Friday, August 21, 2015

Contributing to ESPN Boston's 2015 Celtics Summer Forecast (Part 1)

Once again, I've been asked to contribute to ESPN Boston's Celtics Summer Forecast, in which a panel of bloggers make various predictions about the upcoming season.  Here's the first round of questions, with my answers quoted from the site (click on the links for the full articles and other writers' prognostications):

What will the Celtics record be in 2015-16?

(45-37): "After the roster shake-ups settled down and [Brad] Stevens finally had a consistent crew to work with, the 2014-15 Celtics finished 24-12 in their final 36 games. That's 44 percent of the season during which Boston was a very good ballclub. It doesn't seem reasonable to expect the 2015-16 squad to play at that level, but, in theory, this year's team is better than last year's squad."

How will the season end?

(2nd round of playoffs): "If I'm saying deep postseason run, all that really means is the Celtics can win a playoff series. Why not? Last year's squad would have had a decent shot in the first round against every team but Cleveland -- Boston even played the Cavs closer than the top-seeded Hawks did. Who in the East besides Cleveland really scares you in 2015-16? Chicago, Toronto, Washington or Miami? Atlanta will regress. If the C's can outplay a couple of those clubs, they'll be in the hunt for home-court advantage in Round 1."

The Celtics need to trim a roster spot before the season starts, who's most likely to be gone: Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger or Evan Turner? 

(Turner): "Jones is a low-risk, high-reward player with a rookie contract, so it makes sense for Boston to hang on to him. Between Turner and Sullinger, I'll guess [Danny] Ainge's pride/ego makes Turner more likely to be dealt. Sully is a born-and-raised Celtics draft pick with oodles of potential despite his issues. Turner is a guy Ainge grabbed off the scrap heap for nothing but turned into something. Giving up on Sullinger feels like a loss for Ainge; getting anything of value in return for Turner is a clear win."

If Sullinger starts at power forward, who will start at center: Amir Johnson, David Lee, Kelly Olynyk or Tyler Zeller?

(Johnson): "Given what the Warriors did in winning a title and the way Stevens likes to play, I'm not convinced anyone will start at center for the Celtics. But since somebody has to jump the opening tip, I'll say Johnson. He was the team's premier free-agent signing and is Boston's second highest-paid player after Lee, who's already used to a bench role. Johnson started 72 games in each of the past two seasons for the Raptors. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a Lee-Johnson frontcourt, though. And regardless of who starts opening night, I expect Stevens to try out about a million different lineups over the course of the season."

Will Isaiah Thomas be a starter this year?

(No): "It just makes too much sense to keep Isaiah on the bench -- he's perfectly suited for the Vinnie Johnson "microwave" role. [Avery] Bradley is the longest tenured Celtic; [Marcus] Smart is the future of the franchise. Both are established starters at this point. The only reason to bump one for Thomas is to placate his ego, but as long as Thomas has got the ball in crunch time that appears to be a non-issue."

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