Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other you’ll read before the 2016-17 season tips off. The premise is simple. We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
The Boston Celtics have been chasing a franchise player since they broke up their core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Frequent attempts to lure Kevin Love failed, Russell Westbrook isn’t going anywhere, and their stash of the Brooklyn Nets’ lottery picks hasn’t been as lucky as they hoped. That hasn’t stopped them from improving every year since they hired Brad Stevens as head coach, however.
This year, they landed a legitimately great player in Al Horford without having to deal any of their core of athletic, tenacious perimeter defenders. It may not look like it, but the pieces are finally in place.
Look at the Boston Celtics roster, and one thing becomes clear: This team is still young, but not Timberwolves or Nuggets young. Horford and Gerald Green are their oldest players, and neither of them are crusty veterans. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder are all between 25 and 28 years old, and they’ve played together for over a full season now. Marcus Smart is entering his third year, and Jaylen Brown is the highest draft pick the Celtics have had since Chauncey Billups in 1997, and those two arguably possess more raw talent than any of their teammates mentioned above.