Predicting records—especially in July—is usually a recipe for making yourself look stupid. So many variables are at play, so many things can go wrong. But I'm a gambler, and I think I can get this one right.
First of all, you have to take into account Boston's time-honored tradition of slacking off in the regular season. Is this team capable of competing with Miami for the No. 1 seed? Yeah, probably, but they won't because of age. Resting Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce is more important.
So now let's get to the nitty-gritty. In 2011-12, Boston won 59.1 percent of their games to go 39-27 over the course of the lockout-shortened 66-game season.
Translated to a normal 82-game season, that winning percentage indicates a record of 48-34. Technically, it's somewhere between 48 and 49 wins, but let's say 48 just to be safe.
There are other factors to consider, though.
First of all, the Celtics are deeper than last year. If we simply take away Ray Allen's 4.7 win shares (the number of wins estimated to be contributed by a player) and add Jason Terry's 3.8, Courtney Lee's 3.2, Jeff Green's 4.8 (from 2010-11) and an expected boost of an extra two wins from rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, the Celtics project to win an extra 9.1 games.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. You have to adjust for the fact that all of those guys will be playing less minutes and in a reduced role. Once you do that, I'd say that extra depth is worth four extra wins, putting the Celtics at 52-30.
But wait! There's more good news for the Celtics. The condensed schedule last year was a nightmare for a veteran team like Boston.
It meant having to play far more back-to-backs than normal and therefore not playing at 100 percent.
With the added time for rest, I'd say the Celtics should be good for an extra three wins, now putting them at 55-27.
There is one negative factor to consider, though: The Atlantic division has gotten better.
Let's say that the extra competition in the division doesn't quite offset the easier schedule but affects it somewhat, knocking off two wins.
In case you haven't been keeping track, that means I'm projecting a Celtics record of 53-29. It's a totally reasonable number; it should win them their division and place them no worse than third in the Eastern Conference.
Realistically, I can't see a team with Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce doing any worse, especially with this depth. The only thing that can hold this team back is injuries and fatigue. Assuming they stay healthy and rested, expect the Celtics to win at least 50 games in 2012-2013.
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