By Kyle Taylor, columnist
With the NBA season underway, basketball fans can rejoice and look forward to a long season where many questions will be answered. Will the Warriors repeat as champions? Will LeBron James reclaim his throne as king? Does Kobe Bryant have another 82 games in the tank? The most important question for any true Celtics fan will be: how can the rest of the league stop the Celtics from winning 55 games this season?
You read that correctly. If this year’s Boston Celtics take advantage of their situation under talented coach Brad Stevens, they have all the necessary tools to be a dominant force in the Eastern Conference. Coming off of a surprising 40-win season following the huge losses of point guard Rajon Rondo and forward Jeff Green, the Celtics can really show the league what they have to offer after their productive offseason. When you look at the pieces they have put together – the Celtics are in the primary position to skyrocket in the standings.
My friends joke that the Celtics can’t win since they lack a big-time player, but I believe it is a collective effort that makes the team so strong. The Celtics actually benefit by not relying on one player to perform – unlike James Harden’s team, the Houston Rockets, which is struggling so far this season. Houston’s performance this season is a testament to what happens when your star player fails to deliver.
The Celtics have great depth, which leads to versatility. While I believe that both Jared Sullinger and the newly acquired Amir Johnson would be better in the starting position than Tyler Zeller and David Lee, the veteran All Star in Lee gives the Celtics a lot of depth in their front court.
The backcourt runs deep as well. Isaiah Thomas finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting (behind Lou Williams) and has proven time and time again to be an offensive powerhouse. Last season, he was fourth in total points scored in the fourth quarter. The Celtics have premier defenders in Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart and good prospects in R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier. Because of the team’s depth, a bad game for an individual will only leave room for another player to rise to the occasion.
Most importantly, the Celtics are in the Eastern Conference, where even our Huskies could probably make the eighth seed. They are in the weakest division in the league with the Nets, Raptors, Knicks and Sixers. Playing 16 games against these teams is a blessing, and the Celtics should be able to easily win at least 13 of them. Once they sweep the series between the Nets and the Sixers, all they have to do is win five out of the eight games between the Knicks and the Raptors. The real issue will be playing the Cavaliers, Bulls and Heat, but thankfully they will only go up against those teams three times this year.
I am confident in the Celtics’ ability to win two or more games against every other team in the Eastern Conference and do fairly well in the Western Conference. The Celtics had seven overtime games last season and 14 games decided by three points or fewer, so they have the ability to swing each of those games either way with determination.
The Celtics will not win the 2016 NBA Championship. While I am optimistic about the Celtics’ season, I am not delusional. I only recognize that, based off of last season, the Celtics can certainly take advantage of their fortunate position in the depleted Eastern Conference. With a good coach like Stevens, a promising group of young players and a favorable schedule, the Celtics have an opportunity to rise to the top.
Only time will tell how the Celtics pan out this season, and I will hold to my prediction. In any event, I will enjoy following the Celtics until the season ends.
In the words of former Celtic Kevin Garnett, “Anything is possible.”
– Kyle Taylor can be reached at Sports@HuntNewsNU.com.