The Boston Celtics were a .500 team last season but have made plenty of changes to their roster over the last few months via trades and NBA free agency.
Do all these changes make the Celtics one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference entering the 2021-22 season?
Few people would put the C's ahead of the Brooklyn Nets or defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Other teams you could put ahead of the Celtics include the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers. The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers also are good teams, which shows just how deep and talented the conference has become.
One person who does think the Celtics will finish as a top four team in the East next season is former Nets assistant general manager and current ESPN NBA front office insider Bobby Marks.
"If I was doing grades, and I don't like grades, but I would give them an A-," Marks said in an Instagram video Tuesday night. "They had really no flexibility here. (Kemba) Walker for (Al) Horford, Marcus Smart extension, Josh Richardson extension (Dennis) Schroder for the tax mid-level, (Kris) Dunn and (Bruno) Fernando trade, Robert Williams extension, Ime Udoka as their head coach. Brad Stevens has done a really good job.
"I'm going to make a bold prediction, and I don't like making predictions. I'm going to say the Boston Celtics are going to be a top four team in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Miami and Boston -- not sure on the order. Sorry, Sixers fans. I think we're heading into team turmoil this year and I'm not putting all my eggs in the Sixers basket. I just think people are sleeping on the Celtics. I think they're under the radar."
You could definitely make the case for the Celtics being a top-four team in the conference in 2021-22.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are two young All-Star players who will continue to get better. Al Horford and Robert Williams form a solid tandem at center. Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard and Dennis Schroder give the team better scoring and playmaking in the backcourt than it had last season. Aaron Nesmith is poised to take a step forward as a 3-and-D wing. The addition of Josh Richardson gives Boston more perimeter defense and some much-needed toughness.
Boston also hired a new head coach in Ime Udoka, who is focused on playing more team basketball and improving defensively.
There are plenty of reasons to believe the Celtics will show plenty of improvement next season. Will they be a title contender? Unlikely, but being a top-four seed in the playoffs is certainly a realistic goal.