The Boston Celtics won't be underdogs by any stretch during the 2020-21 NBA season, but will they have what it takes to make another deep postseason run?
One outlet believes the answer to that question is an emphatic "yes."
FiveThirtyEight's 2020-21 NBA predictions have the Celtics listed with the second-best chances of winning it all this season (15 percent), trailing only the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (21 percent). Boston also has a 98 percent chance of making it into the playoffs and has the second-highest chance of making it to the NBA Finals (27 percent).
The data-driven website projects the C's to finish with a 46-26 regular-season record, tying the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
All of those high marks come despite them having to begin their season without star point guard Kemba Walker (knee) in the lineup. Newly-acquired big man Tristan Thompson also could be missing to start the campaign as he recovers from a hamstring injury.
To reflect those injuries, FiveThirtyEight gives the Celtics a current rating of 1602, which ranks 8th in the league. Their "full-strength rating" is 1655, which puts them right behind top-rated L.A. (1658).
Sure, it's a lot of numbers and stats based on a season that has yet to even begin, but it's even more of a reason for fans to get excited about what's to come. Boston certainly has the tools to turn these preseason projections into a reality, especially with Thompson and veteran guard Jeff Teague added to the mix.
The Celtics will play their second and final preseason game Friday night vs. the Brooklyn Nets at 8 p.m ET. They'll open the regular season on Dec. 23 vs. Milwaukee at 7:30 p.m.