Boston Celtics Preseason Prediction Check In


Before the start of the NBA season, I made some predictions about how the Boston Celtics season would play out.  As we enter the All-Star break, it feels like a perfect time to do a status check.

Photo courtesy of  USA Today
The Celtics Will Win 50+ Games

After Thursday night's thrilling win against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics now sit at 38-16, well on track for a 50+ win season.  If I had any guts, I would have put money on this at the beginning of the season.  When the preseason win projections came out and listed the Celtics at 48.5, the over felt like a lock.  Not exactly a hot take, but it's how I felt. 

The Celtics haven't won fewer than 48 games since Brad Stevens' second year as head coach.  They won 53 games in 2016-17, and this team has more talent than that one did. 
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I sort of see the logic of 48.5.  Last year's team won 49 games, and many felt that the loss of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford would set this team back.  However, one of Boston's biggest issues last year was its effort and energy, and the lack of it on many nights.  That's something that ate at Stevens in the offseason.

One thing you could never question from a Stevens-led team before was its effort.  In his first few seasons, he never had the most talented roster, but he got the most out of them.  They played hard every night during the regular season, which not every team does, and it made them very likable; even if at the end of the day we knew a championship wasn't really in the cards. 

So, after the way last season transpired, you knew Stevens wasn't going to let that happen again.  From the very beginning of the season, he said his goal for this team was to be well-liked by fans.  He knew how the fanbase felt about last year's squad.  Knowing that was Stevens' attitude going into the season, I knew that this team would be successful. 

Sure, they lost some pieces, but they still had enough talent.  Combine that with Stevens determination to get the team playing hard again and 50 wins felt like a given; even before Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown emerged as stars. 

Status: Nailed it

Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum Will Average 20+ PPG

I almost went full "green-teamer" and predicted that three Celtics would average 20+ points, thinking that Gordon Hayward may join the mix.  Now, there's a very real possibility that the team has three 20 point scorers, and an outside shot at four.

This doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is for the Celtics.  They haven't had two 20+ point scorers since the 2002-03 season when Paul Pierce averaged 25.9 and the original Walker, Antoine, averaged 201.  On that team?  Tony Delk was third on the team in scoring at just 9.8 points per game.

This team has much more potency.  Boston hasn't a had team with this much scoring prowess in a very long time, and I'm not sure they've ever had it.  They legitimately have four guys who are capable of putting up 25 points or more on any given night.  In the recent "Big 3" era, they had Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, but no real fourth threat.

Currently, Tatum is leading the way at 22.4, followed by Walker at 21.8.  Brown sits at 20.2 and Hayward is just on the outside at 17.3.

Tatum is a stone cold lock to finish above the 20 point threshold, and I'd say at this point Walker is - to steal a phrase from the NFL - "more probable than not".  Tatum is slowly becoming the alpha on this team, but Walker can still be Boston's closer on any given night, and scores in bunches.

The best part about Tatum's ascension, is that Walker is allowing it to happen, and enjoying it.  He's not clamoring for more touches.  He's happy to defer to Tatum, and let him do his thing when he's got it going.

Status: Nailed it

Marcus Smart Will Set a Career High in 3 Point Shooting

This means Smart must shoot at least 36.5% or higher from three.  Not exactly shooting the lights out, but this is where we are at.  For perspective, Hayward leads the team at 39.2%, while Tatum, Brown and Walker are all shooting at least 38%.

At the moment, Smart sits at 35.3%, so he's got some work to do.  He needs to raise it by a full percentage point, and then some.  Not easy to do when you've played 43 games, and have less than 30 remaining.  He's currently averaging a career high in makes per game, but he's also averaging a career high in attempts.

He's never been afraid to shoot, and that remains the case today.  He continues to be streaky.  He was shooting a little over 33% at the end of November.  Smart had a stretch where he hit 17 of 33, followed by a run of 5 for 29.

Smart then missed a stretch of 8 games in December, and when he returned, was a bit rusty.  He returned on December 28th, and over the next six games shot just 24% from three (9 for 37).  He rediscovered his stroke over the next six games, where he shot 50%, making 24 of 48 threes; including an 11 for 22 performance against Phoenix.

Shop Boston Celtics Gear at Fanatics.comHe shot 38% for the month of January, and is currently shooting 37% in February.  Assuming he maintains his average of 6 attempts per game over the final 28 games, he'll have to shoot a little over 38.5% in order to set a new career high.  Not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Side note: Are we done with the Smart slander, now?  If you don't understand this man's value to this team by now, you're either not watching the games or too stubborn to admit you were wrong.

Status: TBD

Robert Williams Will Block 100 Shots

I should have put the disclaimer "if healthy" on here.  Obviously, this threshold is out of reach at this point.  Williams has appeared in just 19 of Boston's 54 games, sidelined by a hip injury since early December.

He was trending well, showcasing his instincts and shot blocking prowess in the early stages of the season.  Williams blocked at least one shot in seven of his first eight games, including a six-block outburst against the San Antonio Spurs in early November. 

Before he was injured, he had recorded 21 blocks in 19 games, a per game average of 1.1.  That mark would be top 25 in the league currently, and tied with guys like Steven Adams and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Though not quite a 100 block pace, his 1.1 average over an 82 game span would rack up about 90 blocks.  So, had he been able to stay on the floor, and mixed in a couple of three, or four block games, it's entirely plausible to think he would have eclipsed 100 blocks.

But he didn't, and for that I was wrong.

Status: Promising start, but ultimate fail

Carsen Edwards Scores 30 Points In a Game 

Yikes.  A big swing and a miss here, unless something drastically changes over the final couple of months.  Outside of major injuries, Edwards will not see significant minutes the rest of the year.

I, much like the Celtics, had high hopes for Edwards this year.  Having watched him on occasion while he was at Purdue, and then seeing some of his performances in the preseason, I bought into the hype.  Unfortunately, things haven't worked out.

Boston was hoping he could be a guy who could come off the bench and get 6-8 points a night.  Knock down a couple of threes, and add a little bit of punch to the second unit.  On occasion, maybe he'd get hot and spring for 15-20.  However, he's struggled at this level.

He hasn't been able to get into any sort of offensive rhythm.  He was given opportunities early in the season, he just couldn't get his shots to fall.  Edwards had an 18-point outburst against the Wizards in November, but has managed just 78 points combined in his other 32 appearances.  He's shooting just 32% overall, and 30% from three-point range.

He did manage to score 41 points in a game for the Maine Red Claws.  Any bonus points for that?  No?  Okay, I'll take the L on this one.

Status: Epic fail

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Boston Celtics Preseason Prediction Check In
Boston Celtics Preseason Prediction Check In
Boston Sports Syndicate
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