Are Celtics 'just outside' elite circle of 2020 NBA title contenders?

Darren Hartwell

You've probably heard by now that the NBA is "wide open" after a transformative free agency period.

The defending champion Toronto Raptors lost Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The Golden State Warriors' dynasty appears to be at its end. The NBA's brightest stars have dispersed around the league in groups of two or fewer.

But where does all this movement leave the Boston Celtics? Is Kemba Walker actually an upgrade from talented yet enigmatic point guard Kyrie Irving? Can the C's fill Al Horford's deceptively large void?

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As always, the sportsbooks are a good barometer. NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh recently spoke with Jeff Sherman of Westgate SuperBook, who admitted his sportsbook is receiving interest for 2020 NBA title bets "throughout the league."

Right now, though, Boston isn't among the teams drawing the heaviest interest. Eight teams -- the Clippers, Bucks, Lakers, Sixers, Warriors, Rockets, Jazz and Nuggets -- constitute an "elite circle" of teams with better than 20-1 (or five percent) odds to win the title, while the Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers sit just outside at 25-1 and 30-1, respectively.

That's to be expected, as most NBA Power Rankings have the C's at either No. 9 or No. 10 in the league's pecking order -- good enough to be considered a fringe championship contender, but still on the outside of the "elite circle" looking in.

Of course, the actual games are months away, so hope still springs eternal for the Celtics and several other teams hoping to fill the NBA's power vacuum. Haberstroh broke down the three "tiers" of NBA teams and explained why pretty much every squad has some reason for hope. Check it out below.

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Are Celtics 'just outside' elite circle of 2020 NBA title contenders? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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