Way Too In Depth Boston Celtics Season Preview
Our NBA preview continues with the loaded Boston Celtics. It is quite a change to go from the central division, full of highly flawed teams, to the Atlantic and starting with the Raptors and Celtics lol.
About Last Year:
The Celtics were devastated by the loss of Gordon Hayward on opening night when he horrifically broke his leg, but the Celtics didn't back down and fought their way all the way to the Conference Finals where they lost in 7 games to the Cavaliers despite missing Kyrie Irving for the entire playoff run.
Other than injury issues coming up again for Kyrie Irving, he had a smashing opening season with the Celtics, scoring 24.4 points per game on incredible efficiency, and the roster/coaching of the rest of the team is so good that his flaws on defense and as a facilitator are mostly covered up. Jayson Tatum put in one of the most impressive rookie campaigns by a 19-year-old in history, Jaylen Brown also made a serious leap as he figured out how to shoot and became a bonafide lock-down defender. Al Horford and his incredible utility continued to plug along as the quiet engine of an elite defense, new arrivals Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes were solid rotation pieces. Terry Rozier finally got his shot in the rotation full-time and delivered, Marcus Smart is still one of the goofiest players in the NBA, his scoring is almost comically bad but he does all the little stuff.
It was probably still a bit disappointing given that injuries derailed a real chance at a title, but given that nearly the entire roster returns and that Tatum and Brown are a year older, my guess is that Boston fans are not too worried about it right now. The way they fought to the end last year and made it as far as they did is remarkable.
Healthy Gordon Hayward
Not really anyone significant? Their rotation should pretty much be the same by my view.
Nothing of any significance. Once again, their rotation, top to bottom, should be largely unchanged from last year unless I'm having a total brain-fart.
As stated above. Other than coming to terms with Marcus Smart on an extension it was a quiet off-season for the Celtics beyond watching videos of Kyrie and Hayward getting healthy. Their rotation should pretty much be the same as last year, however.
The Good News:
Yeah, it worked. A lot has been said about the Celtics rebuild following the final breakup of their last championship team, and anyone who doubted along the way pretty much has to eat crow. This crew may not win a title, it is very hard to win a championship especially with the Warriors still intact, but they are unquestionably front-runners. The (likely) starting lineup of Irving/Brown/Hayward/Tatum/Horford is almost certainly the best non-Warriors lineup in basketball, it has everything. Defense, passing, switch-ability, shooting, one on one scoring, the whole package. And unlike the Warriors, the Celtics have great depth to go along with their killer lineup.
The Celtics and Raptors are, if healthy, going to be the most complete teams in the NBA this season from top to bottom. If Kawhi is healthy he is the best player on either team but the Celtics have better depth/other pieces and if they stay healthy the race between Boston and Toronto should be a blast.
Kyrie Irving is a blast to watch cook random fools every night, Jaylen Brown is a swiss-army knife of athleticism and grit, Gordon Hayward is one of the most well-rounded players alive, Jayson Tatum should only get better, Al Horford will continue to mold his game to the team and plug any holes.
Off the bench, Terry Rozier is a fearless gunner from deep who plays hard on defense, Marcus Smart is probably not as good as Celtics fans think but his impact is undeniable, Marcus Morris is tough as nails and can get tough buckets, Aron Baynes is huge and gets dunked on a bunch but will just keep coming. Semi Ojeleye is very strong, Guerschon Yabusele showed some promise in very limited time last season.
All that before we even get to Brad Stevens, who has to be the best coach alive without question. The options are endless with just how comically compete and well-rounded this team is and Stevens will make full use of it.
The Bad News:
As the roster currently stands, there are two problems. First off is that the Warriors remain the Warriors. I'm not saying that this Celtic team won't stand a chance in a seven-game series, but they would still be an underdog. There is a chance that this Celtics team falls the way of the Cavaliers a couple of years ago or the Rockets last year. A legitimate historically great team that in any normal year would be THE team to beat, but the Warriors are THE historically great team that can't be beaten. Once again, I'd give this Celtics team a real shot, but the fact that such a great team has been assembled and we talk about them as “having a shot” is the point.
Beyond the giants on the other coast, health does have to be a bit of a worry. While not overly broken-down, their top three of Kyrie, Hayward, and Horford have not exactly been iron-men in their careers. Gordon Hayward breaking his leg is obviously an outlier, but how he bounces back from that is a question, and while he's mostly avoided bad injuries other than last year, he's only cracked 80 games once in his career. Al Horford has played 11, 74, 29, 76,82, 68, and 72 games in the last seven years. In his career, Kyrie has played 51, 59, 71,75,53, 72, and 60 games and has missed playoff games twice.
Once again, none of those are huge red-flags. But the possibility of an injury to one of those three popping up again is very real and has to be the one thing on the mind of the team because if they want to have a shot at Golden State they will need all hands on deck.
If they stay healthy, the only real hole on the team is that they are not particularly strong up front against strong inside players. Al Horford is brilliant but at center, he can get overpowered at times and Baynes is strong and will play hard but he is clearly out-classed by high-level players. This is a limited weakness, as most guys who can take advantage of this get run off the court on the other end as they try to defend the Celtics, but it is the one hole on the roster.
The only other potential issue, and with all of these issues I'm splitting hairs, is that the young guns (especially Tatum) regress a bit. Both Tatum and Brown had great seasons last year, but there are lots of young guys who have a season where they stagnate a bit. Given how much hype he has (rightly) gained, Tatum could fall to this especially. Then again, both players were so good that they will probably be just fine this year.
Biggest Wild-Card for this season?
Tough to say. I'm going to go with Jayson Tatum in the end. I thought about going with Gordon Hayward and how he looks coming off the injury, but Tatum is the pick in the end. If he goes the normal progression route and gets better but is still not all the way there yet (and by all the way there, I mean a legit super-star who can carry an offense on his own) then this team will be awesome and can take a good shot at the Warriors. IF Tatum is truly an outlier and he is ready to leap into super-stardom this season, it changes the game for them. At that point they could do more than give the Warriors a good shot, they could go toe to toe with them.
Best Case Scenario: 70-12
Everyone stays healthy, Jayson Tatum is suddenly one of the best wings alive instead of just a young player bursting with potential, Gordon Hayward looks great, their bench smothers people, and they are the best team alive. The Celtics romp through the Eastern Conference before winning a close series against the Raptors to advance to the Finals where they take on and defeat a healthy Warriors team in 6 games, officially taking over the NBA and ending the Warriors run. One of the Celtics also wins MVP here, I'm not sure which one though which is a testament to how freaking good this team is. They also have five all-stars.
Worst Case Scenario: 54-28
They have various nagging injuries impact them throughout the season, Jaylen Brown's shooting last year was an outlier for him, Jayson Tatum is still a great and promising young player but hits a bit of a sophomore wall and doesn't seem to improve much from last year, some of the bench guys regress a bit from last year. They still scrap and fight their way to 54 wins and the second seed in the East but the Raptors appear to clearly be a step above them and it is proven to be so when the Raptors beat them in 6 games in the Conference Finals. It is hard to be too disappointed in the season, but some questions about players and the future of the team start to pop up.
So What's the verdict? Line is 57.5
I mean, that is a very high line. But I barely even believe my own worst-case scenario. Unless they have some more terrible injuries I would be very surprised if this team didn't win 60 games, too much talent, too much depth, too good of a coach. I'm taking the over. I willingly admit that, as a Pistons fan, I mostly dislike the Boston Celtics and I take real joy in seeing them lose. This team is so good that I can’t even root against them this season, they should be so much fun to watch.