2022 Boston Celtics Story: From Average Joes to Title Contenders
While Boston skeptics might be already counting the team out as they’re down 2-1 in the series to the defending champs, their season has suggested that you may want to reconsider your position.
The franchise faced some adversity – big and small – before and during the season. Whether it be adapting to a new general manager and head coach, dealing with a key injury early in the season, or making the midseason roster and playstyle changes after a slow start to the season, the Celtics have had their work cut out for them, and the result has been a trip to the conference semis… so far.
In order to fully understand the Celtics’ bumpy road to title contention, you will need to follow the team’s story from the offseason to the postseason. We break down all elements to understanding the team’s season, including betting outlook, roster changes, shining moments, struggles, and players’ performances.
C’s Crushed Preseason Betting Projections
If you’ve been backing the Celtics as a bettor this season, then you and your bank account should be in good shape.
Boston entered the season as a longshot to be the last team standing in June. Fanduel listed them as a +5000 dark horse (equal to a two percent chance) to win the title before the season began, with a win total over/under of 46.5 wins. Fast forward six months and the Celtics won 51 games in the regular season, and are now just +550 to become champions with three rounds to go. They also covered the spread in 54.8% of its regular-season games.
Celtics fans are thrilled to see their team exceed preseason expectations with a chance to win the title. Massachusetts-based Celtics fans are not thrilled, however, that they aren’t able to place bets on the Celtics for the rest of this season, as sports betting isn’t legal yet in the Bay State.
A silver lining is that the Massachusetts Senate recently passed a sports betting bill, pushing Massachusetts bettors one giant step closer toward sports betting legalization. Celtics fans, and Boston sports fans as a whole, should be optimistic they will be able to bet on their hometown teams by year’s end through several sportsbooks, including hometown favorite DraftKings as well as FanDuel Massachusetts.
After being tossed from the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets in a five-game series just last season, the Celtics decided it needed to make personnel changes in regards to players, coaching, and front office.
Then-Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge stepped down from his role and promoted head coach Brad Stevens to Celtics president duties. Stevens then hired first-year head coach Ime Udoka as his replacement.
The Celtics didn’t have the splashiest offseason, as Stevens focused primarily on surrounding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with suitable role players.
Stevens’ first notable player move was bringing Al Horford back to Boston and sending away Kemba Walker (and his insanely high-priced contract). Stevens and the Celtics knew they weren’t getting back All-Star-level Horford, but the 35-year-old big man adds a veteran presence to a young Celtics lineup, as he’s the only active Celtics player 30 years old or older.
The C’s did lose Evan Fournier to the New York Knicks, but the front office did a good job filling that guard play void by signing Dennis Schröder (even though he wound up getting traded at the trade deadline).
From Potential Lottery Pick to Two-Seed
Boston’s disappointing first half of the season was one to forget. They were stuck around the .500 mark up until the season’s halfway point. To add insult to (literal) injury, Jaylen Brown suffered a hamstring injury back in November, causing him to miss 13 games over the course of one month. By January 6, the team fell below .500 with a record of 18-21, which placed them in the 11th spot in the East.
The Celtics had had enough of its mediocrity, and immediately sought to improve (spoiler: they did). The C’s went on an absolute tear in the second half of the regular season, winning 33 of its final 43 games (76.7% win percentage), which included a nine-game win streak. They were highly considered as the hottest team in basketball entering the playoffs. After a three-month grind, Boston climbed out of its 11-seed hole and was able to clinch the two-seed in the playoffs.
Playoff Path to the Title
The Celtics and their fans are all in their pursuit of a title this year. With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference and with their team coming of age, Boston feels that nothing can stand in their way.
The Celtics’ first playoff obstacle en route to the title was the preseason title favorite Nets. Boston entered the matchup as a +115 underdog (Caesars) against Brooklyn. Bettors saw these odds as a steal, as the line subsequently shifted to Boston being a -130 favorite right before Game 1. Favorite or underdog, Brooklyn was a very tough first-round opponent (third-best title odds at the time). After four hard-fought games, the Celtics shockingly swept Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the Nets after getting gentlemanly swept by Brooklyn just a year prior.
The Celtics now face the Bucks in the second round. If they’re able to get past Milwaukee, then their third opponent would be either the Eastern Conference top seed Miami Heat or the four-seed Philadelphia 76ers.
Their final challenge would come down to the winner of the Western Conference, with the most likely winner being either the Phoenix Suns or the Golden State Warriors.
Boston’s Balanced Roster Is Title-Ready
Offseason and trade deadline moves, along with player breakouts, have helped the Celtics build a roster that can compete with any other team for the title. They have all of the requisite pieces to win it all.
Defense has been the team’s calling card, as they led the entire league in defensive rating. They have three players who finished in the top nine of Defensive Player of the Year voting this season, including the winner of the award Marcus Smart.
The team’s success can also be attributed to its high floor. They don’t have any glaring weaknesses as a team, and each individual player provides a unique skill set that when put together creates a well-rounded squad that can beat you in multiple ways.
Jayson Tatum is turning into a bona fide superstar before our eyes, as seen in his battle against Kevin Durant in the first round. Jaylen Brown offers the team a secondary scoring option and superb defensive prowess. Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart can lock up opposing teams’ star guards, as shown in his matchup with Kyrie Irving in the first round. Robin Williams III has become a reliable rim protector and efficient paint scoring. Grant Williams spreads the floor with his sharpshooting, particularly from the corner.