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Vegas Win Total Projection: 35.5 (VegasInsider.com)
A very intriguing team, the Boston Celtics led by Brad Stevens, are a very deep and young team. They made some moves picking up David Lee and Amir Johnson, as well as drafting summer league standouts Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter. With Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Kelly Olynk, Tyler Zeller, Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, and Perry Jones, they have a lot of depth, youth, and a coach that really knows how to get the most out of guys. I think this team is on the rise and will continue on the path to the playoffs again. I don't anticipate them getting in the top 4, but wouldn't be surprised if they end up in 6th, 7th, or 8th in the east. Although they're young, they've shown lots of poise and confidence under pressure and I like what they've done this offseason to add veteran big-men. Overall, I think 40 wins is safe, I think 43 to 45 isn't out of the realm of possibility for this team.
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I think Isaiah Thomas will be a good pick this season. He'll be a heavy minutes producer and I'd expect to see him get close to 17 points and 6 assists per game based on the team he has around him. By the playoff time, Thomas was averaging close to 32 minutes per game and produced close to 20 points per game. Of course that was in the playoffs, but it gives you an idea of his upside. He's known for his vigorous offseason workouts and he continues to improve season by season. As he approaches his 5th year in the league, Thomas is surely going to be in the Celtics immediate and future plans, with lots of opportunities to play and create for his green and white.
David Lee is someone who has performed at a double-double caliber for a long time. Since moving to the Warriors, he continued a slow decline, as he was out of favor when Steve Kerr came in. Then this offseason, he was shipped off in a deal that sent Gerald Wallace the other direction. At age 32, Lee is still a productive bench player, but won't be a starter just because he was on a championship team. The Celtics will look for him to be a leader in the locker room, a guy Olynk, Sullinger, and other young guys can look to for advice and experience. I expect him to be a 7 to 8 point, 7 to 8 rebound, role player. A potential play in fantasy if Sullinger or Olynk is out, Lee is only worth a shot if he's given more minutes or you don't have the salary to buy a starting caliber player.
I think Marcus Smart, when healthy, is one of the most underrated players in the league. Now, will the Celtics use him a bunch when he's been off and on the court his entire career? I don't think so. But if he can get 2 or 3 months of solid run, I expect he'll gradually move up in minutes and produce big time. That's a lot of if's, but if those work out, he'll be a fantasy stud.
Another guy I think could work his way to being a great player would be R.J. Hunter. Drafted out of Georgia State, Hunter has the hunger, intensity, and drive on the court to become one of the best athletes and shooters in the game. He looked great in summer league when I got a chance to see him up close. Before the games, he was very consistent and always one of the first out on the court. He gave me an indication that he was a hard worker, someone who really was out to prove a lot. I wouldn't be surprised if he works himself into an immediate role player, possible starter if injuries occur.
The Celtics should be very formidable this season. I love Brad Stevens as a coach, I like their youth and veteran leaders, and I like the depth this team has. I think Vegas has their win/loss off by about 5 wins, I think they will win close to the same amount of games as last season (40). They have an underrated point guard in Isaiah Thomas, as well as some good, productive big men. Overall I expect this team to stand pat as far as offensive and defensive statistics, wins and losses should be close, and I expect to see them emerge as a team that'll put up a fight against anyone in the league. They may not be as skilled, as talented, but they will certainly play confidently and utilize their depth to their advantage.
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