With the preseason starting this week for the NBA, there is a lot of hype about what to expect this season. The Celtics will start the preseason off with a game on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, hoping to kick off the 2018-19 season with a strong preseason showing.
There are high hopes for the team since both All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward will be back to compete this season. Hayward, who signed a four-year contract with the Celtics, was injured early last year in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This resulted in the inability to play for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
Hayward’s injury isn’t expected to hurt his overall performance long term, but it may lead to a slow start to the season. He has announced that he intends on playing in the preseason and hopes to shake off any rust in the process.
Irving also missed the playoffs after having to get surgery on his knee. Even without the two best players, the Celtics stepped up to the occasion. Rookie power forward Jayson Tatum and second-year shooting guard Jaylen Brown stepped into their roles early to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, in which they took the Cavaliers to game seven before losing an exhilarating series. This feat is extremely promising because it proves that the Celtics are a well-oiled machine, even with injuries to key players. We saw a glimpse of what players are capable of, and we saw some of the young players play on a near all-star level.
It is very possible for this year’s Celtics to have four all-stars as well. Last season both Irving and center Al Horford made the cut, with Hayward making it two seasons ago for the Utah Jazz. If these players’ seasons go as predicted, it is certainly possible for them to make the cut again. Another possible all-star from the Celtic’s is Tatum. In last year’s playoffs we saw the rookie put up all-star worthy numbers. Averaging 18.5 points per game in the playoffs, compared to his regular season average of 13.9 points per game, Tatum helped Horford lead the charge every minute he was on the hardwood. It is quite possible that he could be a leading scorer this season for the Celtics behind Irving.
With a healthy team and strong line up, the Celtics are predicted to make it far into the playoffs. However, even without Lebron James in the Eastern Conference, their path might be harder than it looks. Teams like the young and promising Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors pose a threat in the Eastern Conference. With recently acquired small forward Kawhi Leonard, it is difficult to guess how well the Raptors will function.
On the west coast, super teams like the Houston Rockets or last season’s champions, the Golden State Warriors, are looking for an easy win over the East. Much like last year when the Warriors stole the show and humiliated the Cavaliers with a 4-0 series during the NBA Finals. Golden State may be even stronger this year as well with newly signed center DeMarcus Cousins, who surprisingly left the New Orleans Pelicans.
This NBA season should be an interesting one, that may end with the Celtics hanging up their 18th Championship banner. However, the season championship is a long way away, and as is with every season, the only thing to do is sit back and watch.