Friday, September 11, 2015

Contributing to ESPN Boston's 2015 Celtics Summer Forecast (Part 3)

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 third and final round of questions, with my answers quoted from the site (click on the links for the full articles and other writers' prognostications):

What's the biggest reason for optimism for the season ahead?

(The final 36 games of last year): "I can't stress this enough: Beginning with a victory over the Knicks on Feb. 3, the Celtics finished last season 24-12. Boston had the sixth-best record in the entire NBA in that time, second only to Cleveland in the East. For nearly half of last season, the Celtics weren't just good, they were borderline elite. Is it possible for the 2015-16 C's to maintain that level of success? Consider this: What if they even build on it?"

And the biggest reason for pessimism?

(What if the magic doesn't happen again?): "After their stunning run to end the 2014-15 regular season, it's quite possible the expectations are too high for this year's club. There's no good explanation for how a team devoid of stars was able to play .667 ball over its final 36 games. After a few small offseason improvements, we're counting on the 2015-16 Celtics to win more than they lose. Is that realistic? The talent level still doesn't add up. What if minor changes to the ingredients are all it takes to prevent Stevens from concocting the same magical potion for success?"

What will be the biggest story of training camp?

(Can Perry Jones make the team?): "At the beginning of last season, Jones averaged 22.7 points over a three-game stretch before suffering a knee injury in the Thunder's fifth contest of the season. By the time he was healthy, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were back in the lineup and Jones' window of opportunity was gone. The way things stand, Jones appears likely to be cut before opening night when the C's must trim their roster to 15 players. But if he shows flashes of his potential in camp, could Jones elicit a trade of some sort to clear room for him?"

Will Danny Ainge make a big mid-season trade in 2015-16?

(No): "There are three reasons why I don't envision a major trade mid-season: First, I expect the Celtics to be pretty good, with team chemistry being a significant factor. Ainge won't be afraid to break it up to play for the future, but he won't be intent on doing so either. Which leads to my second point: The Celtics appear to be putting all of their eggs in the tons-of-cap-room-next-summer basket. Boston is only committed to five players beyond this season and Ainge will want to hang on to that flexibility. Finally, big in-season trades just don't happen that often."

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