NBA Betting: Celtics A Solid Contender In The East But Not For Championship Title

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, October 2, 2016 8:16 PM UTC

Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 8:16 PM UTC

Getting to the Eastern Conference Finals is doable for the Boston Celtics, no team has won more NBA titles than them with their 17 trophies. Do I think they add another this season? I do not, as the Celtics have a wins total of 51.5 on the NBA odds for 2016-17.


Recapping Last Season

The 2015-16 regular season was pretty successful for Boston as it finished 48-34, the most wins for the team since 2010-11 back when the Celtics were title contenders with a veteran group led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. KG and Allen are no longer playing, and Pierce and Rondo are long gone.


Isaiah Thomas was an All-Star last year in averaging 22.2 points and 6.2 assists. Guys like Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Evan Turner all improved their games. Yet if you ask most Celtics fans, they would say  last season was a disappointment. That's because the C's were ousted in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. This time, it was a slight favorite on NBA odds in the series with the Atlanta Hawks, who won the first two and last two games. It was the Hawks' first playoff series win over Boston since the St. Louis Hawks beat the Celtics in the 1958 Finals. Atlanta had dropped 10 consecutive postseason games in Boston before winning Game 6 easily.

The problem for Boston the past couple of years is that the Celtics have a lot of good players but no true star for Coach Brad Stevens, who is one of the best in the business. You simply don't win NBA titles -- shoot, even reach the NBA Finals -- without superstars. The last team to do so was Detroit in 2004.

Thus the biggest offseason goal for GM Danny Ainge, who was loaded with draft picks to trade, was to find that one star and get the Celtics to the elite level in the NBA. On that front, Ainge failed.


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Horford A Solid Consolation Prize

The Celtics put the full-court press on Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant on his free-agent tour. The team even brought in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to sell Durant on playing and living in the city of Boston. For a short while, Durant said he was so star-struck that he almost signed on the spot. But of course, he didn't, going to Golden State. Boston was third in that derby behind the Warriors and Thunder.

Ainge was also burning up the phone lines at the NBA Draft, hoping to use his No. 3 overall pick -- acquired from the Brooklyn Nets a few years back in the Garnett/Pierce trade to Brooklyn -- and some of his current players to land a star like a Jimmy Butler of Chicago. But no team bit there and the Celtics surprised many by taking Cal freshman forward Jaylen Brown with the selection. Brown might be a good player someday but is raw, and the last thing the Celtics need is another young player full of promise but not ready to contribute right now. Brown is +2500 on NBA odds to win Rookie of the Year honors.

On the bright side, the Celtics landed arguably the second-best free agent on the market in Hawks forward/center Al Horford for four years and $113 million. He was signed right before Durant made his decision as the Celtics thought adding Horford would help lure Durant. Horford, a four-time All-Star, is a very good player but not a franchise-type guy. He should vastly upgrade Boston's center position. Horford averaged 15.2 points, shot 50.5 percent from the field and had 1.5 blocks per game last year. He's one of the best post defenders in the NBA, allowing players to score only 0.84 points per direct post in 2015-16. Meanwhile, Boston's center combo of  Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson averaged 10.2 points playing that position and ranked last in the NBA in field goal percentage (43.8) and 28th in blocks (0.6 bpg).

The Celtics made no effort to re-sign Sullinger and that's no loss. Turner got a big free-agent deal with Portland that the Celtics were never going to match. He was one of the best bench players in the NBA, averaging 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists.


On the 51.5 wins prop on NBA picks, the 'over' is a -125 favorite for Boston. The Celtics are +570 second-favorites to Cleveland (-180) at 5Dimes to win the Eastern Conference.

Boston's starting five should be Thomas, Bradley, Crowder, Johnson and Horford with Marcus Smart and Olynyk first off the bench. Keep in mind that Boston gets to swap first-round picks with the Nets in the 2017 NBA Draft and Brooklyn might be picking No. 1. So look out for Boston next year.


NBA Free Picks: Brown won't play enough to win ROY. The Celtics aren't beating a healthy Cavaliers team in the playoffs but could reach the East Finals. It's not all that easy to win 52 games. Only six teams won that many last years. So I'd go 'under' the total  here as Boston should win 50. 


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