All eyes will be on the Boston Celtics during the 2022-23 NBA season. They established themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference by taking the Golden State Warriors to Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
This time, C's stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will have help in the form of newcomers Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari as they look to bring Banner 18 to Boston. After last season's exciting run, it's fair to say anything less than an NBA championship for this group would be a disappointment.
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With the 2022-23 NBA schedule out and rosters (mostly) set, our partners at Strat-O-Matic simulated the full regular season and playoffs. Will these Celtics finally get over the hump? Here's what the projections say.
Perhaps the most surprising takeaways from Strat-O-Matic's simulation are the regular-season statistics for Tatum and Brown.
Tatum's scoring takes a nosedive in Year 6 of his NBA career. He finishes the campaign with a respectable 21.5 points per game, but that's a significant drop from 2020-21 and 2021-22 when he averaged 26.4 and 26.9, respectively.
As Tatum struggled, it was Brown picking up the slack. He led the team with 22.4 points per game in his age 26 season. Still, that's a drop from his scoring averages in 2020-21 (24.7 ppg) and 2021-22 (23.6).
With those numbers, the Celtics definitely will need the supporting cast to step up.
The new guys
The Celtics bolstered their bench by trading for point guard Malcolm Brogdon and signing veteran forward Danilo Gallinari during the offseason. The hope is that Brogdon will perfectly complement defensive-minded guard Marcus Smart and Gallinari will add a scoring punch for the second unit.
Brogdon averages 15.6 ppg in the simulated Celtics season. He hasn't finished with a mark that low since 2018-19 with the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the scoring dropoff is likely due to him coming off the bench with Smart as the team's starting point guard.
As for Gallinari, the Italian sharpshooter notches 10.8 ppg in his first season as a Celtic. That would be the lowest mark of any full season in his 15-year NBA career.
The Celtics have no shortage of intriguing matchups on the schedule for the 2022-23 season. It all starts on Oct. 18 when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Opening Night.
Unfortunately for C's fans, the sim has Boston falling 118-104 in the first game of the year. On the bright side, the C's bounce back three days later and demolish the Miami Heat on the road, 140-108.
The 2022-23 Celtics schedule is highlighted by a grueling stretch in December. The month begins with a brutal road trip, starting in Brooklyn and then Toronto before heading out west to Phoenix, Golden State, and Los Angeles. They go 2-4 on the trip with their wins coming against the Toronto Raptors (101-95) and L.A. Clippers (132-111).
Boston will host the Milwaukee Bucks for a Christmas Day rematch and this time comes away with the victory, 119-104.
Eastern Conference standings
The Celtics earn two more wins than last season as they finish with a 53-29 record, but that's still only good enough for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Ahead of the C's in the standings are the Philadelphia 76ers (58-24), Milwaukee Bucks (58-24), and Miami Heat (55-27).
The Brooklyn Nets (50-32), New York Knicks (45-37), Charlotte Hornets (41-41), and Chicago Bulls (39-43) round out the playoff field in the East. Note that this simulation was run with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving still in Brooklyn, despite both players reportedly wanting out.
Western Conference standings
With a healthy Kawhi Leonard, the Los Angeles Clippers post a 55-27 record to run away with the No. 1 seed. The Denver Nuggets are the only other team in the West with 50 or more wins (51-31).
The reigning champion Golden State Warriors finish as the No. 3 seed at 49-33. Rounding out the playoff field in the conference are the Dallas Mavericks (46-36), New Orleans Pelicans (46-36), Phoenix Suns (44-38), Los Angeles Lakers (44-38), Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40), Utah Jazz (40-42), and Sacramento Kings (40-42).
2022-23 NBA Playoffs
The Celtics swept the Nets out of the 2021-22 NBA postseason, but the first round of their 2022-23 playoff run was a grind. It took Boston seven games to finish off the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks. Nonetheless, the C's advanced to take on the Sixers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Philly's postseason failures vs. Boston continued as the Celtics upended the Sixers in five games. But in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks got their revenge by ousting the C's in a wild seven-game series.
If it's any consolation, the Celtics fell to the eventual NBA champion. The Bucks went on to defeat the Clippers in six games in the Finals.