Celtics Summer Forecast: Reasons to be excited

Each year during our Celtics Summer Forecast, we ask our panel to answer specific questions that typically only have a handful of possible responses. As we wrap up Week 2 of the 2016 forecast, we decided to give our panel of 18 Boston Celtics bloggers a bit more freedom.

For Day 10, we asked our panel to finish this sentence: "The thing I'm most excited about entering the 2016-17 Celtics season is ..." We asked respondents to have fun with their responses, and they didn't disappoint, responding with a mix of genuine enthusiasm and lighthearted playfulness about the upcoming season.

Our panel ran the gamut of why this writer looks forward to the season: It's a chance to watch a team that should challenge for a top spot in the East with an intriguing young roster that gets an infusion of athleticism, particularly with top pick Jaylen Brown. We're eager to see how this team responds to increased expectations, especially after two early playoff exits.

With that in mind, I'll step aside and turn it over to the panel:

Ryan Bernardoni, CelticsHub (on the infusion of athleticism): Brad Stevens has built intelligent, prepared teams that succeed by winning games on the margins. They've always been near the bottom of the league in terms of pure athleticism though, and that can be limiting and sometimes a bit boring. By increasing the role of Terry Rozier, adding Brown and Gerald Green on the wing, and upgrading from Jared Sullinger to Al Horford at center, the raw materials for Stevens to work with are a lot more appealing. I'm excited to see a few alley-oops and some of those live-ball steals ending in dunks. Plus, we know there will be plenty of chances for put-back slams.

Bill Sy, CelticsBlog(on the youth movement taking over): The vets will carry this team, but it's the young players who could make this a special season. If Kelly Olynyk can contribute consistently with more minutes, if Marcus Smart can take the next step as a reliable scorer, if Brown can add versatility on defense and offense and if Rozier can become a playmaker off the bench, Stevens could have a dangerous 10-man rotation for next season and, more importantly, a solid foundation for the franchise's future.

Dan Greenberg, Barstool Sports (on seeing Brad Stevens work): This is without a doubt the best roster Stevens has ever had during his time in Boston. With multiple top-5 picks, multiple All-Stars, an All-NBA defender and a pretty good bench, this is the season where I'm curious to see where Stevens can take this team. There is too much talent to get eliminated in the first round for the third straight year, and a lot of that pressure now falls on the head coach.

Sean Penney, CelticsBlog (on Banner 18): Fine, so the Celtics might remain a long shot to win the title, but what fun is it if you can't be excited about the possibility? Even if we don't believe they will win, this team believes it can and will fight and scrap every inch of the way to prove it. They might ultimately fall short, but it's going to be exciting to watch them try.

Sam Sheehan, Celtics Reddit and CLNS Radio (on Tommy Heinsohn describing Brown in a game): Tommy loves it when guys "get in the paint" and Brown has the chance to be one of the most athletically powerful Celtics players of all time. With these two things in mind, I'm sure Tommy will be even and measured with any compliments he has for Brown. I'm predicting a gleeful Michael Jordan comparison by Halloween, and raspy cackles underscoring every "Brown destroys rim" Vine.

Lachlan Marr, Celtics Blog (on just watching this team play): Last season the Celtics were one of the most interesting teams to follow in the league. Their style of play will be excitement-filled and downright riveting at times. With more experience, a consistent core and the addition of Horford, I imagine the Celtics will be even more fun to watch, and I can't wait to see them hit the parquet floor together.

Rich Jensen, Red's Army (on Heinsohn saying Horford reminds him of a younger Tommy Heinsohn): I don't think I need to explain why this would be awesome.

Tom Westerholm, MassLive (on watching a team with real playoff potential): Obviously the Celtics had the potential to make the playoffs in the two previous seasons since, you know, they did it. But this season the Celtics have the potential to make a real playoff run. They have the talent. They have the defense. They have the size. Though they don't have LeBron James and thus remain a step below "contender," but they are much improved and could be a lot of fun.

