The Boston Celtics are gearing up towards a much anticipated 2018-2019 season. The preseason is finally getting underway, and I think there is a lot to look for prior to the start of meaningful games. They will play a total of four games, two against the Charlotte Hornets, and two against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Neither team should be a real threat, as both are in a rebuilding process, so it will be nice for the Celtics to be able to play their game and not have to worry about either team noticing any strengths or weaknesses that could come back to bite them down the road.
Perhaps the most obvious thing to keep an eye on is the health of both Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. The two of them claim to be 100%, but let’s see if Brad Stevens is reluctant to use them early on and attempts to let them ease into things. Of course, you do not want to use your star players to a great extent in the preseason anyways, but it would still be nice to see them get acclimated and to get their feet wet. It is imperative that they have at least some in-game action before they are faced with real up-to-speed competition.
Another interesting dynamic that will be nice to see is how Stevens manages the rotations; especially in the first half of all four of these games, since both the starters and role players will be available. This is really the first time that the entire roster is healthy and ready to go, so it is tough to predict exactly how much playing time each individual will get. Now that Hayward is back, will Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum still be in the starting lineup? With Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, and Daniel Theis all coming off the bench, Stevens will have some tough decisions to make. I would definitely expect the starting lineup in game one to be Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford. In games against a couple of big men, Stevens may elect to insert Aron Baynes into the starting lineup, in which case he would take out either Brown or Tatum.
Defense has been the Celtics identity since the first day Brad Stevens got to Boston, and that really came full circle last season even without their two stars. One could argue that is the main reason the Celtics went on such a remarkable run to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. In 2018-2019, I would not expect to see any dip in the defense’s production, I think they will still be at the very top of the league. However, the one difference this year is going to show in the offense. We saw improvements last year, but this is going to look like a whole new team offensively. They essentially have four players who can create their own shot in Irving, Hayward, Tatum, and Brown. Outside of those guys, the team moves the ball around well and just about everyone can knock down open shots from behind the arch. It is going to be fun to see just what exactly the offense can do this year with a healthy roster.
But a big, somewhat unfair question has loomed over the Celtics from the start of last year before they had even accomplished/proven anything yet. Can the Boston Celtics dethrone the Golden State Warriors? No one can actually answer that, but it definitely will be a tough task. It should not be expected, but they are absolutely built the best to do the job. It also helps that the Eastern Conference is about as weak as it has ever been, which gives Boston a clear path to the NBA Finals. The only possible way they could take down Golden State would be if both their offense and defense fire on all cylinders. Although running Golden State’s shooters off of the three-point line and holding them below 100 points seems like the recipe for victory, the Warriors can play stellar defense as well. Not to mention, even against great defense they can still hit shots and find open cutters. However, if Boston can match the Warriors offense by shooting well themselves, their defense should be enough. Either way, it is going to be a very intriguing year for the Boston Celtics, and it all starts now.