Considering the 17 World Championship banners hanging in the TD Garden rafters, any season that doesn’t produce a Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy is viewed as a failure for the Boston Celtics. Therefore, after falling short in the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors and then being eliminated by the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics have made significant roster changes in hopes of returning to prior championship pedigree. In this season preview, we’ll take a closer look at the Celtics’ new lineup, analyze key matchups in the newly released schedule, and predict Boston’s chances of bringing home banner #18 in 2024.
Significant Roster Changes
In their quest for redemption, the Celtics have made some notable and surprising alterations to their already world-class roster. Perhaps the most pertinent one is that Boston traded long-time shooting guard Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-team deal, which brought former All-Star Kristaps Porziņģis to Boston from the Washington Wizards. Considering that Marcus Smart has been a Celtics fan favorite throughout his nine-year tenure with the team, this move might seem confusing. But Brad Stevens — Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations — clearly felt the need to shake things up.
In addition to Smart’s departure, the Celtics sent Grant Williams to the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade. One wonders whether Boston trading arguably their two best defenders in the same summer is going to bear fruit for the team. But there’s no question that adding Porziņģis in with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown brings a fresh, fluid dynamic to the roster that feels in line with the NBA’s current spacing, size, and three-point centric style of play. Those three players are expected to lead a starting five that will also include Al Horford and Derrick White. Coming off the bench for Boston, expect to see Malcolm Brogdon, Blake Griffin, Robert Williams III, Sam Hauser, Payton Pritchard, and a few other players.
While this roster can certainly be deemed championship-worthy, the Celtics will face stiff competition in the Eastern Conference, with teams like the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and New York Knicks hungry for a title. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the key matchups for this upcoming season.
2023-24 Celtics Key Matchups/Dates
New York Knicks
Celtics game days against Knicks: Oct. 25 (Season Opener) (Away), Nov. 13 (Home), Feb. 24 (Away), April 11 (Home)
The Celtics will start their 2023-24 season on the road against division rival New York Knicks. Since no team wants to start their season with a loss, the stakes will feel high for this early season matchup. While the Knicks made a few notable offseason moves (signing Donte DiVincenzo and extending Josh Hart), their roster still looks lackluster compared to that of the Celtics. Yet, the same could be said about last year—and the Celtics went 1-3 against the Knicks during the regular season. Still, one would expect the Celtics to right the ship against their rival in what are always exciting matchups.
Celtics game days against Heat: Oct. 27 (Home Opener), Jan. 25 (Away), Feb. 11 (Away)
The Miami Heat have been a thorn in the Celtics’ side in recent years. After falling to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2023, the Celtics will be out for revenge this season. The return of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro solidify the Heat as a top team in the East.
Luckily, the Celtics won’t need to wait long in order to exact the revenge they’ve spent all summer brooding about, as Boston’s first game in TD Garden will be against the Heat on October 27th. The rivalry between these two teams has intensified — and starting with this initial matchup, every battle between these two juggernauts should produce fireworks.
Celtics game days against 76ers: Nov. 8 (Away), Nov. 15 (Away), Dec 1 (Home), Feb 27 (Home)
The Celtics have had the upper hand against the Philadelphia 76ers in recent seasons, and that trend is expected to continue in 2023-24. With James Harden’s potential departure from Philadelphia, the Celtics should have little trouble maintaining their dominance over their division rivals. Regardless, the matchup between Tatum and Brown against Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris is always a thrilling one.
Celtics game days against Bucks: Nov. 22 (Home), Jan 11 (Away), March 20 (Home), April 9 (Away)
Despite the Milwaukee Bucks’ shocking first round defeat to the Miami Heat last season, they still finished the regular season with a 58-24 record — one game better than the Celtics. This was the third time in the last five seasons that the Bucks finished the season with the Eastern Conference’s best record, and are in a good position to do so again this year. What’s for certain is that the Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Jayson Tatum matchup has blossomed into one of the best in all of basketball. Fortunately for fans, all of the Celtics vs. Bucks matchups this season will be aired on primetime television; which will be must-see TV.
Los Angeles Lakers
Celtics game days against Los Angeles Lakers: Dec. 25 (Away), Feb. 1 (Home)
Who can forget the most legendary rivalry in basketball history? NBA matchmakers surely didn’t, as they scheduled the Celtics and Lakers to match up on Christmas this season! What better way to spend Christmas day than to watch LeBron James and Anthony Davis go head-to-head against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown? For any fan of these two historic franchises (and any other basketball fan), this is an absolute dream scenario. The February 1st contest at the TD Garden is unlikely to disappoint, too.
Now that we’ve discussed the biggest matchups on the 2034-24 season’s schedule, let’s get into the season forecast.
The Celtics face some challenges heading into the 2023-24 season. The lack of a replacement for Marcus Smart at point guard may pose difficulties in ball movement, especially if Malcolm Brogdon is sidelined with an injury (he tore a tendon in his right arm during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, which he is still healing from). The burden to score will fall heavily on Tatum and Brown, but the addition of Porziņģis brings another intriguing dimension to the offense. However, concerns remain about whether Porziņģis will be able to remain healthy throughout an entire season.
Despite these challenges, the Celtics boast a talented roster that is superior to most teams in the NBA. With head coach Joe Mazzulla entering his second year, the team should be better equipped to navigate the ups and downs of the NBA season. It is highly likely that the Celtics will secure a playoff spot in 2023-24, but whether they can reach the NBA Finals remains to be seen. If they don’t, one would assume that Joe Mazzulla will be on the hot seat.
Record Prediction: 53-29 regular season record, loss in the NBA Finals, Jayson Tatum NBA MVP
Based on the team’s roster and the challenges they face, a realistic record prediction for the Celtics in the 2023-24 season is 53-29. This would likely secure them a top seed in the Eastern Conference and position them well for a deep playoff run.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Boston Celtics odds to win the 2024 NBA Finals are +470. Although they aren’t the outright favorite to win the Eastern Conference, the table still seems set for the Celtics to climb to the top of the Eastern Conference and reach next year’s NBA Finals. The path there won’t be easy, as they’ll need to overcome the Heat, the 76ers, the Bucks, and any other team that crosses their path. But with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (who I predict will win the 2023-2024 NBA MVP Award) leading the team, the sky will always be the limit.
Make sure to mark your calendars for the must-watch games and join us as we cheer on the Celtics throughout the season. Let the quest for redemption begin!
In 2022, the Celtics fell short in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. In 2023, they were eliminated by the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics traded Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies and received former All-Star Kristaps Porziņģis from the Washington Wizards. They also sent Grant Williams to the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade deal.
The Celtics are expected to be led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kristaps Porziņģis. The starting lineup will also likely feature Al Horford and Derrick White.
Key matchups include games against the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Lakers.
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