Last season, the Boston Celtics managed to make a deep playoff run and force a Game 7 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, despite not having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on their roster. With both superstars expected to return 100 percent healthy, the Celtics became one of the favorites to fully dominate the Eastern Conference next season.
In the ESPN Summer Forecast, the panelists gave the Celtics 84.9 percent first-place votes to become the new Eastern Conference champions. However, the Golden State Warriors remain as the heavy favorite to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy next season. It’s not a surprise why most people see the Warriors successfully defending the title for the second consecutive year.
After winning back-to-back NBA championships, the Warriors still found a way to make a huge upgrade on their roster with the acquisition of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in the recent free agency. Though Cousins is set to spend most of the regular season recovering from an injury, he is expected to join the Warriors when the real battle begins in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
Despite the Warriors’ star-studded roster, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving strongly believes that the Celtics currently have what it takes to win the NBA championship next season.
“Can we beat Golden State in a seven-game series? Yes,” Irving said in a recent interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. “I’ve played against Golden State in three straight Finals (2015-17) — two that I was able to participate in — and seeing them evolve, with the talent they have, and then adding DeMarcus Cousins [this offseason], it’s like ‘OK, the whole league is on notice.’ But there’s one factor that they’re aware of, and I’m aware of, and that’s that I’ve seen them up close. I’ve played them so many times. We’ve gone in a seven-game series [when he was in Cleveland], so I know what it takes.”
Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier may still be young, but they have already proven that they are capable of helping the Celtics contend for the NBA title. However, before the 2018-19 NBA season officially starts, Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens first needs to figure out how he can insert Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward into their rotation without affecting the effectiveness of Brown, Tatum, and Rozier on the court. If they succeed to build good chemistry and remain healthy throughout the season, the Celtics may have a real chance of beating the Warriors in a best-of-seven series.