Can the Celtics Really Compete at the Top of the East?

Credit AP: Boston Celtics' Al Horford during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

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The season fasts approaches and we now have an eye on the preseason games for the Celtics. This means we are closer to seeing the starters who are projected to win 51 games this season. That begs the question, can this team compete with the likes of Cleveland?

The short answer, yes.

However, there are some key issues that come with that answer. I look at this as a team as a pretty top heavy team. If this team wants to compete, they can’t get hurt.

I know that is the case for most teams, but it really is the case with this team. If this team loses any of the key guys (Al Horford, Isiah Thomas, Avery Bradley etc. etc.) then they can’t compete. The bench isn’t deep enough with proven talent and experience.

The bench will be led by Marcus Smart. You all know I’m a Smart guy, but around him he has a rookie in Jaylen Brown, a wannabe Dirk Nowitski in Kelly Olynyk and the what? The Celtics will go as far as their starts take them.

Out of the starters, who is the guy that you can’t lose? It’s obvious right? Al Horford.

If you lose Horford, you are right back to where you were last season. A low end playoff team that relies on a five-foot nothing point guard so gets swarmed in the playoffs.

Isiah himself praised the new Celtics big man:

“He just knows how to play,” said Isaiah Thomas. “It’s easy when a guy knows how to play and he’s always in the right spots. And he’s an unselfish player, so he makes it easy for us. He always seems to be open — easy to get him the ball.

“I think it’s tough when you have a new guard or something, a guy who handles the ball more,” he added. “But (coach) Brad (Stevens) puts everybody in position to be successful. With Al he picks and pops, he picks and rolls. We give it to him in the post and he does what he does.”

This team can challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers and other Eastern Conference contenders this season; they just need to stay healthy and rely heavily on their new shiny toy in Al Horford

About the Author

Jared Scali
I am covering the Celtics for the station, giving you my opinion on all the news and notes from the the team and the NBA. I am currently the host of Sunday Sitdown here on ESPN NH every Sunday 11 am to 1 pm. You can also hear me on the Celtics Pregame Show as well as Friday Night Lights during the football season.

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