Many expect the Boston Celtics to win the East in the 2018-19 NBA season. After all, Boston is coming off a season in which they made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without star players Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Strangely enough, though, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton believes that the Celtics are going to finish second place in the East once again. Let’s discuss Pelton’s win projections along if Boston can exceed them.
ESPN Projections Put Boston at 53 Wins
Last season, the Celtics finished runner-up in the East during the regular season. They notched 55 wins, which was only two off the Toronto Raptors, who led the conference with 57 wins.
Rather than having Boston improve on their total from last season, Pelton has them falling to 53 wins. He notes that despite getting 55 victories during the 2017-18 campaign, the Celtics had a point differential that was closer to a 51-win team.
Another reason why Pelton doesn’t have lofty predictions for Boston is because he has a milder expectations for Hayward and Al Horford heading into this season.
Assuming these projections are correct, Boston would face the Washington Wizards in the first round of the 2019 Playoffs. Washington is projected to take seventh in the East.
Overall, the Celtics are expected to have the league’s fourth-best record, trailing only the Golden State Warriors (58.6 wins), Toronto (55.1 wins), and Utah jazz (53.4 wins).
Draft Pick at Stake for Celtics in 2019
The Boston Celtics will be paying close attention to how the Sacramento Kings perform this season. After all, a draft pick is at stake based on a 2017 Boston/Philadelphia trade.
The Kings are projected to finish with the NBA’s worst record at 25.4 wins, according to Pelton. If this happens, then Sacramento would be the favorite to earn the top overall pick. The number one selection would then go to the Philadelphia 76ers based on the trade’s conditions.
In this event, Boston would receive the Sixers’ first-round pick, which only projects to be 23rd overall. The Los Angeles Clippers (pick is protected 1-14, Clippers expected to finish 10th) and the Memphis Grizzlies (pick is protected 1-8, Grizzlies expected to finish 8th) aren’t projected to give their picks up to Boston this season either.
Will Boston Exceed Projections?
If the Celtics don’t like Pelton’s projections, then they can simply play well and exceed them. It’s perfectly within Boston’s capabilities to win more than 53 games, especially with a loaded roster.
Aside from Irving, Horford, and Hayward, the team also returns Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris. Considering that they won 55 games without Hayward for the entire season and Irving for some of the year, many expect them to improve.
The Celtics organization also has to worry about how Sacramento will finish up the season. If the Kings play bad enough to transfer the pick to Philadelphia, then Boston will certainly be disappointed.
In any case, these are merely projections and there’s a lot of basketball to be played next season. That said, it’s very likely that Pelton’s computerized predictions won’t be spot on.