Questions about Irving trade have limited impact on ESPN predictions

The NBA offseason is at the point where literally any piece of news or speculation is being hounded by fans desperate for the season to start. Because of this, ESPN releasing their Eastern and Western conference predictions is a huge deal. Fans are dying to know if their opinions and predictions are shared by some of the greatest sports writers and analysts in the world. And they really are some of the greatest sports analysts in the world. For instance, they predict that the Boston Celtics will be claiming the first seed in the East next season, a stance that any great analyst should share.

It's a pretty easy prediction to make. The Celtics were the first seed in the East last year, and very few people truly believe we got any worse during the offseason. With the addition of Gordon Hayward, the Celtics have some nice star power to help push us to the top again. And since the poll has been released, we traded for Kyrie Irving - we think (more on this shortly.)

Directly behind us are the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Washington Wizards. The Cavs are projected to win one more game than last season at 52 wins, and the Wizards are expected to win the exact same amount as 2016-17 at 49. ESPN has the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets tied for the least amount of wins in the Eastern Conference with 26 wins apiece. These predictions have the Nets winning six more games than last year, with the Bulls winning 15 less. What a perspective this puts on how far Chicago has fallen from grace, and how terrible Brooklyn really is.

The only thing I disagree with ESPN about is that the Celtics are projected to win only one more game this season compared to the last one. I think this team got exponentially better than last year with not only the addition of Hayward, but also Jayson Tatum and the various draft-and-stash players we've added to the roster. While we don't know how any of the new pieces will fit together or perform next year, I think it's safe to say we've improved by more than a one-game margin.

When the poll was first released, I thought ESPN was underestimating us by only a few games. Now that we have Irving, I think that this team will win close to 60. That's a seven-game improvement, but with the scoring and pure talent of Kyrie, I wouldn't put it past us. This team has improved too much in the offseason to only win one more game. While Isaiah Thomas will be missed, and I don't necessarily agree with the trade, all there is to do at this point is be optimistic about Irving's future in a green uniform. Unless, of course, the trade doesn't go through because of a failed physical by Thomas. Then, Boston's future becomes incredibly murky, (more on that here.)

ESPN cites the single game improvement by saying the 2016-17 Boston squad had a point differential that was less impressive than our record should have produced. While we won 53 games last year, we had the point differential of a team that won 48. This is a solid argument, but do you really think that point differential will remain the same as last season? Not only did we add Hayward, who averaged 22 points last year, and Kyrie, who averaged 25.2 points per game, but also Tatum, who was a scoring machine at Duke University in his lone season in North Carolina. Maybe the Duke tandem of Irving and the young wing will help progress Jayson into the stud we need him to become.

Regardless of the numbers, I think the prediction is certainly correct. Whether we end up with Irving or Isaiah, the outcome will likely be the same. Boston won the East last regular season, and I don't think there's a team that made the strides necessary to catch up, especially while we were making strides of our own. Cleveland looks to be the only team that could potentially rain on our parade, and the thought of seeing our former superstar possibly succeed with another team does makes me feel like a jealous ex-girlfriend. However, it does look like it's going to be an easy-going regular season for the Celtics. However, the question still remains, what do the playoffs hold for the team in green?

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