2015-16 NBA Record: 48-34
Additions: Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks), Gerald Green (Miami Heat), Jaylen Brown (draft)
Subtractions: Evan Turner (Portland Trail Blazers), Jared Sullinger (Toronto Raptors)
Projected Starting Line-up:
PG – Isaiah Thomas
SG – Avery Bradley
SF – Jae Crowder
PF – Amir Johnson
C – Al Horford
There’s a lot of reason to believe this Celtics team can make the leap this year and compete with the best in the East. Dange Ainge did a great job this offseason signing one of the top free agents in Al Horford and drafting a great team fit in Jaylen Brown. They have one of the smartest young coaches in Brad Stevens, who has done an amazing job in getting his roster to play to their full potential and expectations are high after their development the past few years.
Al Horford is the big new signing in Boston and should form a strong partnership with guard Isaiah Thomas. Horford can contribute on both ends of the floor and has great range for a big man and having Thomas as a dominant ball-handler will help his game. He also provides intelligence and veteran presence to this young locker room. His versatility is much-needed as last year, he became the only player in NBA history to have at least 60 steals, 80 three-pointers, 120 blocks and 200 assists in a season. Isaiah Thomas is one of the most exciting guards in the league and has become the top offensive weapon, which was why he become an All-Star in 2015-16. Last year, Thomas had a stretch of 17 games where he was the Celtics’ leading scorer, which broke the franchise record held by Celtics legend Larry Bird. He also averaged 22 points, six assists and two three pointers last season. Thomas will be the leading playmaker, especially with Evan Turner gone from the team. Avery Bradley partners Thomas is one of the more underrated backcourts in the NBA. Bradley in one of the best, if not the best, perimeter defender in the league and was given First Team All-Defense honours in 2015-16. Jae Crowder is a fan favourite in Boston who can contribute on both ends of the floor, but most especially as a rugged perimeter defender. Kelly Olynyk provides shooting accuracy and finished 2nd on the team in plus/minus. Rookie Jaylen Brown has a great wingspan and defensive versatility that fits right in with this Celtics side. He’s shown his skills in the Summer League and at 19 years of age, the sky’s the limit for this product out of Cal.
The Celtics are one of the best defensive sides in the league with a nice dose of versatile defenders on their roster. Brad Stevens has done a great job of getting the most out of a roster that lacks star power. Al Horford is no Kevin Durant, but he does fill a major need of a low-post scorer and defensive anchor. Stevens has instilled a strong winning culture and defensive identity in Boston. The roster pieces are underwhelming, but as a team, they can become a threat to the Cavaliers’ crown. I think they will make the playoffs and even take a top-4 seed this year.
Prediction: 2nd in Atlantic Division