Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Boston Celtics are off to a blistering start this season, their new-look lineup dominating the competition as if they were a local high school team rather than top NBA talents as they run rampant through the league.
That’s how it’s gone for the Celtics for each of the past few seasons as they explode out of the gate before tapering off down the stretch, ultimately ending in disappointment in the postseason. Even the most die-hard Celtics fan probably wouldn’t argue with me for saying that, especially given the championship standards that Boston fans have learned to expect out of their favorite clubs.
I know all about the various times that this core of Celtics players, led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, has struggled to cement their legacy among the all time greats. Even so, I’m here to tell you why this year might finally be different as the team leaps out to a 5-0 start.
Celtics Betting Odds
Right now, the Boston Celtics have the best odds of winning it all this season at Massachusetts betting apps, listed as high as +375 to do so. The Jay’s play a massive role in that lofty ranking. Tatum is one of the best two-way players in the league, while Brown is an excellent scorer who’s working on fleshing out his ability as a defender: he certainly has the athletic ability to do so.
While Brown and Tatum are phenomenal players, they can’t do it all. They need talent around them to succeed, even if they’ve managed to drag flawed rosters to some of the highest seeds in the Eastern Conference in the past few seasons.
Right now, I’m interested to see how Brown improves this season. He struggled with injuries down the stretch last season, and has drawn criticism for a lack of consistency at times. The Celtics have put plenty of talent around the Jays to help supplement their abilities, but I think that Brown finding a new gear alone could be enough to put this roster over the top.
He was vocal about his desire to improve as a defender this season, citing that area of the game as a championship catalyst, but if he can put his money where his mouth is, the Celtics will be a terrifying team for anyone to face.
Kristaps Porziņģis, Third Option
Everyone knows that the combination of Tatum and Brown is what makes the Celtics tick. In recent years, though, the team has struggled to find secondary scoring outside of those two standouts, a deficiency that becomes glaring if they aren’t operating at full strength, like when Brown dealt with a host of injuries down the stretch in 2023.
That’s where Kristaps Porziņģis comes in handy. To the casual observer, it might feel like the 7-foot-2 Latvian forward is well past his prime, but he’s only 28 years old. He’s dealt with a number of career threatening injuries in the past few years, whether it was the ACL tear that took nearly two full years to recover from or the various other leg ailments that have hampered him since then.
When Porziņģis is healthy, though, he’s a truly special athlete for someone of his size, even in spite of that ugly injury history. He’s been rightfully described as a unicorn for his combination of height, shooting and athleticism, and in some ways joining the Celtics could be beneficial for his long term health: being able to thrive in a specific role rather than having to do it all.
Of course, all my praise for Porziņģis’ ability comes with a heavy caveat. The best ability is availability, so he’ll need to show he can stay healthy in order to make a big impact for Boston. Once again, being on a loaded team helps, as it’s not like he needs to play 35 minutes a night for 70 games a year if the Celtics are going to make the playoffs.
Jrue Holiday, Two-Way Threat
The other major trade the Celtics made this offseason was when they picked up Jrue Holiday as part of the fallout of the Damian Lilliard trade. Boston had to give up longtime defensive stalwart Marcus Smart in order to acquire Porziņģis, but Holiday provides a strong substitute.
He’s a better scorer than Smart is, and provides a similar level of playmaking ability as a passer. He’s never going to sniff Smart — who, at 6-foot-3 can still go man to man with centers and come out on top —as a defender… but frankly, no one can.
Holiday is still an All-Defensive Team talent, and it’ll be interesting to see how his varied abilities fit in with this Celtics team as the season progresses. Much like with Porziņģis, if he’s able to provide excellent offense as a third or fourth option, Holiday will help put the Celtics over the top.