Well, another Celtics season is finally upon us. So let’s take some fake questions from our fake audience and get everyone caught up about what to expect in the coming year. We’ll start with the guy in the front row wearing a Gigi Datome jersey.
They said there’d be pizza here.
Do you have a question?
Is there pizza here?
OK, well, what kind of difference can Al Horford really make?
It will be a sizable one. The Celtics signed Horford to a four-year, $113 million deal this summer, squashing a somewhat silly narrative that they cannot lure big-name free agents.
Horford is basically everything the Celtics want and need. The four-time All-Star is a rim-protecting, smooth-passing, 3-point shooting big man who has been a team-first player ever since winning back-to-back national titles at Florida in 2006-07.
In Horford’s five preseason games, the Celtics outscored the opponents by an average of 38.4 points per 100 possessions while he was on the court. That rate will not hold up during the regular season, but it is an indicator of what’s possible.
Will Horford be a good fit with Kevin Durant?
Obviously you were doing something on July 4 besides refreshing Twitter, because Durant signed with the Warriors and became sort of a villain this summer. The Celtics were among the final few teams that Durant was considering, but their future remains bright even without him.
Yeah, because they still get whatever they want from the Nets, right?
Well, not exactly. But pretty close to exactly. The 2013 trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn is the gift that keeps on giving.
In the spring, the Celtics will have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets, an option they almost certainly will exercise because Brooklyn almost certainly will be terrible. And next season, the Celtics get Brooklyn’s first-round pick once more. There is a good chance the Nets will have the worst record in the NBA this season.
Isn’t it time to trade one of these Nets picks?
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has tried to make deals, but he’s mostly been rebuffed since acquiring Isaiah Thomas in February 2015. As long as the Celtics have these two Nets picks, though, they will be a logical trade partner for any team seeking to unload a star veteran as part of a rebuild. As such, the Celtics will continue to pop up in trade rumors all winter. So that’s fun.
What should we expect from the kid the Celtics took with this year’s Nets pick, Jaylen Brown?
It’s probably best to temper expectations this year. Typically, top draft picks go to bad teams, but the Celtics are a good team, so there will be fewer opportunities for Brown. Also, he was a freshman in college just six months ago and he just turned 20 on Monday.
During summer league play and in the preseason, Brown has shown flashes of his freakish athleticism, and he will surely have a few dunks that make fans go bananas. But he is also a raw talent with an uninspiring jump shot. Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been impressed by Brown’s ability to play and defend the power forward position with his uncommon speed.
I’d ask a question but I won’t be able to see it at BostonGlobe.com because I’ve already clicked on my five free articles this month.
It sounds to me like you should subscribe. We have some good deals at bostonglobe.com or by calling 1-888-MYGLOBE. Tell them Terry Rozier sent you.
OK while I’m on the phone can you tell me how many games the Celtics will win this year?
Last season I underestimated this team and said they would win about 43 games, which would have been a three-win improvement from the previous year. Then they won 48. This year I’ll go with another modest improvement, but I’ll say they get to 51 wins.
The addition of Horford, and the fact that other Eastern Conference teams mostly made minor improvements, if any, should be enough for the Celtics to take another step. But this season will not be judged by win count; it will be judged by playoff progress. Boston has to win a series, and it will.
There’s a ton of optimism surrounding the Celtics this year. It’s making me nervous. What’s their doomsday scenario?
Well, the true doomsday scenario would be if TD Garden was swallowed up in a black hole and the Maine Red Claws were the only ones left to save us. Otherwise, the Celtics have been pretty fortunate to avoid major injuries.
Yes, Avery Bradley missing most of the playoffs hurt them last year, and Kelly Olynyk needs to get back on the court, but they haven’t had a crushing, long-term loss of one of their core players. If they stay healthy, their other downfalls could be their outside shooting or their rebounding. Boston made just 33.6 percent of its 3-pointers last season and did very little to upgrade that weak spot this summer.
Is North Station part of TD Garden or is TD Garden part of North Station?
There’s no time for SAT questions here. The NBA season is about to start.
I watched summer league and saw Abdel Nader thrive. Where’d he go?
Nader, the 58th pick of the draft, agreed to join the Maine Red Claws this season before his strong summer league showing. If he had not agreed to do that, the Celtics probably would not have drafted him. Boston retains his rights and will be tracking his progress closely.
The guess here is that Jordan Mickey, Demetrius Jackson, James Young, and maybe even Brown will see time in Portland this season, too. Also, it’ll be worth Googling the Celtics’ two first-round picks who are playing overseas: Ante Zizic (Croatia) and Guerschon Yabusele (China).
I hear a lot about how the Celtics like playing “small ball.” That’s a weird term. Please explain.
If you got a nickel every time Stevens said the words “versatility,” “speed,” and “skill,” you might be able to buy playoff tickets with your bounty by season’s end. This is a new NBA, and the days of watching a lumbering center make methodical post moves are mostly gone.
Stevens places great value on positional versatility, particularly defenders who are able to switch on screens and guard multiple positions. Stevens will mix and match and try uncommon combinations often.
There will be times when Jonas Jerebko is at center or Brown is at power forward and it will all work out. It would be fascinating to see a defensive lineup that consists of Bradley, Marcus Smart, Brown, Jae Crowder, and Horford. Good luck scoring against that group.