We’re 1 day away from the Celtics taking the floor in Philadelphia to tip off the 2019-2020 season. The staff at Red’s Army have 3 more predictions to give before it all gets started (missed a day, so we’re giving you another two for one!)
Who wins the East? We didn’t dare ask this question last year because we all thought we already knew the answer — the Celtics, duh. The waters are a bit cloudier this year, and so is our optimism (save for Rich, you’ll see what he says below).
We also each mark the calendar with a can’t miss game of the year. Our choices below:
(Who wins the East?)
Ben Mark: Milwaukee Bucks
Explanation: Giannis is about to go from disputed best player in the league to undisputed best player in the league. He’s good enough to win the east by himself, so while I think some of the Bucks’ role players regress a bit, and while the team will miss Malcolm Brogdon, Giannis going scorched earth means the Bucks come out of the east over Philly.
Mike Dynon: Philadelphia 76ers
Explanation: Without Kawhi Leonard, Toronto will take a step down. The Bucks could well repeat as the league’s top team, but Al Horford will be a difference-maker in Philly (insert frowning/annoyed face emoji here.)
Rich Jensen: Boston Celtics
Explanation: I think the Celtics are a legit threat to win 60 games this season. I’m not sold on the superiority of any of the other teams in the East. Toronto definitely took a step backward, the Sixers have exploitable weaknesses in their back court, and the Bucks, I think, are going to have a pretty altered chemistry. I think signing Middleton to a $177M contract was … unwise. None of these teams strike me as head-and-shoulders better than the Celtics, so in a toss-up, who am I going to pick?
Chuck Bonasoro: Philadelphia 76ers
Explanation: I would love to drink even more Kool-Aid here and throw down our Boston Celtics as the Eastern Conference Champion, but I can’t ignore what’s going on in Philly. They added more 3-point shooting and one of the best defensive big men in the game. Al Horford will be able to take some stress off of Joel Embiid while Josh Richardson is the perfect swing man for their style of play. While I do think the ECF will end up being a hard fought series, this feels like Philly’s year to finally break through after back to back ECSF exits.
Liam Green: Milwaukee Bucks
Explanation: Though I believe their decision to cut bait on Malcolm Brogdon was a mistake and think Drew Bledsoe will not be worth the cost of his extension, they have reasonable depth and THE GOD DAMN MVP. Sixers will be hamstrung by Brett Brown’s coaching flaws—he is so clearly overmatched for these title runs—and a problematic bench.
(What’s your “must see” game?)
Ben Mark: October 23rd, @Philadelphia
Explanation: Let’s go with the first game on the slate. No, a win or loss on opening night does not a season make, but so much has been made of a happier, freer Celtics team going into the start of this campaign. If the beefed up Sixers, with former Celtics stalwart Al Horford, wipe the floor with the Cs on night one, it’s not going to be easy to just forget that. Opening night is always fun and unpredictable, it feels as though it’ll be even more so than usual.
Mike Dynon: December 25th, @Toronto
Explanation: The Cs have lost eight straight and 12 of the last 13 games in Toronto. All I want for Christmas is a win north of the border.
Rich Jensen: February 13th, vs. Clippers
Explanation: Doc Rivers finally returns to the Garden with a (theoretically) championship caliber team. If the Clippers are as good as expected, this will be an interesting variation of “Beat LA”
Chuck Bonasoro: January 20th, vs. Lakers
Explanation: After years of ineptitude (that may be putting it lightly), the Lakers are back to being one of the best teams in the NBA. We obviously all know the hullabaloo that went on between AD and the Celtics, and even more so what went on with the Lakers last year. They did every single thing you could do wrong as a franchise and still two of the top 10 players in the league fell into their lap. If that doesnt ruffle your feathers, I dont know what will. Then to top it all off… it’s the Lakers (yuck). The league is better when both the Celtics and Lakers are at the top of their game and I’m geared and ready to get this rendition going this season.
Liam Green: Every Sixers game
Explanation: My blood gets up against the Sixers more than any other team. I always want to win those, and fortunately for me in recent years, the Cs often do. On the other hand, Al Horford was one of my favorite players before he joined the Celtics, and is still one now, so the Garden better give him a salute. Maybe a tribute video, perhaps one including footage of him stuffing Embiid all those times. Then I hope he scores 20 points and that the Celtics still win by double digits. (This is complicated, OK?)