Boston Celtics season preview: can they beat LeBron James?


Credit: Flickr user Michael Tipton

Kevin Wang previews the Boston Celtics’ upcoming season and how they stack up against the rest of the best.

Kevin Wang

L. L. W. L. L. That’s what the scoreboard looked like for the Boston Celtics during the Eastern Conference Finals of last year’s NBA Playoffs. LeBron James and co., whether it be on the Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat, have been dominating the flimsy East for seven straight years like an alley cat playing with a mouse. For the entirety of any Wayland student’s teenage years, James has made his way to and competed in the NBA Finals.

But with the undeniably most exciting offseason ever occurring this past summer, the state of the NBA has transformed. Teams across the league are now rumbling in anticipation to halt a fourth straight Finals featuring the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. The question is: are the Celtics one of those teams?

Teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves loaded up with star power to take a shot at the big bad Warriors. However, most of the shifting stars such as Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler departed the East and headed West. This could either lead to the easiest Finals path James will ever blaze through, or a chance for the Celtics to seize the day and finally thwart the King’s unrestricted stroll to the Finals.

In an explosive offseason for the history books with big headline after big headline, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was often times the one generating those dynamic news bites. The masterful GM never stops wheeling and dealing, and managed to collect star forward Gordon Hayward in free agency and trade for point guard sensation Kyrie Irving. However, Uncle Drew came at a price; the Cavaliers required MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas and a solid starter in Jae Crowder in return, and Ainge also eventually gave up the coveted 2018 Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick. Stalwart defender Avery Bradley was also sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for power forward Marcus Morris.

In fact, Ainge restructured the roster so much that only four Celtics are returning for the 2017-2018 season: center Al Horford, guard Marcus Smart, former No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown and guard Terry Rozier. New arrivals include Irving, Hayward, Morris and rookie No. 3. pick Jayson Tatum.

Can this team beat the Cavs? A starting lineup of Irving, Hayward, Brown, Morris and Horford with Smart and Tatum to lead the bench squad is pretty scary, but LeBron is never to be underestimated. Especially since Cavs general manager Koby Altman added former MVP Derrick Rose and LeBron’s old friend Dwyane Wade to the roster.

It is pretty clear that the Cavs and Celtics are quite a bit ahead of the pack, though. The backcourt tandems of the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors will continue to lead their teams to wins, but last year’s Eastern Conference number one and two seeds will simply overpower any other East squad with their overwhelming talent and shrewd strategies.

It seems we’re destined for another repeat matchup in the Conference Finals, but Celtics fans everywhere are praying for a different outcome; and in the chance that the magical happens, the Celtics will have the opportunity to finally unseat the lazing Warriors lounging atop their golden throne. To quote Boston legend Kevin Garnett, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”

Season Predictions:

Regular season record: 57-25

Last season was an incredible jump in terms of success for the Celtics, but it shouldn’t be seen as a fluke. With the Boston roster only getting stronger and Thomas’ return from injury projected in January impeding the Cavs’ success, the Celtics should be able to win plenty of games and lock up the one seed once again.

Playoffs: Lose in the NBA Finals

That’s right. We’re going to the promised land. This is the year the Celtics will rip the crown off of King James’ receding hairline and cause theorists everywhere to speculate on the inevitable decline of the robotic LeBron.

However, they won’t be able to make it past the Warriors’ overwhelming firepower, and will eventually crumble on the biggest stage after tiring out from a fierce series with the Cavs in the conference finals.

Games to Catch:

Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Tuesday, October 17, 8:00 PM on TNT
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio

It seems only fitting that with the ever-growing competition between the Celtics and Cavs, the season opener is a matchup between the two Eastern behemoths. Tune in to see the debut of the Celtics’ new stars and rookies facing the resident alpha.

Boston Celtics @ Philadelphia 76ers
Friday, October 20, 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia

Everyone expected rookie guard and No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz to end up in Boston, but Ainge bartered him away to Philly for the No. 3 pick (Tatum) and a future first rounder. Check in to see if Ainge was right.

Golden State Warriors @ Boston Celtics
Thursday, November 16, 8:00 PM on TNT
TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

The fresh-faced Celtics will take their first shot at defeating the NBA’s Goliath. This time around, David has added a valuable weapon in Irving, who has proven his efficacy against the Dubs.

Washington Wizards @ Boston Celtics
Monday, December 25, 5:30 PM on ABC
TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

The C’s and Wiz rivalry burned a brilliant hatred last season, but now that only four Celtics are returning and Thomas is in Cleveland, there might not be that same kind of special tension. Still, it’ll be the first contest between two of the stronger teams in the East, so you should catch the game nonetheless.