Following a 53-win season and a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, ESPN has projected that the Boston Celtics will win fewer games in the 2017-18 season.
Despite adding a star player like Gordon Hayward, ESPN’s 2017-18 NBA projections released earlier this month has the team regressing a little bit. In fact, according to ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM), the Boston Celtics are projected to win four fewer games.
Now this was an early look and the projections still has the team at the top of the Eastern Conference, but is the 49.4 projected win total as much as Celtics fans should expect from a team much better on paper?
Let’s take a look at what ESPN had to say:
"“After they won 53 games to claim the top seed in the East last season, why aren’t the Celtics projected to improve with the addition of Hayward? First, they outperformed their plus-2.6-point differential, which is more typical of a 48-win team. Boston also benefited from opponents shooting 33.2 percent from 3-point range, the league’s second-lowest mark. Both categories tend to regress heavily to the mean, so the Celtics would have been in for a steeper decline had they not added Hayward. Still, given that Boston didn’t have that same good fortune in the playoffs, the Celtics should be improved when it really counts.”"
In other words, the projections has the team showing a better effort once the playoffs roll around. Also, taking into account that the East is still weak, the regular season may not matter as much for the Celtics.
Metrics aside, I believe the collection of players the Boston Celtics will enter the season with will have something to prove. They have lost key players like Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, but have upgraded in those positions. I just don’t see this team taking a step back in the regular season for the following three reasons.
Gordon Hayward will strive
The Boston Celtics landed this season’s top free agent in Gordon Hayward and he won’t disappoint. Besides providing the scoring the team desperately needed, Hayward will complement the games of both Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford.
There will be an adjustment period, but playing under college head coach Brad Stevens will give Hayward some familiarity heading in. I have to believe Stevens will find ways to get the best out of the All-Star forward. If and when he strives, the entire team will get that much better.
Younger players like Jaylen Brown and 2017 No.3 overall pick Jayson Tatum will not have pressure to produce as they would without Hayward.
Isaiah Thomas in a contract year
With a healthy hip and a max deal looming in the shadows, All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas will be out to prove that he is worth every dollar the brinks truck brings his way.
There is no guarantee his next contract will land him in Boston for years to come, which is why he has to play big (no pun intended) earn that max deal from some other team, if not the Celtics.
Combined with rumors of a Kyrie Irving deal, IT will also aim to prove his value to the team and that he is the better option. Thomas may not score in the high 20s like he did last season, but his values could improve in other areas.
While limited defensively, I could see Isaiah Thomas becoming more of a distributer. With Hayward on the wing, teams will have less of an opportunity to double team the 5-foot-9 guard.
Overall, he will have a solid season and should benefit the most from the addition of Gordon Hayward.
A tougher team
More from Chowder and Champions
- 3 Midseason Chaim Bloom Decisions That Have Killed the 2023 Red Sox
- 10 Patriots Who Will Be Cut by Tuesday’s Roster Deadline
- MLB Screws Red Sox Fans With Broadcast for Mookie Betts Return
- 3 Most Underpaid Celtics Heading Into the 2023 Season
- Red Sox Continue Rollercoaster Season With Massive Win
The Celtics will still need another rim protector at some point. But, the additions of 2016 first-round pick Ante Zizic, veteran center Aron Baynes, German big man Daniel Theis and Marcus Morris should help.
Baynes and Morris definitely give the Boston Celtics that muscle they were lacking against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. With either Baynes or Zizic on the floor, Al Horford will be allowed to play more of the stretch forward. That will make him a more affective player and benefit the team as a whole.
Still, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have to make a move somewhere during the season to improve in that area. This is where a Jae Crowder deal could come into play at the NBA trade deadline.
In summary, the additions they made will be enough to get this team past 53 wins, certainly more than the projected 49.4 wins. They may even start off slow, or have a stretch in the middle of the season where they struggle, but by late February through the end of April, I see this team establishing themselves as possibly the best in the East.
With that being said, they should play well into June and make LeBron James earn his way to the NBA Finals unlike last season.