The Celtics are coming off a campaign where they pulled off one of the most impressive in-season turnarounds in NBA history. Boston went from 11th in the East in January to finishing within two wins of raising banner 18 to the TD Garden rafters.
Even with the loss of Danilo Gallinari, who's likely out for the season due to a torn ACL, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving running it back in Brooklyn, and Khris Middleton returning to flank Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, SI Sportsbook considers the Celtics the betting favorite to win the 2022-23 NBA title.
That's the result of Boston acquiring Malcolm Brogdon, who averaged 19.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.1 rebounds last season, and not losing any of the mainstays of its playoff rotation. There's also the projected growth for Jayson Tatum, who earned All-NBA First Team honors. Jaylen Brown's entering his prime and has the added motivation from hearing his name in trade rumors yet again and the chance to qualify for a supermax extension. And Robert Williams, who made the NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team, is looking to build off the most impactful season of his career.
While discussing last season's run to the NBA Finals and evaluating how his team stacks up this season, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck expressed the following to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.
"I really loved being part of the Celtics throughout that run. I loved being right there with them. It was thrilling. The other side of the coin is I think that we’ve now been overrated."
"When you look back, Brooklyn was a tough series, and then we had to go seven games [against the Bucks and Heat]. Then we lost [to Golden State]. So, we’re not a hands-down team to repeat as Eastern Conference champions," explained Grousbeck.
From his vantage point, "there are probably five or six teams you could say are contending teams, and I definitely think we’re on that list ... But I’m cautious against being overconfident. And anyone who asks me what I think about the team, I’m saying I don’t want to overrate us."
And with his team establishing itself as a championship contender, Grousbeck's message to president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, is clear.
"Do whatever it takes to get better, because we weren’t good enough. So do whatever it takes to get better. And he boiled the ocean. He did everything he could think of to make us better."
Boston already projects to have one of the NBA's most expensive payrolls this season. The Celtics roster currently costs roughly $170.1 million and comes with a luxury tax bill of $45.2 million, resulting in a combined payment of $215.3 million. They must sign at least two more players to full-time contracts. Doing so will bring their luxury tax payment to at least $59 million. As a result, their total expenses will exceed $230 million this season.
But with a chance at the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Grousbeck's told Stevens he "has the green light to spend more."
He also conveyed what Boston's maneuvering this offseason reinforced: "money is not a consideration whatsoever, and this roster shows that."
The Celtics have accounted for all 20 offseason roster spots, making the signing of a veteran like Carmelo Anthony or LaMarcus Aldridge unlikely, at least before the start of the season. But Boston has a handful of trade exceptions that could come in handy, including TPEs worth $6.9 million (Juancho Hernangomez) and $5.9 million (Dennis Schroder).
It's also a formality that the Celtics receive a disabled player exception since Gallinari is likely to miss the 2022-23 campaign. That DPE will be worth half of his salary, carrying a value of roughly $3.3 million.
Those tools bolster Boston's options when considering external upgrades to help them claim banner 18 this season.