We’ve reached the point of the NBA season where overreactions are more common than pessimism amongst fanbases; some are drooling over a newly-drafted rookie, and others are looking ahead towards a Larry O’Brien trophy presentation in June. In the Celtics’ case, the Garden Faithful are anticipating another NBA Finals appearance after a tumultuous offseason. And why wouldn’t they? The starting lineup from the 2022 playoffs is still intact, new free agent addition Malcolm Brogdon adds depth to an already solid bench, and Jayson Tatum had another offseason of development. Nonetheless, this offseason contained more drama than a Shakespearean play; with a now suspended head coach and injuries to Robert Williams III and Danilo Gallinari, a once promising season has turned dire quickly.
Even with the spectacles that littered the Celtics’ summer, a strong core still exists. If anyone was bored enough to watch the preseason, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum picked up right where they left off in June, their chemistry is still off the charts. Additionally, I liked seeing Malcolm Brogdon leading the bench unit. With a backcourt that is composed of Derrick White, Brogdon and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, one of the biggest weaknesses of the 2021-–2022 Celtics is solved.
Continuing their dominant defensive gameplan wouldn’t hurt this season; the Celtics had a defensive rating of 107.71, good for being ranked No. 2 in the NBA. After their incredible midseason turnaround, the Celtics became a defensive Goliath with their notorious “switching” game plan that caused headaches across the league. As players like Tatum have begun to improve their defensive game, I wouldn’t be shocked if this is the best defense in the NBA.
As mentioned earlier, the suspension of Ime Udoka casts a dark cloud over this team to start the season. I’m sure that the distractions might create a slow start for this Boston squad, but I have no doubt that interim head coach Joe Mazulla will provide a continuity of Udoka’s basketball mindset. Sure, Mazulla hasn’t coached above the Division II level, but he’s been in the organization for three years and is known to have a high basketball IQ. I hope that Brown and Tatum have reached the point in their respective careers where they have a slight bit of individuality when it comes to coaching, so the coaching change won’t fully affect their games. With that in mind, there’s a chance that Mazulla’s savvy coaching style could bring a different look to the Celtics that would only benefit their title chances.
Speaking of the Larry O’Brien trophy, the Celtics have emerged as one of the favorites for the 2023 title, according to FanDuel. While I tend to stay pessimistic about this team, as they’ve broken my heart for most of my lifetime, I can envision the duck boats parading down Park Street next June. I believe that fans are taking too much stock in the Udoka suspension and are writing off this season before this team even steps onto the parquet. I truly dislike predicting a title for any Boston team due to my superstitions, but with the current composition of this roster and the potential of the Tatum-Brown duo, I see many celebrations for the Celtics in the near future.