ESPN unveils its 2023-24 win-loss record prediction for Celtics

ESPN unveils its 2023-24 win-loss record prediction for Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics have not finished the regular season atop the Eastern Conference standings since 2016-17. ESPN is predicting that drought will end during the upcoming 2023-24 campaign.

We're getting to the point in the NBA offseason where season predictions are starting to roll in, and on Wednesday ESPN unveiled it's win-loss projections for each Eastern Conference team.

They have the Celtics finishing 55-27 in first place. ESPN also predicts the Milwaukee Bucks to finish a game behind the Celtics at 54-28, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only other East team projected to win 50-plus games at 50-32.

The Celtics have finished second in the East in back-to-back seasons. They have won 50 or more games in four of the last seven seasons. In two of those three seasons the C's didn't reach 50 wins, they won 49 (2018-19) and 48 (2019-20). So they've been pretty consistent since Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were drafted in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

On paper, the Celtics have one of their best rosters in a long time. Tatum and Brown were both All-NBA players last season. Malcolm Brogdon was the Sixth Man of the Year Award winner. Al Horford and Robert Williams are back, too. Derrick White should play a larger role as the starting point guard. The major offseason transaction was center Kristaps Porzingis being acquired from the Washington Wizards via trade and point guard Marcus Smart being dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Tatum, Brown and Porzingis are all capable of scoring 20-plus points per game. The last time the Celtics had three 20-point scorers was 2019-20. Boston's roster has plenty of outside shooting, too. The Celtics ranked second in 3-point shots taken per game and sixth in 3-point percentage last season, and we should expect similar results in 2023-24.

The real question mark is defense. The departure of Smart is a huge loss on that end of the floor. Williams, Horford and Porzingis are all very good defenders, but can they stay healthy for a full season? Williams and Porzingis have long injury histories, while Horford is 37 years old. The Celtics were good defensively last season but often failed to reach the level they hit for most of 2021-22 that led to an NBA Finals berth.

Barring significant injuries, the Celtics should be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed again in the East. But ultimately, winning Banner 18 is going to determine whether the 2023-24 season is a success or failure for the Celtics.