Here is my NBA Season Preview that dropped yesterday right before the first games.
The Celtics’ season finally starts tonight, and I’m more excited for a Celtics season to start since the 2011-2012 Grit and Balls team. The Celtics will definitely improve from their 40-42 record next year due to their youth, depth, and great coaching, but will this be a 42 or 43 win team like Las Vegas (strangely) predicts, or will the C’s push for a win total in the high 40s or low 50s?
The correct answer is the latter. The Celtics are gonna win at least 45 games and improve on their 7th seed from last year’s playoffs. The Celtics are built for the the 2015-2016 regular season, and here are a few reasons why:
- Their Depth: You’ve heard this one before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Just look at how many capable NBA players are at each position for the C’s. At guard, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner (who can also play the 3), and maybe Terry Rozier, James Young, and RJ Hunter all will deserve and receive minutes. Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, and Turner can handle the forward slots, and the C’s have Amir Johnson, David Lee, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, and Tyler Zeller all pushing for their time. Yes, that’ll be tough for Future President Brad Stevens to juggle, and there surely will be discontent players with their minutes. But for how many games the Celtics are gonna win, all of their quality players are tremendous assets. The NBA’s good teams in 2015-2016 don’t gut it out for each win like they did a few years ago, which means that some wins will fall into the hands of a team that has the depth to compete every night. Those depth wins exactly why Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens had no issues the potential problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen. They’re zigging while the rest of the league is zagging.
- Their Schedule: The Celtics have 18 back to back games this year, which is in line with the league average of 17.6. However, they only have a single instance of 4 games in 5 nights, and that comes in mid January against the easily beatable combination of at the Knicks, home for Pacers, home for Suns, and at the Wizards. Thanks to being in the Eastern Conference, the second half of their back to backs often come against lowly teams. Two of them come against the Pistons and the 76ers, and the Magic, Hornets, and Timberwolves get a game apiece against the C’s on the back end of back to backs. Call me crazy, but I think the Celtics and their depth can handle that. (Celticsblog did a great piece on their schedule here, which also includes an image of the schedule in block format.)
- The Eastern Conference: The East sucks. End of analysis.
- The Atlantic Division: Toronto took a step back thanks to Danny Ainge stealing their only guy who was a rebounding and defensive beast. The 76ers are still tanking. The Nets are an inevitable injury away from giving the Celtics a top 5 pick in June. And the Knicks are the Knicks. The Celtics play 16 games against these teams, and I’d be shocked if they won fewer than 12. My bet is on 13. It’s way more feasible to win 50 games when you start out 13 for 16 against your division, isn’t it?
- Brad Stevens: Stevens is already a top 5 coach in the league judging by what he’s done the past 2 years with rosters on which Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo were supposed to be the best players. While I’d put Doc Rivers over Stevens as a coach because of the immense respect he garners from players around the league, the only coaches I’d take over Stevens to coach this specific Celtics team, given their versatility and all the players and potential lineups that he has to juggle, would be Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, and maybe Coach Bud. Stevens will run mental circles around the Randy Wittmans of the Eastern Conference.
- Marcus Smart: Smart will take a huge leap this year after looking great in Summer League. His defense is already at an All-Star level after just a season, and Stevens will draw out his best offensive abilities for years to come. Also, the dude is competitive AF, and I wouldn’t bet against him working maniacally to improve himself day after day.
- Danny Ainge at the trade deadline: The hope that the Celtics can trade for someone like DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline is most likely a pipe dream, but another trade at the level of Isaiah Thomas would not shock me in the slightest. After playing about 50 games, Stevens will know which combinations work best, so expect Trader Danny to trade off the guys who aren’t getting a ton of minutes. Jared Sullinger isn’t happy with playing 18 minutes every other game? Well, package him with James Young, Terry Rozier, and/or one of their 687 1st round picks for a better option.
My best bet is 51 wins for the Celtics. They have been the most obvious over under bet at either 42.5 or 43.5 all preseason, and for the life of me I can’t figure out who would be the under on that one. Fivethirtyeight projects the Celtics at 48 wins, but I doubt that any advanced stats metrics knows the wizardry of Brad Stevens. Also, fivethirtyeight can’t take into account the trade that Danny might make at the deadline, and I would imagine that advanced metrics have a harder time predicting some extra wins the Celtics will pick up in late March and early April against teams who have stopped trying 100% either because they have locked up their playoff spot or because they’re tanking. (The C’s play the Lakers in LA in game 77, and that’s gonna be so much fun to watch the C’s stomp all over their arch rivals in their stadium in front of their 25 diehard fans.) Yesterday, I predicted that the C’s would get the 5th seed in the East after the Cavs, Bulls, Hawks and Wizards, and the 4th seed would not shock me in the slightest. There will be a clear top 5 or 6 in the East — with the Heat taking the 6th spot — so the key for the C’s is to somehow gun it hard enough to get the 2 or 3 seed and avoid a team like Washington in the 1st round. The way that the C’s could have 51 wins and only be a 5 seed, where as the Wizards had 46 wins as the 5 seed last year, is if the East becomes better at the top while remaining absolutely putrid at the bottom of the conference, which i expect to happen. I see the Hawks, Wizards, and Celtics all between 50 and 53 wins, and the Bulls and Cavs not a ton above them at 55-57 wins.
Make sure to watch and research the combinations that Brad Stevens uses at every part of the game, and most of all, amek sure to track the progress that the Celtics’ young guns are making, especially Marcus Smart. The best way by far to be an NBA free agent destination and ultimately an NBA champion is to have at least one superstar and 2 stars, which was Danny Ainge’s strategy in pairing Garnett, Pierce, and Allen in 2007. Smart’s development is the biggest aspect of the Celtics’ fortune going forward, and call me a homer, but I expect him to make a big leap this year.