year, and if an extension isn’t reached, will be playing for his next payday. Despite all of the chaos brought upon the team between Rob’s surgery, Gallinari’s injury, and the suspension of Ime Udoka, the Celtics looked honed in during the preseason as they found their bearings with Mazzulla. I predict a 54 win season for Boston, and if things roll the way I think they can, I expect them to finish first in the Eastern Conference and find themselves back in the NBA Finals.
When Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari were acquired, 60 wins seemed like a very attainable goal. Then the hits started to come. Gallinari’s knee injury that wasn’t an ACL but then it was. Rob Williams’ surprise surgery. The Udoka fiasco. The sudden promotion of a coach who’s younger than Al Horford. My prediction would’ve been 60 wins if none of those things happened, but on the other hand Joe Mazzulla is settling in and the positive vibes are coming back, so 50 feels too low. Therefore, we’ll split the difference and predict 55 wins. The Celtics will finish no worse than second in the East. In the postseason, let’s dream big. After being five minutes away from a 3-1 Finals lead, then letting it slip away, this group is thirsty for the champagne. Brogdon will be the difference-maker, and they’re bringing home Banner 18.
It’s easy to look at last year’s success and instantly think Boston will be the first seed in the Eastern Conference and make a run back to the NBA Finals, and while I would love that, it’s not necessarily a realistic outlook. New head coach, an aging Al Horford, injury concerns over Robert Williams and Malcolm Brogdon — there are a ton of variables to factor in here. So, I’m going to be slightly conservative here and say 48-50 wins make sense, which will likely be good for a top-3 seed given the depth of the conference this year. In terms of the playoffs, I think the Eastern Conference Finals has to be the minimum goal, and if healthy, should be an achievable target, anything beyond that, is a fun bonus.
Kevin Garnett surprised some by not picking the Celtics in the top four of the conference. I won’t go that far. The offensive progress in the preseason excites me more than some of the size and rebounding challenges. Robert Williams, while the ceiling raiser for this group, isn’t a devastating loss immediately with Al Horford available. Malcolm Brogdon needs to stay healthy in the meantime and Joe Mazzulla’s acclimation to coaching remains an unknown.
What we do know is this group already defended at an elite level even without Williams and took important steps this summer to advance on the other end. Derrick White’s productive preseason was the most unsung development and the bench needs a contributor to step up between Sam Hauser, Luke Kornet, or another big. There’s enough here to believe in regular season success, even in a better conference. I’ll add a few wins to the team’s win total from last year due to the improvement in the east, at 54, neck-and-neck with Milwaukee for the east’s top seed. If healthy, they’ll be back in the NBA Finals.
After a series of unfortunate events – Udoka’s suspension, Galo’s season-ending injury, Timelord’s surgery, and Jaylen’s recent twitter activity – we have several reasons to adjust expectations for this team, but DAMNIT I DON’T CARE!!! I’m predicting 58 wins for the Celtics! I think our ragtag group of backup bigs will patch together enough productive minutes until Rob returns in January. This team will finish top-2 in the east, make the eastern conference finals, make the finals, and (brace yourselves) WIN THE FINALS!!! Yup, I said it. The dominant basketball from the second half of last season will continue into this year, and Tatum will finish top-3 in MVP voting while Brown makes his first all-NBA team. The off-court drama will have a galvanizing effect, and Joe Mazzulla will join Steve Kerr, Ty Lue, and Nick Nurse, as the latest first-year head coach to win a championship.
I’m worried about the big rotation. I’m worried about the rebounding. I’m worried about Joe Mazzulla’s inexperience. I’m worried about putting too many minutes on the guys in the regular season. But all that said...I’m really not that worried in the team overall. The Celtics have stars, and they have depth. I’m predicting 56-26 and the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The playoffs will be a difficult run, because the East has improved so much. But I think Boston gets back to the NBA Finals, and this time around they finish the job with Banner 18.
In my preview I picked 53 wins and 2nd best record in the East. Now I am going to go ahead and pick them to win the title. I have to be true to myself and stay cautiously optimistic. The wins prediction is a shot in the dark because lucky bounces and bad calls can swing 2-3 games in either direction. I feel like either the Bucks or the Sixers (but not both) will finish with a better record than the Celtics. It may take some time to gel under Mazzulla, but I think they’ll once again be rolling by the time the playoffs arrive (and a healthy Robert Williams III will help that a lot). Let’s go Celtics!