NBA basketball will be here soon, and the Boston Celtics will be among the most exciting teams to watch when the regular season begins.
The Celtics are coming off their third Eastern Conference Finals appearance in the last four years. They were two wins short of the 2020 NBA Finals after a conference finals loss to the Miami Heat.
Expectations for the C's entering the 2020-21 season are understandably high as a result, and projections for how well they will play are a little all over the place. A lot of it depends on how you view the team's additions and departures over the offseason.
Some people see Gordon Hayward leaving to join the Charlotte Hornets as a plus for the Celtics because it will free up young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to take on an even larger role offensively. Hayward also had trouble staying injury free in Boston, although much of that was just bad luck. Others see Hayward's exit as a loss of valuable scoring depth and playmaking ability.
The Celtics also added veteran center Tristan Thompson on a reported two-year deal worth $19 million. Thompson provides the C's with much-needed frontcourt depth, rebounding and championship experience. Boston also upgraded at the backup point guard position by signing Jeff Teague to replace Brad Wanamaker.
The C's filled a need in the draft when they upgraded their outside shooting with the first-round selections of Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard.
After a fairly busy offseason for the Celtics, how many games should we expect them to win during the 2020-21 campaign? ESPN analyst Kevin Pelton released his annual win projections last week, and he has the C's averaging 39.3 wins in his simulations, along with an 84 percent chance of earning a playoff spot.
Here's what he wrote about the C's:
"The Celtics surely will miss Gordon Hayward, whose departure leaves the team with just one reserve (young center Robert Williams III) with an RPM projection better than league average. Still, Boston's starting five is strong enough to lift the Celtics to the top of a crowded second tier in the East projections.
"Update: The news that Kemba Walker won't return to game action until January at the earliest cost Boston a little more than a projected win and dropped the Celtics behind Miami and Philadelphia on average."
For comparison, oddsmakers have set the Celtics' over/under for wins at 45.5, which is the fourth-highest in the league. Pelton's average of 39.4 wins is the fifth-most in the East in his projections. He has the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers ahead of the C's.
The Celtics had 48 wins in 72 games during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 regular season. It wouldn't be surprising at all if they approached that total again -- or even went over it -- in the 2020-21 campaign. The Celtics were the only team in the league with three players averaging 20-plus points per game last season, and they also ranked No. 2 in points allowed.
Boston has a well-balanced roster that can win games in several different ways, and this will make the Celtics a tough team to beat throughout next season.