So, what lies ahead? We make a few calls
Mark our words...
With the clock ticking on the final days of 2017, we look ahead with bold predictions for the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox from Phil Perry, A. Sherrod Blakely, Joe Haggerty and Evan Drellich.
PATRIOTS WILL SPEND A FIRST-ROUND PICK ON A QUARTERBACK
PHIL PERRY: The time crunch is on. As well as Tom Brady has played, it's time for the Patriots to get cooking on The future. Again. The draft is eminently unpredictable, and there's a chance someone they love falls into their laps on Day 2. But the best way to ensure that they come away with their top option is to get aggressive. Take him in the first round before anyone else has a chance to steal him. The trend these days is to trade up (way up, in some cases) for perceived top-tier passers. Would the Patriots be lured into doing the same? Impossible to say. Even they might not know for sure until the night of. But it's safe to assume that if Bill Belichick was willing to spend a second-rounder on a quarterback in 2014 when Brady was looking at his 37-year-old season, he'd consider extending a little further when Brady is looking at 41. It all depends on if there's anyone worth extending for. That makes the draft prep work done by people like director of player personnel Nick Caserio and college scouting director Monti Ossenfort as important as its ever been. The future of the franchise depends on it.
CELTICS JASON TATUM WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
A. SHERROD BLAKELY: There were questions about how much Jayson Tatum would play this season. Now? The 6-foot-8 rookie can’t come out of games most nights because of his impact at both ends of the floor. He displays the kind of consistency you seldom see from a first-year player let alone a 19-year-old. That’s why I predict Tatum will emerge as this season’s Rookie of the Year winner. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons seems to be a runaway winner for this, I know. But there are factors that might make Tatum a more attractive selection than Simmons, who was instrumental in Philadelphia ending November with a 12-7 record. In December, the Sixers opened with seven losses in their first nine games. And those struggles came before Philadelphia ends the month with five road games. Throw in Tatum’s strong play, the Celtics’ success and the fact that voters want winners (see last year’s rookie of the Year, Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon), no one should be shocked if Tatum rallies in the second half of the season and takes home the rookie of the year award.
BRUINS RE-SIGN ZDENO CHARA, WHO PASSES CAPTAINCY TO PATRICE BERGERON
JOE HAGGERTY: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, 40, now in the last year of his deal, will re-sign on a short-term contract. That’s expected, so it’s not really the bold part, but in sticking around Boston for another season or two the 41-year-old Bruins defenseman will also opt to pass on the Bruins captaincy to Patrice Bergeron. Clearly, Chara will remain a leader on the Bruins and is a no-doubter as a future Hall of Fame defenseman, but he’s also no longer an in-his-prime, play-in-every-situation player as Bergeron is at 32. Bergeron has basically been a second captain on the Bruins for the past handful of years anyway, so giving him a run with the "C" just feels like the right and proper thing to do. It would also be a truly selfless, team-centered decision by Chara when he wasn’t originally expected to be sticking around with the Bruins past 40 when he signed his last contract.
RED SOX REACH THE ALCS
EVAN DRELLICH: The American League’s outlook is as daunting as ever. But the East should be a two-team race, between the Sox and the Yankees. The West is beefing up with Shohei Ohtani’s addition in Anaheim, and we know the Astros and Indians are to be reckoned with. Here’s betting that improvement from the big bat the Red Sox do eventually land (cough, J.D. Martinez, cough), plus rebounds from the lineup already in place, will combine with the team's experience of the past two years and the improved vibes new manager Alex Cora puts in place for a positive outcome: the Sox will make it out of the first round. Whether they’re good enough to actually win the ALCS? Check back later.