"You can call me a homer if you want, but here's why I'm rolling with the Boston Celtics."
In a little over a month, 22 NBA teams will restart the 2019-20 schedule in Orlando with an eight-game sprint to the playoffs — and Kendrick Perkins thinks that Brad Stevens' club is in prime position to emerge from the Eastern Conference to reach the NBA Finals.
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On the latest episode of "Celtics @ Home" (which you can watch on YouTube), Perkins explained a number of reasons why he loves Boston's chances in the East.
Kemba Walker: "At the start of the season, he was playing at an MVP-type level. After the All-Star break, he injured his knee and he wasn't the same. Well guess what? He's had more than enough time to rehab and rest."
Jayson Tatum: "He's been getting better and better by the month of this year, almost to the point where we consider him a Top 10-type player in the NBA. One of the best scorers in the league, he has zero flaws. He'll be a future MVP of the league in the next two years, mark my words."
Jaylen Brown: "He's one of the best two-way players in the NBA today. He can get you 20 points a night on 50 percent shooting and he locks down on the other end."
Marcus Smart: "Remember when I told you if you see him in a fight with a bear, you need to help the bear? That's true."
Perkins also praised Gordon Hayward for finding his rhythm, especially when the Celtics go small, and also likes what Daniel Theis ("He's been protecting the rim, and I love the way he can switch out on 1 through 5's") and Enes Kanter ("He steps up when people call him out") bring to the table up front.
DraftKings Sportsbook lists the C's with the second-best odds to win the East (+700, tied with the Raptors and behind the Bucks at -165), but Chris Mannix sees one big problem for the Celtics when the games finally resume.
"Would you agree that three-point shooting is going to be bad when they come back?" Mannix asked Perkins. "A lot of these guys haven't shot threes all that much. How many months did Jayson Tatum go without even picking up a basketball? I don't believe that these guys can come back and start looking like the same perimeter shooting team they were going into the pandemic."
So who does Mannix see winning the East? A team that doesn't rely on three-point shooting and can lock other teams down defensively.
"I am going to bet all the money in my pocket... that Philadelphia wins the Eastern Conference," Mannix added. "Philadelphia will grind it out, they'll win games 90-86 like they did back in the mid-1990s, and they will shut things down defensively with (Ben) Simmons, Josh Richardson and Joel Embiid."
But Perk wasn't buying any of that reasoning, citing the 76ers' woeful road record (10-24 away from the Wells Fargo Center) and the "horrible" coaching of Brett Brown.
So which team will go further in the playoffs? We might not need to wait long to find out. If the playoffs started today, the Celtics and Sixers would match up in the first round.
Watch the full episode of "Celtics @ Home" on YouTube or below. This week's episode also includes Brian Scalabrine and Kyle Draper discussing the NBA bubble, Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn on the continued improvement of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and a new segment of "Celtics Census" with Abby Chin and Kendrick Perkins taking on the father-son duo of Austin and Danny Ainge.