The new NBA season is so close we can almost taste it. Media Day is less than a week away, and preseason will shortly follow. Coaching staffs around the league will put the finishing touches on their plans, and players will work out twice daily to get their fitness up.
Preseason is an exciting time for basketball fans. We get our first true look at the incoming rookie class. Star talents want to flash their improvements. And coaches want to build on what they built the year before. That excitement also stems from the media, where there will be actual basketball to cover, rather than rumors and citing sources.
Nevertheless, we’re not there just yet. We’re still operating in a basketball-deprived state. It won’t be for much longer, though. A good indicator of how close we are to basketball returning is the release of ESPN’s NBA survey, where league insiders give their thoughts on some of the biggest topics in basketball.
Considering how successful the Celtics have been in the past few years making multiple conference finals runs and an NBA Finals appearance, you would hope they feature heavily in surveys such as this one. And they do.
In total, ESPN surveyed 15 league insiders, from coaches to executives, and they ensured there was enough scope to get a fair data set. Let’s look at how the Celtics and Tatum fared, along with thoughts on each.
- Tatum received no votes for being the best player in the NBA. Okay, this one is fair. Tatum is a top-7 player in the league, top-10 at worst. But there isn’t anybody claiming that he sits at the summit of this particular mountain.
- Tatum received one vote out of 15 when the insiders were asked which player would be the best in the NBA in five years. One vote. A two-time All-NBA First-Team forward who has amassed NBA experience far beyond his years. Luka Doncic had the most votes with six, followed by Anthony Edwards with three, Victor Wembanyama and Nikola Jokic with two each, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got one vote. It’s ludicrous that Wembanyama, with no NBA experience, has more votes than Tatum.
- Tatum received two votes for being the MVP at the end of the upcoming season — this is fair given Tatum’s mid-season slump that usually leads into the All-Star break, followed by what tends to be an elite bounce back down the stretch.
- The Celtics received three votes (placing them second) for having the best offseason this summer (pre-Damian Lillard trade). The San Antonio Spurs received four after drafting Wembanyama and then filling in the gaps around him with precision. Totally fair. Spurs gonna’ Spur.
- Boston's decision to trade for Porzingis was the most surprising deal of the summer. Ask any Celtics fan, and they’ll agree.
- The Celtics received nine votes to win the East and six votes to become NBA champs (again, before the Bucks landed Lillard).
Overall, the voting process was fair and, for the most part, reasonable. It’s worth remembering that nobody knows what the outcomes of what these questions will be. Multiple teams could win the NBA championship next season, and there’s always another star player waiting to break out of their shell and gatecrash the MVP race.
Rather than squabble about whether the Celtics or Tatum were done a disservice, it’s easier to celebrate the fact the Celtics found their name or one of their player's names in so many different conversations regarding awards at the top end of the spectrum.
Not everybody will be rooting for the Celtics to succeed next season, but very few truly don’t believe it’s possible.
As one source told ESPN, “their window is now.”