The Boston Celtics have had quite the start to the 2017-18 NBA season. After two straight losses to start the season, Boston has racked up a twelve game winning streak, the longest winning streak for the team since the 2008-09 season. Even more so, they have done so without their all-star small forward, Gordon Hayward, who they lost for the rest of the season to a gruesome ankle injury in game one.
Even without Hayward, Boston seems to have assembled the perfect core of players on their roster. A combination of veterans with playoff experience like Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, and Marcus Morris, combined with exciting young talent like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have put the rest of NBA on notice.
Even after an eastern conference finals appearance last season, Boston completely revamped their roster in the offseason. In fact, the Celtics only have four returning players this season: Brown, Horford, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier. In the offseason, Boston made multiple splash moves, including acquiring all-stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and selecting Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in the NBA draft.
Despite a complete overhaul of their roster, the Celtics have clicked immediately this season. Unlike what many predicted, they have taken little time to build up their chemistry, starting the season 12-2, the best record in the NBA. The amazing start to the season begs the question: how far can the Boston Celtics go this year without Hayward?
Heading into the season, Boston’s main competition in the Eastern Conference was the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, 13 games into the season Cleveland has looked awful, and a shell of the team that has represented the East in the last three NBA Finals. In fact, with a record of only 6-7, the Cavs are currently ninth in the East and posses the word defense in the league, giving up a league-high 112 points per game.
Does this mean that Boston can beat Cleveland and make it to the NBA Finals? Probably not. Despite all the problems Cleveland has had to start the season, they still possess LeBron James; the best player in the world and someone who has made seven straight NBA finals. In addition to that, they also have an all-star point guard in Isaiah Thomas, who has yet to get healthy.
Other than that, the Playoffs are a whole different ball game compared to the regular season and in it experience usually beats youth. This is where Cleveland has the upper hand on Boston as they have the deepest and most experienced core in the entire NBA. And even if somehow Boston is able to beat LeBron James and company in a seven-game series, they would still have Golden State to look forward to, a team that looks head and shoulders above the rest of the NBA.
However, even if realistically it does not seem likely that Boston will progress further than the Eastern Conference Finals, their future looks immensely bright, and an 18th banner at TD Garden seems to be an inevitability in the near future.
Correction: An earlier rendition of this article previously stated that the Celtics only had three returning players instead of four.