NBA: Why the Celtics will compete for a title this June

The Celtics had such an impressive 2016-17 campaign finishing the regular season at the top of the Eastern Conference with a record of 53-29. They hadn’t won that many regular season games since the 2010-11 season when they finished 56-26.

Boston then went on to the playoffs as the 1 seed, and they defeated the Bulls 4-2 in round 1. Next, they defeated the Wizards 4-3 in the Conference semi-finals.

They got through those first two teams, but then they got to the Conference Finals and hit a brick wall. They ran into LeBron James and the Cavaliers and ended up getting beat in 5 games to get bounced out of the playoffs.

Many went into the offseason thinking what was going to happen. The Celtics had such a good season and then fell short in the Conference Finals and the Cavs made it very clear that they were still the best team in the East. The Celtics realized that they needed to make some moves.

The Offseason

On July 4th, just four days into the NBA free agency, Gordon Hayward announced that he would be joining the Celtics. This was the kind of splash the Celtics needed get momentum going into the next season to try to edge out Cleveland. Then, out of nowhere, Danny Ainge went and traded for Kyrie Irving.

This was the biggest trade of the offseason, and it brought another superstar to Boston. At the cost of Irving, the Celtics lost their leading scorer in Isaiah Thomas and a key player in Jae Crowder.

Young Talent Takes Over

In game 1 of this NBA season, the Celtics traveled to Cleveland to play what could be another Eastern Conference Finals matchup. Just a little over 5 minutes into the game, Gordon Hayward fractured his ankle and was claimed to be out for the season. Many thought this was it for the Celtics for this season. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were going to have to fill the shoes of an All-Star and help the Celtics compete for a title.

Jalen Brown is having a breakout sophomore season averaging 15 PPG and 6RPG, and Jayson Tatum is averaging 14 PPG and 6 RPG. To add along to the rookie Tatum’s success, he is also leading the NBA in 3-point percentage at 50%. Brown is averaging 31.4 minutes per game, and Tatum is averaging 30.5 which is 5th most among rookies.

At the time, giving up Isiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and a high protected lottery pick seems like a lot, and many were questioning would it be worth it. Kyrie Irving is now showing everybody that he is clearly worth it as a leader of this team. An MVP caliber season thus far, Kyrie is averaging 24 PPG and 5 APG.

While the numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, Kyrie is truly carrying this Celtics team who holds the best record in the East at 23-6. The new “King of the 4th quarter” is here in Boston.

The success to this season thus far has nothing to do with any single players performance. This has truly been a team effort and it’s hard to not say they are doing this for Hayward.

Success is a Team Effort

Brad Stevens is earning high praise for the amount of success that they have had. It would be hard to believe that any other coach is in the conversation for Coach of the Year at this point.

Players like Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier are all playing their roles to perfection. Getting rid of Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris is not looking very bad at this point too. Morris is averaging 13 PPG and 5.5 RPG, and he isn’t even always in the starting rotation. Horford is somebody they needed this season to play well and he is averaging 14 PPG, 8 RPG, and 5 APG.

The Cavs went on a 13-game winning streak after their first month struggles. All of the signs show Cleveland returning for a 4th straight finals appearance, but sometimes things just don’t go as advertised.

The Celtics are hungry. They are tired of coming up short and letting the Cavs run the Eastern Conference. You can expect a hungry Kyrie Irving come playoffs, a mastermind in Brad Stevens, and a very solid core wanting to prove they belong in the Finals.

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