August is the most brutal month for NBA fans. The schedule is out, and rosters are just about set, but it's a slow crawl to the start of training camp in September while the league goes into a brief hibernation. Each August we try to break up the summer doldrums by inviting our friends in the Boston Celtics blogging community to participate in our annual Celtics Summer Forecast series.
We start with our typical leadoff hitter: How many games will the Celtics win during the 2015-16 regular season?
The Celtics are coming off a 40-42 campaign in which a team that endured perpetual roster turnover early in the season made a surprising second-half surge.
Boston went 24-12 over the final 36 games of the 2014-15 regular season, a pace that's almost certainly unsustainable in the new season but gives fans hope for another uptick in wins.
And our experts have far more optimism about Boston's chances for a surge this season than they did last year at this time. With the Celts coming off a 25-win campaign in coach Brad Stevens' first year at the helm, our experts pegged Boston for a mere three-win increase during last year's forecast.
This year? Our 10-member panel has Boston pegged for nearly 45 wins.
What a difference a year makes. Even though the Celtics didn't make a gigantic splash this offseason, there's optimism that, by brining back much of last year's core (especially in-season additions Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder) and adding some veteran talent like Amir Johnson and David Lee, there's an opportunity to make the sort of leap that could leave Boston pushing for a spot in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff seedings.
The guess from this writer? Let's go with a 44-38 mark. It's hard to tell just how much better the Eastern Conference will be (it has to be better, right?) But what is clear is that, after the Cleveland Cavaliers at the top, it gets murky quickly. Based on what we saw at the end of last season, there's no reason Boston shouldn't be in the mix in the group of playoff contenders chasing LeBron James & Co.
What could help Boston's cause is a fast start. The Celtics play six of their first eight games at home and will have an opportunity for some early confidence. They'll need it because the schedule gets tough in a hurry. Boston plays two stretches of five games in seven nights before the end of November. A five-game road trip, including a trip to Mexico, stretches into December. The only four-in-five stretch of the season looms in January.
All this while Boston plays more games than any other NBA team against opponents with equal or more rest. They're going to need to lean on their depth and all the young legs.
And, as last year showed, who knows what the roster will look like along the way? While yearning to give Stevens the sort of consistency he desires, general manager Danny Ainge remains relentless in his quest for top talent.
Here's what our panel projects for Boston's regular-season record. Click here for ESPN's Summer Forecast for the entire Eastern Conference.
Brian Robb, CelticsHub (46-36)
The Celtics caught lightning in a bottle to finish out the 2014-15 season with a 24-12 record, so some regression in an improved Eastern Conference has to be expected. Boston did, however, make notable upgrades in the frontcourt and should benefit from some continuity on the roster in Year 3 of the Stevens era. A six-win jump from last year’s 40-42 season is a realistic expectation as long as team’s core pieces in the backcourt remain healthy.
Kevin O'Connor, CelticsBlog (48-34)
Few teams will hustle like the Celtics do this season, giving them an edge once the fate of lottery-bound teams is virtually set in stone. And it helps that they have talent now. The presence of Lee and Johnson might stifle the development of one of the young big men, but they’re both super talented and will help the team significantly. Another year of development from Marcus Smart should give them a boost. And they arguably would’ve won more than half their games last season if they had Thomas the full season. Fifty wins isn’t out of the question.
Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live (41-41)
This is the toughest season to forecast yet. I can justify any win total between 30 and 48, but, though the team will improve, the competition has as well. Of course, if there is a trade -- or five -- who knows?
Mark Vandeusen, CelticsLife (45-37)
After the roster shake-ups settled down and Stevens finally had a consistent crew to work with, the 2014-15 Celtics finished 24-12 in their final 36 games. That's 44 percent of the season during which Boston was a very good ballclub. It doesn't seem reasonable to expect the 2015-16 squad to play at that level, but, in theory, this year's team is better than last year's squad.
Jay Ouellette, RedsArmy.com (42-40)
The Celtics didn't make any major changes to shift their record in a big way -- in either direction -- so I don't see their final record being all that different from last year. The rest of the East is still bad enough that Boston can win 40 games.
Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (44-38)
They might have played like a 50-win team after the All-Star break last season, but the Celtics needed a face-lift this summer to actually get there. After a slew of moves that doubled down on an already comically imbalanced roster-development strategy, Stevens will once again be asked to turn boxed wine into merlot. While he has more experienced and refined players rounding out his rotation, he still doesn’t have the centerpieces who take over when the system fails. Still, it’s hard to imagine things looking the same come February.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (49-33)
Last season's late charge wasn't a fluke, and the Celtics will near 50 wins in 2016. Defensively, they're better with the additions of Johnson and rookies Terry Rozier and Jordan Mickey. Offensively, they're more versatile with Lee, a presumably healthy Jared Sullinger, and young gun R.J. Hunter. Most importantly, they'll finally have some consistency. Stevens has shown the ability to get his team to play hard and compete despite seismic roster turnover, but season No. 3 of the rebuild is his chance to finally define Celtics basketball for years to come, and that means winning.
Cory Prescott, CLNS Radio (46-36)
Based on last season’s 40-win campaign, coupled with a much-improved roster, a 46-36 record is certainly within reason. Last season’s roster could have been confused for a hostel, as players came and went at an alarming rate. With a full training camp ahead, Stevens will have the opportunity to establish some continuity and chemistry among his players.
Eddie Santiago, CLNS Radio (43-39)
The moves to bring in Johnson and Lee are upgrades from what was there, but they don’t bring enough to the table to have the Celtics making the step to elite team in the East. Boston is going to go out there every night and fight its heart out, but the Celtics just don't have enough top-end talent to amount to much more than a pesky team on any given night.
Your projection (??-??)
Sound off in the comments with what you think Boston's record will be next season.