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Where Celtics land in ESPN's standings predictions originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics overhauled their roster, coaching staff, and front office over the summer after a letdown 2020-21 NBA season. But will those changes be enough to propel them back to the top of the Eastern Conference?
If you ask the NBA experts over at ESPN, it'll take more than one season for the Celtics to enjoy the fruits of their labor. ESPN's win-loss record and standings predictions for the 2021-22 campaign have Boston being only marginally better than it was a season ago.
According to ESPN's predictions, the Celtics will finish with a 45-37 record and earn a sixth-place spot in the competitive Eastern Conference. That's a slight improvement over last season when the C's finished 36-36 and squeaked into the play-in tournament as a No. 7 seed.
Here's a look at how ESPN predicts the East will play out:
1. Brooklyn Nets: 58-24
2. Milwaukee Bucks: 57-25
3. Philadelphia 76ers: 50-32
4. Miami Heat: 49-33
5. Atlanta Hawks: 47-35
6. Boston Celtics: 45-37
7. New York Knicks: 44-38
T-8. Charlotte Hornets: 40-42
T-8. Chicago Bulls: 40-42
10. Indiana Pacers: 40-42
In this scenario, the Celtics would avoid the play-in round and take on the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. Boston has eliminated Philly in each of their last five playoff meetings.
A sixth-place finish wouldn't come as much of a surprise for this new-look C's team. It'll likely take some time to adjust with Ime Udoka replacing Brad Stevens as a first-year head coach and Stevens taking over for Danny Ainge as president of basketball operations. It also remains to be seen how stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will mesh with new point guard Dennis Schroder as well as fellow wings Josh Richardson and Juancho Hernangomez. Plus, can Marcus Smart thrive in his new role as the full-time starting point guard?
There are plenty more question marks where that came from as we await the start of the 2021-22 NBA season. It all begins next month as the Celtics will open their campaign vs. old friend Kemba Walker and the New York Knicks on Oct. 20.