ESPN has started releasing their annual predictions for the upcoming season, and they have the Boston Celtics pegged as the two seed in the Eastern Conference.
It's that time of year again. Prediction time.
The Celtics had quite the successful off-season, adding star big man Al Horford and veteran swingman Gerald Green to the roster via free agency.
Boston then accepted team options on Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko to ensure their return to the team and locked up Tyler Zeller to a two-year deal. They also selected Jaylen Brown with the third pick in the draft, along with Guerschon Yabusele, Ante Zizic, Demetrius Jackson, Ben Bentil, and Abdel Nader. Jackson and Bentil have agreed to contracts with the Celtics, while Yabusele and Zizic will be stashed overseas for at least a year. Nader will be stashed domestically in the D-League, but impressed the Celtics enough that he is in consideration for a roster spot or call up during the season.
Boston lost Evan Turner in free agency to the Portland Trail Blazers, and let Jared Sullinger head off to the Toronto Raptors.
Despite the loss of two of the team's more experienced players, ESPN has projected the Celtics to jump up to second in the East, with a 51-31 record. You can check out the full projections here. This is what they had to say about the Celtics:
"Our panel sees the Celtics improving their record for the third straight season and breaking the 50-win barrier. Does it shortchange Boston to suggest Al Horford and No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown are worth only three wins? Perhaps. But though accomplished, Horford has been a part of only two 50-win teams in his nine-year NBA career."
Brad Stevens will finally get his hands on an All-Star combo between Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, and I'm sure he's been giddy about it all summer. Stevens has routinely been able to get the most out of any player at his disposal, so I'm personally expecting a career year out of both Thomas and Horford. Marcus Smart is finally healthy for a full offseason of work, with expectations that his shooting numbers will improve enough to take his offensive game to the next level. Terry Rozier emerged as the potential ballhandler of the second unit after lighting up the summer league and looks primed for an improved sophomore season.
The Celtics goal of finally getting out of the first round of the playoffs is going to hinge on the two faults that plagued them last season, rebounding and shooting. Can Al Horford, Amir Johnson, and Kelly Olynyk grab enough boards for this team to not be terrible on the glass? And can the team as a whole take a step forward with their three-point percentage, so that teams will respect their outside shooting? The Celtics are going to need to answer these questions quickly if they are going to live up to the high expectations that various media outlets have put on them.
Despite the question marks, excitement is definitely more than warranted for the Celtics.