Celtics Season Preview: Realistic Expectations to Have

The day has finally come. After one of the biggest and strangest offseasons in Celtics’ history, the first game of the season is upon us. And what better way to start the season than heading down to Cleveland, the team that knocked us out of the playoffs last season and traded us Kyrie Irving. This season will be a hell of a season for Celtics fans, but we have to realize that this season may not be as perfect as some people may think it will be.

Paul George put it best in an interview with Bleacher Report. “You can’t just put three stars together and expect it to be instant wins or instant progress.” Obviously referring to his new-look Thunder team, this also applies to the Boston Celtics. Listen, the Celtics only have four players on this team that were on last year’s roster. No matter which way you look at it, that spells trouble early on. The roster got together a lot over the past month or so, in hopes of gaining some team chemistry and bond as much as possible before the regular season. Plus, this team had four preseason games under their belt and looked impressive in all four. The Kyrie/Isaiah trade was finalized at the end of August, giving the team just a little over a month to get together and figure out how this team is going to be run.

A trio of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford sounds like one of the best trios in the league, but they may not look like it to start the season. They certainly could, but there’s a good possibility that it’ll take a bit for the players to get used to playing with each other. Kyrie is going from being second-fiddle to LeBron in Cleveland to being the “man” on the Celtics. Gordon Hayward was the “man” in Utah. These two may have a tough time getting used to each other at first.

Or not. When Hayward signed up to come to Boston, Isaiah was still here, and he was the MAN in Boston. Hayward knew he’d at least have to adjust his game a bit to coincide with another superstar. Nothing’s changed in that department, you just sub in Kyrie for Isaiah. Plus, this isn’t superstar basketball. This isn’t Cleveland. This is Boston, and under coach Brad Stevens, he will make magic happen. Isaiah Thomas has been the Celtics’ lone superstar the past few years. Brad Stevens worked his magic and made the 5’9 guard a two-time All-Star and top-5 MVP candidate. Sub in Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, then add in Gordon Hayward, the sky is the limit as to what Brad Stevens can do with this team. Kyrie can do all that Isaiah does, and he’s about six inches taller. If Coach Stevens turned a 5’9 Isaiah Thomas into a superstar, the NBA should be shaking in the thoughts of what Kyrie can become. Kyrie wanted to be the man on his own team and not be in the shadow of LeBron James. Well, he got his wish. Now it’s time for him to go out and prove why he should be the man on his own team.

It’s realistic to have high hopes for Kyrie this season. I know I have high expectations for him. Although Kyrie is in a new town, with a new system, and with new teammates, he’s still Kyrie Irving. NBA Champion, 4x All-Star, Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game MVP, the man who hit one of the greatest shots in basketball history, and helped Cleveland win their very first NBA championship. Those are just a few accomplishments for the young superstar, and that list of achievements will continue to grow for the 25-year-old. Coming off a 25 point, six assist season, Kyrie should stay consistent with his scoring, while becoming a true point guard and getting those assist numbers up. While in Cleveland, LeBron was the point guard. Kyrie didn’t have a chance to truly showcase all of his talents. We will see just how talented of a player and a passer Kyrie is in Boston.

