It’s that time of year again, the NBA is back and it’s looking to be better than ever.
The Lakers have their new “King”, the Raptors swapped Derozan for Kawhi, the Warriors are going for the first 3-peat since the Lakers in 2000-2002 and my beloved Celtics are looking to get in the way of that.
It’s no secret that the Warriors have been the best in the NBA for the past four years and now with the addition of perennial all-star, Demarcus Cousins, they seem like they’re going to be even better this time around.
Dub City is obviously still the clear favorite to not only represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals but still the clear favorite to win it all. This is undeniable and a 3-peat seems inevitable.
While this may be true, there is a team all the way on the other side of the country that has other things in mind.
The Boston Celtics were struck by injury less than 10 minutes into the season opener last year, losing star forward and free agent acquisition, Gordon Hayward, to a gruesome leg fracture.
Heartbreaking doesn’t do it justice.
Losing the guy you fought to bring to Boston to help you win a championship, in the same summer that you made the blockbuster trade swapping Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving, was a massive blow to the Celtics plans.
Lucky for the C’s, they had plenty of guys willing to step up to the task fo filling Hayward’s spot.
Rookie forward Jayson Tatum surprised many by being widely considered the second best true rookie (yeah I’m looking at you Ben Simmons) in the NBA.
In his rookie campaign, through 80 regular season games, Tatum averaged 13.9 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 47.5% from the floor and a staggering 43.4% from 3-point range.
Another guy who had an impressive rookie year with the Celtics in 2017, Jaylen Brown, continued to shine in his sophomore season. In his second NBA season, Brown had a similar stat line to Tatum, averaging 14.5 PPG and 4.9 RBG over the 70 games he appeared in.
Things can only continue to get better from here for these two rising NBA stars. I can’t wait to see what the two young ballers have in store for the Celtics fans this year.
With Hayward making his return on opening night this year, almost one year to the day of when he suffered his horrific injury, you can expect things to get a whole lot more interesting for the C’s.
Hayward has increased his scoring in each of his NBA seasons, averaging 21.9 PPG on 47.1% shooting from the field in 2017. He is a game changer for any team he plays on, adding veteran leadership and offensive prowess to an already impressive lineup.
Oh yeah, who could forget he’s reunited with his coach from Butler that he was one shot away from beating Duke in the NCAA championship with, Brad Stevens.
Stevens has made a serious name for himself in Boston, bringing the Celtics to back-to-back Eastern conference finals, including this past year when the Celtics were without not only Hayward but also starting point guard and leading scorer Kyrie Irving due to injury.
Kyrie Irving is no doubt the centerpiece of this team. The offense runs through him and although he has no problem dishing the ball to any of the talented players around him, Kyrie is still the king of isolation.
His handles and creativity with the ball in his hands are unmatched. He can make the best defenders look silly with insane quickness and explosive moves toward the basket. It is truly a thing of beauty to watch and makes him an ultra effective floor general.
Rounding out the starting lineup is “Average” Al Horford. Al has slowly become one of my favorite players on this team. Leading by example and stepping up in big moments, especially in the first and second round of the playoffs this past year, Horford has gained the love of the fans in Boston.
His leadership in the locker room and general attitude of doing whatever is asked of him has helped shape this team into a force in the NBA with just one thing in mind, winning championships.
Obviously, the team can’t just rely on the starting lineup, so it’s a good thing the Celtics have a great bench.
Terry Rozier showed in the playoffs last year that he can ball. Replacing the injured Kyrie in the starting lineup, he came through in some very big moments and “Scary Terry” was born. This guy was so efficient, hardly ever turning the ball over and scoring a ton of points.
The bench also includes a guy who is definitely not the best scorer, but certainly a centerpiece of the hard nose defense the Celtics pride themselves on, Marcus Smart. Marcus is a pest for anyone who gets stuck with him guarding them. His hustle and tenacity on defense has definitely rubbed off on others on this team and is a big reason why they can beat anybody.
Big men, Baynes and Theis, add a huge issue for teams when trying to score in the lane, not to mention they can both score. Until his season-ending injury, Theis had been establishing himself as an effective piece of this team, and I expect him to continue this year. I also expect Baynes to build off of his upward trending year last season and play smarter basketball, avoiding foul trouble.
In my mind, anything less than winning the Eastern Conference is a failure. This team made it all the way to Game 7 against Lebron and the Cavs last season without their leading scorer and their big free agent signing, with Hayward and Kyrie back in the mix, they should be able to break out of the East this year.
While Toronto has gotten better by adding Kawhai Leanord, this Celtics team has what it takes to make it happen.
While anything less than making the finals is a failure, winning it all is the ultimate goal. People can say what they want about the Warriors and how there is no way anyone can beat them, this team can.
My 2018-2019 season prediction: NBA Champions or bust.