The place do the Celtics stand within the East?

The Celtics at the moment are a crew of x-factors. Is Gordon Hayward again to being himself? Do both of the Jays take a giant leap? Can the rookies contribute instantly? The trajectory of this crew remains to be constructive, however the potential for stagnation nonetheless exists. If each returning participant is precisely pretty much as good as they have been final 12 months, the Celtics may not be one of many 5 greatest groups within the convention. Progress just isn’t linear, and as we’ve realized from final 12 months, issues can take a flip for the worst out of nowhere. With a lot participant motion, it’s time to take stock once more. The place do the Celtics stand within the East? Did they get higher or worse?

Photograph by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe by way of Getty Photos

49 wins, however extra enjoyable?

It’s wonderful how narratives can form the notion of outcomes. Positive, the Celtics may be simply fortunate sufficient to scrape the floor of 50 wins. And, sure, our two greatest gamers left in free company with “solely” one All-Star coming again as a direct alternative. The East is supposedly broad open once more as properly, maybe much more so with Kawhi Leonard going West, making a possible playoff exit that rather more devastating.

Philly is loaded, Milwaukee has the MVP, and Indiana goes to provide it one other shot with Victor Oladipo, and I admittedly do not know what Brooklyn is correct now. The Raptors, with out Leonard, are seemingly leaning in the direction of a rebuild. The place does that go away Boston? Are we certain they’re a 49 win crew once more?

I’m beginning to speak myself into pondering they’ll be higher than that. Bear in mind, the competitors didn’t essentially get a lot better as a result of…

The 76ers stand in the same place as earlier than: implausible beginning lineup, however missing depth. Joel Embiid goes to be an enormous downside although.
The Raptors misplaced Kawhi Leonard.
Brooklyn is healthier with Kyrie, however nonetheless has to attend for Durant.
My hottest take of all: Malcolm Brogdon was Milwaukee’s most vital free agent this 12 months, who they misplaced to Indiana.

Boston received 49 video games final 12 months whereas Kyrie performed with one foot out the door. And as I’ve already described, the trail to The Finals didn’t essentially get more durable this summer time. Is it an excessive amount of to suppose this crew may win… 54 video games? Is that loopy?

Addition by subtraction

The favored opinion proper now could be that the Celtics will likely be higher with Kemba Walker (and with out Kyrie Irving) due to who he’s, and never what he does. This might very properly be the case, however I are inclined to suppose the Celtics’ ceiling strikes as excessive because the younger core of Sensible, Brown, and Tatum can take it with Gordon Hayward and the rookies as wild playing cards. Nonetheless, there’s some untapped potential in Kemba. I respect the fellows he had round him in Charlotte, however the Hornets have been traditionally unhealthy at constructing round him. The Hornets went 7-59 in 2011-12 with rookie Kemba, and solely made the playoffs twice in eight years. Whereas I’m undecided how a lot the facility of friendship can enhance the Celtics, Kemba’s new state of affairs may empower him to be one of the best model of himself like Kyrie (quickly) or Isaiah earlier than him.

And to not come off as destructive, however I need to stress that the magic of the Hospital Celtics ECF run just isn’t one thing that may merely be replicated. However with the brand new wave of expertise – from Carsen to Kemba – the Celtics can successfully hit the reset button and play basketball the suitable method once more. Basketball in Boston may be enjoyable once more.

Essentially the most underrated subtraction to the crew this low season is age. The oldest participant on the crew proper now could be Brad Wanamaker, 30, getting into his sophomore NBA season. Each season has its hurdles, so when the Celtics hit one, who will they lean on for stability? Marcus Sensible has been there the longest and has survived three rebuilds (of various levels) in six seasons. Sensible is already acknowledged by the followers because the de facto crew captain, and deservedly so. I’ll simply notice that that is the primary 12 months the place they want him to be the crew’s anchor with the absence of Al Horford and, doubtlessly, the load of excessive playoff expectations.

The rookies

I’m doing it. I’m overreacting to Summer season League video games and you’ll’t cease me. Carsen Edwards, Grant Williams, and Tremont Waters all have an excellent really feel for the sport, and I totally anticipate the previous two contributing instantly (Waters is on a two-way deal so he’ll have to attend his flip).

Grant taking the Aron Baynes position of “beefy man who willingly will get hit by different gamers” is a implausible improvement. A few of Carsen’s pictures scare me, however I do admire his confidence. He’s acquired that little-guy, chip-on-his-shoulder vitality that we’ve missed since Isaiah. (I’m simply now realizing Isaiah held a crew collectively than he acquired credit score for – and that’s after giving him plenty of credit score to start with). I’ve at all times been tremendous with Danny Ainge’s draft picks, however this does really feel like the primary time shortly that we’ve had rookies coming into fill the crew’s most quick wants, specifically ball motion and shot creation.

Remaining ideas

There aren’t any ‘tremendous groups’ proper now. It’s an odd feeling to take a look at it that method, to really feel a lot uncertainty concerning the league’s energy construction for the primary time in a number of years. Yet one more phrase of warning, although: the league received’t really feel so broad open when a number of groups inevitably draw back within the standings. The East was open final 12 months too, bear in mind? I imply, as open because it could possibly be for a Boston crew clinging to the fourth seed. Kemba could have a steep studying curve to beat, as did the guards earlier than him, earlier than the crew can win constantly. But when the Celtics can kind an id round profitable by mid-season, I believe they’ll be harmful.

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