The Boston Celtics fell short in six games in last season's NBA Finals, but they are expected to put that right this season when they chase a record 18th championship.
The Golden State Warriors ended their great run in the Play-offs, but there are plenty of reasons for Celtics fans to be optimistic heading into the 2022/23 season.
They are much-fancied for the title this time around after adding to their impressive young core during the offseason, setting them up for another strong season.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||October 18th 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV|
|Odds||BOS Celtics +525, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +750, BKN Nets +800|
Last season marked a real change for the Celtics, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stepping up to take them into the contender tier. It was the first time the Celtics had made the NBA Finals since 2010, having repeatedly fallen short.
The Celtics had made the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the previous five seasons before last year. During that half-decade, they saw the growth of Tatum and Brown, who are now among the most fearsome duos in the league.
Last season Tatum posted career-best averages in points, rebounds and assists, supported by Brown who posted 23.6 points per game, with 6.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Tatum and Brown are only 24 and 25 respectively, but early last season there were calls to trade one of them as they were seen as a bad fit.
Not only did coach Ime Udoka get them working together, but he also built a defensive framework to support them. Brown looks to have settled in as the secondary option, while Tatum has elevated himself to an elite level.
The Celtics making the Finals was remarkable based on where they were at the turn of the year. New head coach Udoka had a mixed start, as they had won 17 and lost 19 by the time December ended, leaving them in a fight to make the Play-offs.
The Celtics surged back with a brilliant run in 2022, going 33-12 to finish the regular season as the second seed in the East. If they can pick up where they left off, it's hard to see any side matching them this season.
If it wasn't for their turnover rate, the Celtics might be heading into this season as NBA champions. They were plagued by them throughout the Play-offs, with their defeats frequently seeing a high turnover rate.
The Celtics gave the ball away 17 times on average across their first three defeats to the Warriors, while they had 22 turnovers in Game 6 alone, with six coming in the vital final quarter.
The front office moved quickly in the aftermath, trading for Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers. The guard is an excellent option for Udoka to turn to off the bench to prevent that turnover rate from climbing again.
Brogdon had an injury-hit 2021/22 campaign, but he averaged 19.1 points per game with 5.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds from 36 starts. He's a great bench option for Boston, providing a real contrast with starting point guard Marcus Smart.
After free agent signing Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL, expect the Celtics to make another move as they look to add more bench scoring around their main guys.
The Celtics face the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening game of the new NBA season, part of a tricky opening to the campaign for them.
Next up is a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, so they start with clashes against two of their main Conference rivals.
The Celtics also visit the Chicago Bulls and face an improved Cleveland Cavaliers side in their opening five games and they will need to hit their stride quickly to avoid a repeat of last season’s slow start.
The Celtics have made the biggest improvement of any of last season's top four in the East.
They have addressed the weaknesses which prevented them from winning the title last season, so the expectations this term will be Finals at the minimum.
While the core of this team is young, title contenders rarely stay competitive for long in the NBA without a dip.
The championship window is open for the Celtics, so it will be a disappointment if they fail to take that chance.