TVTropes defines “Artifact Title” as “A series title that made perfect sense when it began, but after a number of changes to the premise, no longer makes sense to people who don’t go back to the beginning.”
Asking if the Celtics are good is an artifact title.
Let’s have one thing understood; if they stay healthy, the Boston Celtics can win the NBA championship in 2019. Last year’s injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving might just be the catalyst that gave them the bench depth that was otherwise a matter of question.
But hey, just because we all know how this ends—and if the Lakers defy all expectations and somehow manage to do the vanishingly unlikely, we could be headed for the greatest NBA Finals of all time, but even if it’s just Golden State again…man, the mind boggles at the possibilities.
2017-18 record: 55-27
2018-19 over/under: 57.5
Name me one other coach in the league besides Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr who could keep this roster from exploding into petty infighting, complaining about minutes, and otherwise self-destructing.
If you named Brad Stevens, give yourself a cookie. A Girl Scout Thin Mint, because you deserve it.
Jayson Tatum emerged as a star in his rookie year playing minutes that were supposed to be Hayward’s. Terry Rozier, before his Game 7 meltdown in the Eastern Conference Finals, had a lot of people cracking jokes about whose top-3 draft pick he could get for Irving. Marcus Smart remains one of the peskiest defenders in the league, and if he ever learns to shoot consistently, he’s going to be a massive value play with his 4-year/$52 million deal he signed in the offseason.
Jaylen Brown is a year older and will be a year better. Daniel Theis had a 16.1 PER last year and managed .178 WS/48 and a 1.1 VORP, numbers that scream “situational bench guy you see on great teams.” (and, oh by the way, Theis shot 74.1 percent in the restricted area, making him a guy whose ceiling is basically Steven Adams.)
Al Horford is back, the most underrated player in the league.
Pretty much the entire roster is “hey, the gang’s all here”, and this is a team that had injuries to two All-Stars, won 55 games, and came one LeBron away from a trip to the ultimate stage.
Brad Stevens will find a way. Stevens has a plan. Stevens always has a plan.
Deeper Than Boston Harbor
Looking at the depth chart for this team, you start to think things like “the bench unit could probably win 45 games in the Eastern Conference.”
If Hayward, Horford, Irving, Brown, and Tatum all got hurt, they’d run out Rozier, Smart, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, and whichever warm body they could fish out of the G-League…and yes, that is a 45-win team in the East. Not much more than that won 55 last year.
If anything, having this much depth might be the only thing keeping Boston from making the kind of run like the 2016 Warriors made in the regular season. Stevens will have the luxury of keeping his starters fresh for the playoffs through most of the year, and they might just punt a few games purely because of that.
Then again, in the NBA 2K with fatigue and injuries turned off world, the Celtics are a 70-win team, so…split the difference between 70 and 45 and you get Boston’s 57.5 over/under.
Without Hayward, and before Irving went down, this team looked guaranteed to win 60 last year. It didn’t turn out that way because they ran so much youth out for so much of the stretch run, but if Hayward and Irving stay anything remotely close to healthy, the Celtics will be hosting Game 1 of the Finals in Boston.
This is the best team in the East, bar none. This is a team that can take the Warriors 7 and win at home.
This…is a team that can win the title. Of course they’re good. Over. Way over.