Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
The Celtics didn’t win the title last season, but Vegas has them as the favorite to win a championship next season at +550 and league insiders are in line with The Strip. An anonymous panel of voters that included NBA coaches, scouts, and executives spoke with ESPN’s Tim Bontemps on expectations and predictions for the 2022-2023 season and many were green with envy.
Let’s start with the Jayson Tatum. The Celtics will go as far as he’ll take them and after sputtering a bit in The Finals, he’s vowed to enter next season in better shape for a longer run and will be healed from a fractured wrist that was irritated by a hit from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Seven of the fifteen scouts, executives, and coaches selected the former MVP as the best player in the next five years, but Tatum netted two votes:
“Just because of the defensive component,” said an Eastern Conference scout. “Luka is a stud, and you don’t need to be a defensive lockdown guy to be an All-NBA player like he is, but having Tatum’s self-creation ability, his physical tools and his ability to give you defensive versatility, that’s pretty special.
“Luka did a hell of a job carrying that team this year, but the two-way wing creator/scorer is the ultimate archetype, and Tatum is that at 24 years old, and just got that team to the Finals. I just like his ability to give you something defensively that Luka likely never will be able to.”
Despite never making a deal for Kevin Durant — even though one league official voted Boston as KD’s home after the trade deadline — the Celtics were voted the overwhelming winners of the offseason with six votes. After acquiring Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers and signing Danilo Gallinari, President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens dramatically improved the Eastern Conference champs without disrupting their young core and messing with team chemistry.
However, that doesn’t make them shoe-ins to rep the East next summer. They tied Milwaukee with seven votes each to come out of the East (with Miami tallying a single nod). Out west, eight voters selected the Clippers to come out of the conference with LA as the early favorite to raise the Larry O’Brien with five votes; the Bucks and Celtics got four votes each to win the whole thing.