Just how good are the 2020-21 Boston Celtics?
That's a surprisingly tricky question.
On the one hand, there's plenty of reason for optimism: Tristan Thompson could be the missing frontcourt piece for a Celtics team that reached the Eastern Conference finals last season and is powered by one of the NBA's best young trios in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
On the other hand, the Celtics lost a starting-caliber wing in Gordon Hayward and might be without Kemba Walker for the foreseeable future as he rehabs a balky knee.
Fortunately, there's a tried-and-true method for gauging a team's temperature: Head to the sportsbooks. Oddsmakers have set betting lines for the Celtics and the rest of the league on a wide range of outcomes, from the 2021 NBA Champion to the regular-season MVP to the league's scoring leader.
These lines usually are an accurate reflection of expectations, so let's dig into the Celtics-related odds 2020-21 NBA season -- Odds provided by our partner, PointsBet Sportsbook.
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NBA Championship Odds
Celtics +1400 (fifth-best in NBA)
The Celtics trail both Los Angeles teams in the Western Conference and the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets in the East. They nearly paid huge dividends for sports bettors last season by reaching Game 6 of the East finals with +2900 preseason odds, so this is a much more reasonable price for oddsmakers.
It’s still a tantalizing bet, however. If either Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant gets injured and/or the Jrue Holiday experiment doesn’t work out in Milwaukee, the Celtics could have a path to the NBA Finals. The Lakers are the clear favorites to repeat, but does LeBron James have enough gas in the tank after the shortest offseason of his career?
Celtics win total
Over 45.5 wins: +100
Under 45.5 wins: -121
A reminder that this is for a 72-game season, so 45 wins would equate to just over 51 in an 82-game campaign (62.5 winning percentage).
The Celtics have performed remarkably well against their win total in the Brad Stevens era, hitting the over in five of the last six seasons.*
They’ve also won more than 63 percent of their games in three of the last four seasons, so 46 wins seems well within reach. The wild card, of course, is health: If the C’s proceed with the expected caution on Walker’s knee, it could cost them a few games.
*The C’s finished with 48 wins in 72 games last season and had a preseason win total of 48.5, so we’re assuming they would have won one of their last 10 games had COVID-19 not shut down the regular season.
Odds to make 2021 NBA All-Star Team
Jayson Tatum: -3334 (T-1)
Tatum has the same odds of being an All-Star as Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That's bonkers.
But that's what happens when you average 25.7 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game during the playoffs after a breakout regular season campaign. Tatum has been one of the top 15 (top 10?) players in basketball for the past year, and there's no reason to believe that will change.
Still, these odds are way too short to present any real value.
NBA MVP Odds
Jayson Tatum: +2000 (T-9)
These odds are a further sign of respect for Tatum's game. He's the Celtics' unquestionable No. 1 option entering his fourth NBA season, and if Walker misses significant time, the 22-year-old may have to shoulder a heavy offensive load.
All signs point to a superstar like Antetokounmpo, James or current betting favorite Luka Doncic winning MVP. But we can see a scenario in which Tatum carries the Walker-less C's to a top-three seed in the East, which would certainly put him in the conversation.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Odds
Marcus Smart: +4000 (T-8)
Jayson Tatum: +10000 (T-19)
Jaylen Brown: +10000 (T-19)
The Celtics' DPOY campaign for Smart proved fruitless last season, as the Celtics guard finished eighth in voting despite making the All-Defensive First Team.
A guard hasn't won this award since Gary Payton in 1996, and we don't see that changing. At least Tatum and Brown are getting recognition from oddsmakers as elite defenders.
NBA Rookie of the Year Odds
Aaron Nesmith: +6600 (T-21)
Payton Pritchard: +9000 (T-28)
The best-case scenarios for Nesmith and Pritchard are as second-unit spark plugs. There are too many mouths to feed in Boston's talented offense for them to compete with the likes of LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards, who should stuff the stat sheet on lottery teams.
NBA Most Improved Player Odds
Jaylen Brown: +3000 (T-11)
Jayson Tatum: +3300 (T-15)
You could argue Jaylen Brown deserved more than three third-place votes for this award last season after his scoring average jumped from 13.0 points to 20.3 points per game. He's setting up to be the 1b to Tatum's 1a with Walker sidelined and has a very real shot at making his first All-Star team.
Considering Brown already made a sizable leap in his fourth season, however, he'd need to put up elite numbers to have a shot at MIP. Him and Tatum are a bit in no man's land for this award after their marked improvement in 2019-20.
NBA Coach of the Year Odds
Brad Stevens: +900 (first)
Stevens as the betting favorite is a little surprising, but we can see the case: He guides the Celtics to the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the East despite losing Gordon Hayward and missing Walker for a good chunk of the season.
History isn't on Stevens' side, however: Six of the last seven Coach of the Year winners have won at least 70 percent of their games, and Boston hasn't won more than 67.1 percent of its games in the Stevens era.
Doc Rivers seems like better value at +1400 in his first season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
NBA Sixth Man of the Year Odds
Grant Williams: +5000 (T-15)
Williams finished his rookie season strong and earned meaningful postseason minutes after a slow start to his NBA career. Tristan Thompson's addition might cut into his minutes, but he's clearly earned Stevens' trust and could be a productive player for Boston off the bench.
That said, our money is on Lou Williams to make it four consecutive years that a Clipper has won this award.
NBA Scoring Champion Odds
Jayson Tatum: +5000 (T-12)
Tatum was the 11th-best scorer in the postseason bubble, and it's not hard to envision him finishing in the top 10 over a full season if he eliminates the early-season duds that plagued him last year.
But there are too many other elite scorers with a far high usage percentage. James Harden is the clear front-runner unless he goes to Brooklyn and decides to share with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
NBA Rebounding Champion Odds
Tristan Thompson: +5000 (T-ninth)
Thompson finished ninth in the NBA in rebounds per game (10.1) last season, so these odds seem about right. The Celtics' leading rebounder from last season, Enes Kanter, is gone, so there should be plenty of boards for Thompson to gobble up. The question is whether he can stay healthy for the full season, but if he stays on the court, he could make a run at this.