Mark Van Deusen, CelticsLife (on endless lineup possibilities): With the potential to go 12 or 13 men deep if he wants to, Stevens will have the opportunity to trot out a limitless array of lineups and just get nuts. For example, a likely second five of Rozier, Smart, Brown, Jonas Jerebko and Olynyk could play with both big men on the perimeter and a shooting guard and small forward posting up under the basket. Or how about an all-defense small-ball unit of Rozier, Avery Bradley, Smart, Brown, and Jae Crowder? I can't wait to see how Stevens takes advantage of all the options at his disposal.

Ben Mark, Red's Army (on Smart's ascension): With Brown and Horford aboard, and Isaiah Thomas coming off an All-Star campaign, it's easy to forget just how well Smart played in the first round of the playoffs. He probably won't become a consistent threat to score, but he certainly showed more confidence with the ball in his hands in big moments last season. If anyone has a chance of joining Horford and/or Thomas in February it's Smart, and watching his development should be incredibly exciting.

Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (on newfound high expectations): The Celtics franchise has embraced a new identity under Stevens as an overachieving junkyard underdog. With Horford on board and their young talent getting another offseason of development, they are suddenly projected to be toward the top of the conference. They no longer get to surprise teams with their speed, intensity and discipline. The onus is on Stevens to continue to reinvent the rotation to make sure his game plan is never transparent. Most of their shortcomings last year came down to simply missing open 3s. Their success this year might be as simple as hitting them.

Alex Kungu, CelticsBlog (on how the Celtics handle expectations): Last season, the Celtics were expected to be just another playoff team. This season, they have a legitimate case for being an Eastern Conference contender, and they won't be catching anyone by surprise. Will they be able to handle another team's best shot every night? I'm interested to find out.

Bobby Manning, CelticsBlog (on aiming for LeBron): This season is all about avenging the lost potential of last season. Between losing Bradley and Olynyk to injury, plus Crowder and Thomas hitting the postseason severely banged up, the C's didn't quite reach the heights they surmounted in the regular season. Healthy, with a star under their belt on the interior, they should be enormously successful. How far can they go in the East? It will all come down to how high they can shoot toward Cleveland. Finding ways to match the Cavs, or more specifically James, is going to be exciting to follow, and hopefully will involve the rise of a monster in Jordan Mickey. Failing to contribute in his rookie campaign, he has the skill set necessary to beat Cleveland if he can expand his game to new levels overall.

Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live on CLNS Radio (on watching Duke games to see who the C's might draft): Four of the current top seven players in Draft Express' 2017 draft will be playing for my Blue Devils this season. The Nets clearly have the worst team in the league now, so a top-four draft pick is nearly a lock. Power forward Harry Giles is the player many believe will be the best of this draft class, but Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson are wings who have immense talent as well. Big man Marques Bolden rounds out a Duke roster that should not only win a national championship, but have Celtics fans salivating for what might be.

Sam Packard, WEEI (on learning more about Stevens' personality): After two-plus years covering the team, I am still not convinced he is not a Basketball Coaching Robot. I still need to know what type of music he listens to (My Guess: only Jodeci) and his thoughts on the 2016 election (My guess: big Bill Weld fan).

Mike Dynon, Red's Army (on the Celtics being relevant again): Bad NBA teams are ignored. It has been at least three years since the Celtics were on ESPN more than once or twice per season, and they certainly weren't on ABC. But now the NBA media are predicting great things for the C's, and they are on national TV 22 times this season. The team is legit, people are talking about them and fans have growing expectations. It's no longer "will we make the playoffs?" but "how far will we go?" So I'm excited they're improved enough to be relevant again.

Jake Keaney, CelticsBlog (on Heinsohn praising Horford and declaring him the greatest Celtic of all time): Echoing what Rich Jensen said.

Justin Poulin, Celtics Stuff Live on CLNS Radio (on Evan Turner/Sullinger returning to the Garden): The postseason is where the rubber meets the road and we all know it, but we have no more fun during the regular-season grind than when players return for the first time after joining a new team. Turner was beloved and Sullinger was ultimately seen as a player unable to realize his potential. Sully joined a division rival (Toronto) while Turner went west to bolster an up-and-coming Portland club. E.T. will revel in his return, and the media will have no shortage of quotes, while Sully will be met with a mixed response from the fan base and likely some boos. And just wait until the Celtics face the Raps in the postseason. It could get ugly ...