The Warriors are heavy championship favorites heading into next season, but the talented and well-coached Celtics could challenge them in a Finals matchup.
After four straight years of Warriors versus Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, there will probably be a different team representing the Eastern Conference in next year’s Finals after LeBron James’ move to Los Angeles.
The early favorites in the East are the Boston Celtics, who came within one game of the Finals last year despite missing two of their best players.
Gordon Hayward missed the entire year after a horrific ankle injury on opening night, and Kyrie Irving underwent season-ending knee surgery in March.
Both of those All-Stars are expected to return next year to join a roster that took the Cavaliers to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Hayward’s absence allowed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to emerge into All-Star-caliber players last season.
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The addition of Haywayd gives Boston the best group of wings in the league outside of Golden State.
The Celtics will likely close games with Hayward, Tatum and Brown playing together along with Kyrie and Al Horford next season, and they’ll have quality depth behind those five as well.
Terry Rozier played extremely well in the playoffs after Kyrie’s season-ending surgery, Marcus Smart is one of the league’s best defenders, Marcus Morris is a dynamic forward, and Aaron Baynes and Daniel Theis are solid backup bigs.
The Celtics are also led by one of the league’s best coaches in Brad Stevens, who has done a fantastic job during his tenure in Boston.
Boston competed well with the Warriors last year splitting their season series 1-1 with a combined score of 197-197.
While the Celtics don’t have the same MVP-caliber talent that the Warriors do, they are incredibly deep and their multitude of versatile defenders match up well with Golden State’s All-Stars.
I think Boston will present the Warriors with the toughest challenge of any team next season if they do indeed meet up in the NBA Finals.
Here are our scouting reports of some other possible contenders next season: