The Boston Celtics are coming off of an extremely successful 2017-2018 season where they finished with a 55-27 record. This record led the Celtics to the two seed in the Eastern Conference last year just behind the 59-23 Toronto Raptors. They made it to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals where they met a familiar foe, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who bounced them from the playoffs once again. The Celtics made this playoff run beating the Philadelphia 76ers (4-1) and Milwaukee Bucks (4-3) without their two superstar players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Worth The Money?
Gordon Hayward was acquired during the free agency period last off season from the Utah Jazz. The Celtics gave the 29-year-old Hayward a massive, four year/$128 million contract during the summer of 2017. Hayward was borderline deserving of this contract after improving every year of his career before his injury. He finished the 2016-2017 season with a per game average of 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steal, all on an efficient 47.1% field goal percentage. These are extremely good statistics for an NBA player. Is he worth the 33 million the Celtics will owe him every year? Only time will tell.
Hayward’s first season with the Celtics was tragically cut short when he fractured his tibia and dislocated his ankle five minutes into his Celtics debut while going for an alley-oop against the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers and landed awkwardly. Watching live was unforgettable. The gruesome sideways foot was an awful sight and made fans utterly sick to their stomachs. I can still hear Kevin Harlan yelling, “Gordon Hayward has broken his leg!”. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
Kyrie Irving might be the most electrifying ball-handler in NBA history, and he brought that same flare to Boston last season. Irving was also injured for the Celtics playoff run last season, before getting injured he was averaging 24.4 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds, on an amazing 49.1% field goal percentage. Kyrie put up fantastic MVP like numbers before he hurt his knee.
The former NBA champion needed minor surgery making him miss the end of the regular season and all of the playoffs, which was another huge loss for the Celtics. They showed true heart and determination to come as close as they did to make it to the finals, but in the end the world’s best player was able to dominate the young starless Celtics.
The Celtics are an extremely young team, but those youngsters are extremely talented, as was showcased last season. Some of the key youngsters are Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Robert Williams, and Daniel Theis. All of these players, being huge contributors to the Celtics, are all younger than 26 years old.
The last two first round draft picks for the Celtics have been Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Jaylen has shown great potential, and through his first two seasons he is averaging 10.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. Tatum had an unbelievable rookie season averaging 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. He also finished third in rookie of the year voting.
This year the Celtics had the 27th pick in the first round of the draft, and selected 6’10” athletic Power Forward from Texas A&M University, Robert Williams. Williams bounced the locally beloved Providence Friars out of the NCAA tournament last year, and he was extremely impressive with his performance in that game. Throughout his two-year college career, he averaged 11.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game. He has the potential to become a highflying rim protector for the Celtics going forward.
The Difference Maker
Marcus Smart is the Boston Celtics difference maker, he is the heart and soul of this Celtics team. If you look at the stat sheet you probably won’t find where Marcus Smart makes a difference on the ballgame, but if you watch the amount of heart and hustle he brings to the game, his worth to the Celtics is obvious. The 24-year-old already has the savviness of a longtime NBA veteran, and brings so much grit to the court that he almost took JR Smith’s head off and was ejected in their last preseason game. Terry Rozier showed a lot of the same attributes Smart displayed last season, and Rozier was a pivotal part of the playoff run. “Scary Terry” is a great player that brings an edge and elite athleticism off the bench that all teams would love to have at their disposal.
Al Horford is Mr. Consistency for the Boston Celtics. The five-time all-star comes into work every day and you know exactly what you are going to get from Al. He will work hard, lead by example, and do the little things that win ball games. Every team needs an Al Horford, although few have one, making him so important to the Celtics success. I expect him to stay consistent and average 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game this season.
Brad Stevens is respected around the NBA as one of the most knowledgeable basketball minds out there. No coach in the league draws up a play out of a timeout as well as Stevens. Ever since his days at Butler University with his then and now star Gordon Hayward, Stevens has been getting the most out of his players. Stevens is going into his sixth season as head coach of the Celtics, and currently holds an all-time record of 221-189 (.539). That record may seem decent at best, but they have increased their wins every season with coach Stevens at the helm, and they will do it again this season.
2018-2019 Celtics Predictions
Most Improved: Daniel Theis, the 6’9” German Power Forward was a rookie last season at 25 years old, he has shown a toughness and willingness to bang in the paint. He will be averaging 8.2 points and 7.3 rebounds this season earning a playing spot over Aron Baynes.
Surprising Contributor: Marcus Morris will be extremely important this season, both on the boards and spreading the floor for the Celtics. He quietly had a very good season last year. This year he will only get better, averaging 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Fan Favorite: Terry Rozier is a fan favorite in Boston, due to his tenacity and skill. However, with the return of Hayward and Irving he will take a step back this year and only average 8.5 points, 2.5 assists, and 3 rebounds, due to less minutes and touches.
Breakout Star: Jayson Tatum arguably broke out last season, but his numbers were still only average for an NBA starter. This year he will make it clear how much of a rare talent he is and break out to average 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. All-Star like numbers are coming for the 20-year-old.
Letdown: Although I love Gordon Hayward’s game and how efficiently he plays, he’s going to have a subpar season, by his standards. He has looked tentative in the preseason and that is a hard thing to rebound from. He’s also said that he is not 100% healthy. This may be his way of making it clear that he won’t be himself to start the season. I think he will average 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists per game this season. He will see a slight decrease in speed and explosiveness this season as he tries to rehab his ankle to full strength.
MVP: Kyrie Irving is a star point guard, and is by far the Celtics’ most valuable player. This season he will not only be the Celtics’ MVP, but the league MVP. He has so much talent surrounding him that his numbers will be inflated both scoring and passing. With the amount of wins the Celtics will finish with it is going to be difficult to keep that award out of his hands. Kyrie will average 26.2 points, 7.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and shoot 51% from the field per game this season. Beating out Anthony Davis and LeBron James for the title.
Expectations: With LeBron going out West to LA, the Eastern Conference is the Celtics to lose. The Celtics have stars, grit, depth, young talent, and a great coach. These are all aspects very important to a championship worthy team, that is why we should expect greatness out of the Boston Celtics this season. The Celtics will finish with a record of 64-18 this season, have the top spot in the East, and will beat the Golden State Warriors dynasty in 6 games to win the 2018-2019 NBA Finals. Anything else will be considered a disappointment with this stacked roster. The Celtics begin their 2018-2019 campaign on October 16th, facing off against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden.
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