There hasn’t been this much preseason hype around the Boston Celtics since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived on Causeway Street in the fall of 2007.
We all know what happened that season, with that duo joining Paul Pierce to bring a 17th NBA championship banner to Boston.
With the Celtics set to open the 2017-18 season in Cleveland on Tuesday, a new “Big Three,” Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, are set to take to the court together for the first time.
Yes, the Cavaliers have been to the NBA Finals the last three years, but all the stars are aligned for the Celtics to finally get past them and be playing for a world championship in June.
Here are five reasons why the Celtics will be facing the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals:
1. Irving’s playmaking. While the 2016 Finals likely don’t get past Game 5 if Draymond Green isn’t suspended, Irving saved James’ bacon in Game 7.
The wiry point guard has the ability to score from anywhere on the court, but he makes all his teammates better.
His penetrating ability will draw defenses in all season, and guys like Hayward and Horford will see plenty of open shots.
2. Brad Stevens. Unbiased opinion, this guy is clearly the best young coach in the NBA.
Stevens came on from a winning tradition at Butler University tasked with rebuilding the NBA’s marquee franchise, and he has done a marvelous job.
Getting the Celtics into the playoffs in his second year was a great first step, and getting to the East finals last spring was outstanding, but it was clear that moves needed to be made. Danny Ainge gave his coach some shiny new toys to play with via trade, free agency and the draft, and Stevens will no doubt take advantage.
If it comes down to a Game 7, give me Stevens over Tyronne Lue.
3. Cleveland has question marks. The way Charles Barkley is talking, the 28 other teams in the NBA should just clear the way for Cleveland-Golden State III.
But…not so fast there, Chuck.
First and foremost, the man dealt to Cleveland for Irving, Isaiah Thomas, will not even see the court until January due to hip issues.
How motivated is LeBron James truly going to be knowing he can opt out of his contract next summer – which is highly likely – and become a free agent? The rumors of LeBron and Paul George going to Los Angeles will start well before the champagne bottles dry up after the Finals. LeBron’s first run in Cleveland ended at the hands of the Celtics.
How much does Dwayne Wade have left in the tank? Can Derrick Rose stay healthy? How much will Thomas have when he comes back?
4. Talented young guys. I was impressed with rookie Jayson Tatum during the preseason, and Jaylen Brown is poised to break out in his sophomore campaign.
But one guy I’m looking at in the backcourt is Terry Rozier. His role will increase this year off the bench, and if the Celtics are going to get to the Finals, their depth players, like Rozier and Marcus Morris are going to have to blend in with Horford, Irving and Hayward.
I’m looking for a big year out of Marcus Smart as well, on both sides of the ball.
5. Motivation. Even though only four Celtics that were on last year’s roster will suit up in Cleveland tomorrow, there’s no bigger motivation than seeing somebody celebrate a championship in your building.
I’m sure seeing the Cavs celebrate on the parquet left a sour taste in Boston’s mouths last year, and this team wants nothing better than to knock LeBron off his throne.
Perhaps nobody is more motivated to do that than Irving.