Last Season: 53–29 (.646) with Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Cavaliers.
The Celtics have gone through a huge shakeup this off-season with just four players from last year’s team and only two of their five starters remaining. They traded away two key role players in Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley as well as superstar and fan favorite Isaiah Thomas. While this kind of turnover is highly unusual and typically frowned upon for a team that made it all the way to the eastern conference finals, general manager Danny Ainge made the team drastically better in the long-term.
Isaiah Thomas might not return to the court for the Cavs until around when he turns 29 years old in February. Conventional wisdom is that point guards age quickly, especially those who are 5’9 and are coming off a serious hip injury. While 25 year old Irving likely won’t match Thomas’ historic 2016-17 season offensively, it’s even more unlikely Thomas’ individual accomplishments over the next five seasons will come close to Irving’s in the next five seasons.
While Kyrie Irving will be razzle dazzling, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford will be the wise playmakers and decision makers that made such appealing free agents. Hayward, Utah’s ex-future local legend will be a part of NBA’s dankest pick and roll plays with Irving and will give opponents involuntary tutorials on exploiting mismatches from a variety of spots on the court. Al Horford will find himself in a far more appropriate role as the third best player and might be able to spend a little more energy grabbing rebounds, which what is the Celtics desperately need.
The biggest question marks will be the youngins: 20 year old Jalen Brown, 23 year old Marcus Smart, and 19 year old rookie Jayson Tatum. Brown had some impressive performances in last season’s playoffs and the Celtics will expect some more consistency through the season. Morris has proven to be a defensive dawg (which is technically is even better than defensive “dog” status), but needs more development offensively. Tatum was marketed as the most refined and NBA-ready players in the draft, but even if that turns out to be true it’s not a smart strategy to rely on a 19 year old rookie for consistent production.
Biggest appetite: Kyrie Irving just ordered ten extra large pizzas with black mamba olives and will not be sharing with anyone else. He seems to emulate Sensei Bryant in more ways than one. Very conscious of perception and legacy, Kobe gave a “Shaq or me” ultimative to Lakers management after winning three championships alongside The Big Diesel within four straight finals appearances. Similarly, after three straight finals appearances and a ring with the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving made a demand to get away from the shadow of Lebron James. Was he worried about forever being known as a sidekick? Did he want to be the face of a franchise? Was he concerned about his branding? The answer is probably a combination of all three. Irving will be looking to prove that he can be BMOC in Boston this season without Lebron. Even though he will be joining star Gordon Hayward, he will be the center of attention, with his Kobe-esque pre-selected talking points and fine-tuned personal image.
Vegas over-under: 55.5
Isaiah Thomas’ Celtics had a magical season last season. While expectations will be high, a team with this much player turnover will not be able to match that. Irving, Hayward and Horford will be amazing pieces, but the Celtics will rely too heavily on the young role players, who will be inconsistent as young players tend to be. Expect between 50 and 53 wins with another loss in the eastern conference finals. Also expect finals appearances and maybe even finals wins in the next few years.