After overcoming a mediocre start to become the most dominant team in basketball, the Boston Celtics were one of the NBA‘s best stories last season. Led by a suffocating defense and two young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, but lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Because of their dominance in the second half of last season, the relative youth of the roster and a key offseason addition in Malcolm Brogdon, many fans and experts are predicting the Celtics to repeat as Eastern Conference champions — and possibly win the whole thing.
However, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck isn’t jumping to such hasty conclusions. In an interview with Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe, Grousbeck said that he doesn’t think that last season’s success should necessarily generate such lofty expectations for Boston.
“I loved being right there with them. It was thrilling. The other side of the coin is I think that we’ve now been overrated,” Grousbeck said, via Boston.com. “I think that performance was a bit overrated in the public mind, or my own mind, because I’m the one saying it. [We were] a finalist and two wins away from winning it, but when you look back, Brooklyn was a tough series, and then we had to go seven games [against the Bucks and Heat]. Then we lost [to Golden State]. So, we’re not a hands-down team to repeat as Eastern Conference champions. I think we’re a quality team.”
Grousbeck is right to point out that the Celtics’ path to the Finals was anything but smooth. Were it not for an injury to Khris Middleton, they very well may have lost to the Bucks in the second round. Jimmy Butler famously missed a pull-up 3-pointer in the final seconds of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals that could have sent Boston packing. After taking a 2-1 lead against the Warriors in the Finals, the Celtics mustered a paltry 97.9 points per 100 possessions as they lost three straight games to finish the series.
You can understand where Grousbeck is coming from and it would be weird if he came out and guaranteed a championship, but there’s no doubt that his team is a title favorite, whether he likes it or not. Tatum will likely be an MVP candidate this season, Brown is a legitimate No. 2 option who averaged 24 points per game last season and Marcus Smart is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. If they get a full, healthy season from Brogdon, Robert Williams and Al Horford, this is going to be a very difficult team to beat in both the regular season and the playoffs.
That being said, this is essentially the same roster that started off last season 25-25, so it’s more than reasonable that Grousbeck wants to see it all on the floor this season before he starts heaping praise on his team.