The other night, as I flipped channels during the Eagles-Dolphins game, I stumbled upon the Celtics’ 2008 championship special.
Sorry, Jalen Hurts. After gladly watching football all weekend, it was time to shift to basketball mode. I’ve probably seen the video five to 10 times over the years, and every time I watch it, it takes me back to the glory days.
Big Baby is still a goofball. Eddie House is still an assassin. James Posey is still the perfect role player. KG is still unlike any other human on the planet. Ray Allen still has the prettiest jumper of all time. Celtics-Cavs Game 7 is still the greatest game I’ve ever seen.
It took me back to when I was 15, soaking it all in and genuinely expecting that to be the first of two or three championships over the next few years. They should have won in 2010, but shout out to the late great Kobe Bryant for willing his team to victory.
As I watched that playoff run back, it got my mind racing. Much like I did in 2010, I truly thought the Celtics would win it all in 2022. That team was special, but this team has a chance to be even more special. I’m not going to make any bold predictions that the Celtics will definitively end the drought, but I will make some other predictions that are guaranteed to come true.
1) The Celtics win 58 games and get the 1-seed.
This team is a wagon. The Celtics have the best duo in the NBA, the most talented top six and arguably the best overall roster.
Heck, their fourth-best player (maybe their fifth), Jrue Holiday, was the third-best player (maybe second) on a championship team this decade. We all know this team is going to be good, but I truly believe it will be great.
2) Just like last year, Jayson Tatum makes the All-NBA 1st Team but doesn’t win MVP.
Tatum will still lead the Celtics in scoring, and he might lead them in rebounding as well. He’ll be the best player on the best team, and that will be enough to land him on the top squad once again.
But, even more so than last year, Tatum will have plenty of help. I think he’ll average about 26 points per game. With Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis in the mix, the points will be more evenly distributed. Nikola Jokic reclaims the crown. Tatum finishes in the top-5.
3) Kristaps Porzingis averages more points than Jaylen Brown.
OK, things are finally getting a little spicy here. I could easily be wrong here, so feel free to reference this in the spring when Brown is ahead of Porzingis (though if you do, I might question how much time you have on your hands).
This isn’t a slight on Brown in any way. I think he’ll have an amazing year – maybe his most balanced and polished year yet – but I think Porzingis will get an absurd number of open looks.
With Tatum and Brown around him, and Derrick White and Holiday getting him the rock as well, Porzingis is really a perfect fit. I think he ends up around 22 a night and Brown ends up around 21. Again, I might be wrong, but that’s my hunch.
4) Al Horford wins Sixth Man of the Year.
Yeah, yeah, I know Horford likely won’t play every night. But last year, he played 63 games, and Malcolm Brogdon won it playing 67.
(In hindsight, Brogdon’s arc with the Celtics was kind of funny and sad at the same time. He literally won the Sixth Man award, then people soured on him because he was injured and he was traded. It’s ultimately a good thing for the Celtics, but it makes you wonder).
Anyway, I digress. Back to Al. So, if he plays about 65 games, averages something like 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists a night, and the Celtics win 58 games, that just might do it. The whole starter vs. reserve talk is overblown. You think Al minds coming off the bench with this roster? I’m not inside his head, but I highly doubt it.
5) Derrick White and Jrue Holiday pick and choose their spots.
This is a more general, abstract one, but I envision White and Holiday feeling what the game needs and providing just that. On one night, Holiday may take 17 shots and score 26 points. The next night, he might drop 12 assists. I see White operating in a similar way.
The Celtics have so much talent, and White and Holiday have the wherewithal and general savviness to ensure it’s not a surplus of talent. Neither will average more than 15 points per game.
6) Payton Pritchard contributes, but he doesn’t explode.
I love Pritchard’s game more than the next guy, but to be honest, I don’t buy the “breakout year” tag. With that said, I think Pritchard’s going to be a steady catalyst, hit shots and play his role well.
But for those expecting him to play 25 minutes a game and dominate every night, I just don’t see it. I hope I’m wrong, because that would be electric.
7) Sam Hauser, Lamar Stevens, and Neemias Queta round out the top-10.
Joe Mazzulla likes to keep his rotation tight, and he likes to mix and match based on the opponent, but I generally think Hauser, Stevens and Queta will be next in line after those top seven.
Hauser will almost certainly get minutes, and I think Stevens and Queta have a chance to build upon their strong preseason performances and each give the Celtics something they’re missing.
8) Speaking of Mazzulla, I believe he’ll win Coach of the Year.
Mazzulla experienced the inevitable highs and lows of a first-year coach, and he’s better for it now and ready to lead this team to new heights.
He already seems more comfortable and engaging talking to the media, and it’s clear he’s more at ease in his new home. Again, I’m not inside his mind, but I’d imagine the imposter syndrome has dissipated. He’s the head coach of the Celtics, he’s learning every day on the job and he’s here to stay.
9) They break the record for 3-pointers in a game.
The Celtics hit 27 3’s against the Knicks last year. I say they break the Bucks’ record of 29 this year.
It sounds like a lot, and it is, but Tatum, Brown, Porzingis, White, Holiday, Horford, Pritchard, and Hauser can all shoot. If they each hit four, there you go.
10) Celtics-Bucks will be an all-timer.
OK, back to that Celtics-Cavaliers series in 2008 for a bit. I think Celtics-Bucks has a chance to be an absolute classic, much like that one, and live on in Celtics lore for decades to come.
I don’t know if Tatum and Brown will milk the championship 16 years later like Paul Pierce and Garnett, but I do know they’ll cherish it forever.
Dang it. I said I wouldn’t make a prediction. Well, the truth is, I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believe this is the Celtics’ year. I think they’re going to win it all.
Again, if I’m wrong, feel free to pull up the receipts. This just feels different. It feels like their time.