The Boston Celtics open their 2015-16 campaign as they look to return to the playoffs for the second straight year. Although the Celtics were swept by the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of playoffs, they managed to end the regular season on a high.
After acquiring Isaiah Thomas and other key rotation players at the trade deadline, the team went on a remarkable run that had them landing the second-best, post-all star break record in the Eastern Conference. Lacking a star player, much of the success this team has had is due to the pace and space system employed by its talented coach, Brad Stevens. Stevens has done remarkably well at getting the most out of his players’ strengths.
Currently, ESPN forecasts the Celtics to end the season with a 40-42 record — exactly the same numbers they posted last year. The inability to acquire a star player and the anticipated improvement of the Eastern Conference do not bode well for this team. However, it is important to note that they not only retained almost all of their players from last season, but they also added key veterans and rookies that will give them dimensions they previously lacked. They picked up savvy veteran big men in David Lee and Amir Johnson. Together, they should give the Celtic frontcourt a stronger presence in the paint.
They drafted Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey, and RJ Hunter this past June. Although none of them may make a significant impact this season, they showed flashes of competence throughout summer league and preseason play. They should at the very least give the Celtics more versatility by providing skills they are currently lacking — particularly shot-blocking and outside shooting from Mickey and Hunter respectively. With young players like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Kelly Olynyk getting another offseason under their belts, it is hard to not picture this team improving upon last season’s success.
Looking back, it is interesting to note that ESPN prognosticators had predicted the Celtics winning just 30 games prior to last year — a mark 10 wins fewer than what they would actually accrue. Nobody, including the experts, thought that the team would come anywhere near sniffing the postseason, let alone rise up to snatch the seventh seed. Who says they can’t shock us again? Are they going to rise to the top of the NBA and challenge the likes of the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Spurs for basketball hegemony? Probably not, but it isn’t unreasonable to believe that they can make a significant impact on the NBA landscape and blossom into a team that the rest of the NBA is forced to reckon with.