Most basketball junkies have already mapped out which teams they'll try to watch outside of their own on NBA League Pass this season, and ESPN's annual League Pass rankings give us a good reference to make our decisions off of.
Last season, the Celtics had sky-high expectations after making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. Zach Lowe had them ranked No. 2 behind just the Sixers.
Philly remains at the top spot this year after stealing Al Horford from the Celtics and is a serious contender for the NBA title. The Celtics, after losing Horford, Irving, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris, are considered a tier below their division rival and suffered a steep drop to 15th in this year's League Pass Rankings.
An excerpt from Lowe's take on this year's Celtics:
Boston drops 13 spots despite replacing a frowny-faced philosopher-point guard (Kyrie Irving) with a rough stylistic equivalent in Kemba Walker -- owner of the league's nastiest in-and-out dribble. The combined departures -- Al Horford's subtle brilliance, Marcus Morris' toughness, Terry Rozier's long 2s, Guerschon Yabusele's ass -- cannot inflict this much damage on Boston's watchability.
There is hope Boston can settle into a watchability zone between this ranking and last season's. The chemistry presumably isn't toxic now. Gordon Hayward should be closer to Utah form. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are hungry. One or both could make All-Star pushes; Tatum looks to be attacking the rim more already. His reclining, willowy midrangers are basketball grace notes, analytics be damned.
The Celtics were nearly unwatchable last season as inconsistent play and off-court drama defined the undoing of a masterclass rebuild by Danny Ainge. With a fresh start and a brand new point guard in Kemba Walker, the Celtics should be one of the more fun teams to watch when it's all said and done.
The main concern for this year's team is on the defensive end of the floor without ample replacements for Horford and Baynes. However, Boston has been the league's top defensive unit in the preseason and earned some praise from Larry Nance Jr.
Obviously, it's just preseason and there's only so much you can take from it. If the Celtics can prove to be a top-10 defense to couple with what should be an excellent offensive attack led by Walker and three incredibly talented wings, they'll move up more than just some League Pass Rankings.
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