I’d be lying to say I’m not a little scared with the whole Marcus Smart situation. Marcus not getting an extension scares me because it worries me that either we’ll be paying Marcus a lot of money in the upcoming years, or he won’t be a member of the team anymore. This should be a scary thought for Celtics fans because Marcus is our best defender. He took on this role after Avery Bradley got traded. We lose Marcus Smart, we lose one of the best on-ball defenders and hustlers in the league. We can’t afford to lose that, especially with Bradley gone. Marcus Smart wants to stay in Boston, and I’m hoping the feeling is mutual. He might not be a factor on the offensive end (YET), but what he does on the defensive end is mouthwatering and makes him worth every single penny he’ll earn. His defense is contagious and makes his teammates want to get on the floor and fight for the basketball. Marcus is still only 23, as well. His offense might not be there now, but sometimes it takes players a few years to find their offensive game. Marcus is a gym rat, and with continued hard work and patience, everything will come together. We just have to pray that this happens while in a Boston uniform.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum starting opening night should make Celtics’ fans very optimistic towards the future. These kids are meant to take over the league in 4-5 years, but here they are in the starting lineup of the winningest team in the Eastern Conference last season. I would be lying if I said to you that I always wanted Jaylen Brown to start. I wished that Marcus Smart would start for a long time. I’ve always preferred defensive guys starting games. Marcus would bring a lot to the table on defense and help guys like Kyrie when going up against elite guards. But after seeing Jaylen play in the preseason and see how much progress he has made from the end of last season to now, I’m ecstatic that he’s finally getting the chance to start, and on opening night against Cleveland, nonetheless.

It’s even more impressive that Jayson is getting the nod to start in game one of the season. Jayson will come in and help immediately on both the offensive and defensive end. We all knew how polished Tatum is on offense. As soon as he got drafted, I referred to him as being the best shooter on our team already. He can create and make his own shot, something not many Celtics’ players could do last year. Coach Stevens has raved about his defense already, which is an encouraging sign since I thought that’d be the weakest part of his game to start his young career. All the Paul Pierce comparisons may be getting to my head, but this kid will be special. He may get beat up at the power forward position, but as he gets more acclimated to the NBA, and hopefully adds some muscle and weight, he’ll be one of the best, if not the best, young stars in the league.

As far as expectations for the regular season record and playoffs go, here’s the deal. It’s realistic to think that the Celtics can end up back on top of the Eastern Conference and have more regular season wins than Cleveland. There is a good chance of that happening. But here’s the harsh truth that people may not want to hear; come playoff time, we probably won’t look like the best team in the Eastern Conference. It’s like last season; we had more wins than Cleveland, but come Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs will be in full force, and playoff LeBron will dominate. Isaiah Thomas will miss quite some time to start the season for Cleveland, so Cleveland’s record may take a hit. But once Isaiah comes back at full strength, which should be around the second half of the season, Cleveland will begin to roll and go back to being the unstoppable team in the Eastern Conference that they’ve been for the past three years. Cleveland doesn’t care about the regular season. As long as they’re all healthy and ready to go come playoff time, they’re all set. I expect this year’s inevitable playoff series between the Cavs and Celtics to be far more competitive, but I’m afraid that we’ll be seeing an 8th consecutive trip to the NBA Finals for LeBron James.

Although 2018 may not be the year the Celtics bring home banner 18 to Boston, that’s not to say we’re not equipped to do that in just a few years. This team is built to contend now, but also contend (maybe even more competitively) for the next 5-10 years. Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said it himself.

“I would like to be legitimate competitors against the Golden State Warriors within a couple of years,” he said. “Can’t say that [they’re contenders] now. I’d like to be able to say that within the next X number of years. I would love to say that, but we have a ways to go.”

Wyc is right. Our young guys need to develop more, and the team chemistry needs to be higher. This team needs a few years to entirely get used to playing with one another and truly compete for an NBA title.

I love this team and where they’re at right now. This team will be fun as all hell to watch night in and night out. They’re composed of experienced superstars, young stars on the up and coming, and guys that are ready to step up and prove they’re worth in the league. Led by Kyrie, Hayward, and Horford, I expect the Celtics to be a top team in the East and being very competitive against the top teams in the league. Will they win every game against the best teams? Probably not. Will they stay competitive and build themselves to win multiple championships in the next 5-10 years? Absolutely.

Regardless of predictions and expectations for the rest of the season, Boston Celtics basketball is back, and they’re ready to start their takeover of the NBA. My daily morale will skyrocket now that the NBA is back in full swing. I’m more than ready for tonight, and you should be too. This season will be crazy, G. The hunt for banner 18 has begun.


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