Boston Celtics 2023-24 season preview and predictions

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Boston Celtics season preview

This preview originally appeared in our 2023-24 VSiN NBA Betting Guide, which was released on Thursday, October 5. To become a VSiN Pro subscriber and get all of our NBA coverage throughout the season, click here.

 

Celtics Betting Odds

NBA Finals: +500
Conference: +215
Division: -210
Win Total: 54.5
Playoffs: Yes (-6000)

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Team Analysis

The Boston Celtics have had the sustained success that most franchises dream of having in recent years. Boston has appeared in five of the last seven Eastern Conference Finals, and the team is currently in a run of three appearances in four seasons. However, five appearances in the conference finals have yielded just one berth in the NBA Finals and not a single championship, so the front office decided to make changes this season.

Marcus Smart and other assets were shipped off to bring in Kristaps Porzingis. Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams were traded to bring in Jrue Holiday. Gone too is Grant Williams, who played a pivotal role off the bench for Boston. This team will now have a true post presence on the floor and a defensive-oriented guard to replace Smart, but the cost is a bench nowhere near the level of depth this team used to have.

The fit with Porzingis is going to be fascinating for a team that did not play out of the post much last season. Boston averaged the fifth-fewest post-ups per game (3.8), and the two players who averaged more than one per game were Jayson Tatum (1.3) and Marcus Smart (1.1). Having a player like Porzingis on the floor who averaged 4.0 post-ups per game last season with Washington is going to be a change for the Celtics.

Porzingis is an efficient post player though, and the change he brings is a positive one. Last season, Washington averaged 1.18 points per possession on a Porzingis post-up. That efficiency was second to Nikola Jokic (1.22) when you account for frequency. Porzingis is also an effective roll-man in a pick-and-roll, and the Wizards averaged an identical 1.18 points per possession when he was the roll-man in a pick-and-roll last season.

Porzingis gives Boston something it did not have last season, and it will likely be a positive to have him on the floor. But, his presence does come with some questions.

Last season was a career year for Porzingis in points (23.2), field goal percentage (49.8%), assists (2.7) and steals (0.9). It is not easy to replicate career years like that, and there is something to the theory that playing on a team with no expectations is different from one with championship aspirations. It was also the most games he has played (65) since the 2016-2017 season. Can Boston count on him being available?

This team is also very small. The trade for Holiday cost their primary bench option at center in Williams. Boston’s center rotation will now be Al Horford, Luke Kornet and possibly Neemias Queta. If Porzingis or Horford misses time, which is a high possibility given their injury history, this team will be hard-pressed to find minutes up front.

These are concerns worth considering because the Celtics will be one of the highest power rated teams in the NBA, as they were last season when they were favored in 90 of the 102 games played between the regular season and postseason. That rating bordered on being too high though, as the Celtics went 44-44-2 ATS in those 90 games. 

With the addition of Porzingis, one has to wonder how much the team’s profile changes as well. 

Boston turned up its production from behind the arc up to 11 under Joe Mazzulla last season. The Celtics took 44.5% of their attempts from 3-point range and shot 37.9% overall, leading to the fourth-best non-garbage time offensive rating (118.3). Porzingis is a capable shooter without question, but he will usually attempt just over 40% of his shots from mid-range. With more frequent post-ups and an assumed bump in mid-range attempts, Boston could be a team that skews Under on its games early in the season.

Let’s make one thing clear: The Celtics are going to be a very good team when healthy. 

Tatum has been better almost every season, and he is coming off a brilliant season in which he averaged 30.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists, all of which are career-highs. Despite a poor showing in the postseason, Jaylen Brown is one of the best secondary stars a team could ask for. They should be in competition for a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference once more. However, one could make the argument that the foundation of players with poor injury history and worse depth means this team took a step back in the offseason.

Win Total Analysis

The history of injury concerns with the core of this team’s rotation will directly affect the win total for this season, but the betting market does not seem to have that factored in. Boston’s original win total was 53.5, but it has since been bet up to 54.5 at DraftKings. It is very likely that Porzingis or Horford miss time this season. If that is the case, then the Celtics’ depth will be tested.

Payton Pritchard is currently listed as the primary backup point guard, and Lamar Stevens and Oshae Brissett make up the depth at wing. That is a much different group than what Boston had coming off the bench last season. It makes it somewhat difficult to fully buy in on this team surpassing its win total, especially one that is as high as this one.

The factor that will push Boston beyond its win total, if it does go over, will be its schedule. Positive Residual ranks their schedule as the third-easiest in the NBA. The Celtics have a massive rest advantage this season, as they play in 16 games with a true advantage and only 11 in which they will be at a disadvantage. With an average number of back-to-backs this season (14), Boston could benefit from being handed a manageable schedule. 

Still, the potential of this team losing games to injury to a majority of their rotation looms, which means this recommendation can only go in one direction: Under.

Win Total Recommendation: UNDER 54.5