Don’t fret Celtics fans, your team is still favored to have a strong finish for the first time in a long time. Boston was never ranked atop the Eastern Conference but they were close. That hasn’t changed, literally. They’re now ranked to finish second. Not a lot of people pegged the green and white to starting the year 3-4, mind you, but young teams need time to gel. Look at the Cavs a few years back, look at the Clippers, Wizards and Raptors as other prime examples. It’s an early-season growing pain. Once it’s through, watch for the Celts to right the ship.
New this season are the two huge additions of Al Horford from free agency and Jaylen Brown out of the draft. Horford was arguably the biggest name available this past offseason, outside of Kevin Durant of course, and he immediately improves the Celtics chances. To make way for the big man, the team lost Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner but the juice seems to definitely be worth the squeeze. Even with a losing record (at press) the Celtics are second favorites to take the Eastern Conference, with +700 odds via TopBet.
This team has come a long way since 2014. They posted 48 wins and finished fifth in the East last year, while this time around, they’re slated to finish second on the conference podium. They haven’t had the hottest start, as mentioned, but their upside is exponential. Aside from the Horford addition, rookie Jaylen Brown out of California, adds a whole other element. The extremely athletic 20-year old notched a career-high 19 points in the 35 minutes in Cleveland one week ago and has been a solid weapon off the bench.
Meanwhile, the growth of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley under Brad Stevens has been huge for the club. These three have become the top young players in a once over-crowded veteran lineup. The team decided last year to give the keys to the young guys and they’re showing their appreciation.
Thomas is averaging 25.7 PPG so far, while Bradley is putting up 19.7. Combine that that with Smart’s 13.5, sometimes off the bench, and you’ve got one of the best and deepest backcourts in the league. Now add four-time NBA All Star Al Horford to the mix and you’ve got one deadly threat across the board.
With that said, Thomas’ comments the other night saying that the team “isn’t as good as we thought we were”, shouldn’t be taken so literally. Don’t sound the alarms. He was simply referring to the team’s slow start against the Denver Nuggets. Less than ten games in, it’s not the time to get worried.
If this team can string together four strong quarters on a nightly basis and move past this ‘growing pain’ phase quickly, they will pose a real threat to the league’s elite. Staff 11/13/2016 09:02:00 PM Tweet Edit