As the Boston Celtics continue to age, our expectations of them become decreasingly high. Every year it seems like they have that "something left in the tank" to get them going and feeling rejuvenated.
Who's to say they don't have anything left in the tank for this year?
In fact, I might even go as far as to say they're better than they were last year. Yet with the aging of the Big 3, people may have the Boston Celtics finishing down at even 5th place in the East next year.
But in reality, between Miami, Orlando, Boston, Atlanta and Chicago, seeds 1-5 are pretty much up for grabs for any of these teams. So for Boston to finish fifth in the East wouldn't be all that far-fetched.
Which makes it all the less far-fetched for them to finish first in the East as well. It's hard to overachieve, or even underachieve, when the expectations are so scattered.
Does that mean that they can't overachieve or underachieve? No. It just won't be represented by their seed going into the playoffs.
That said, I think Boston still does have quite a bit left in the tank and here are 10 reasons why they will overachieve this coming season:
With all that's been going on this summer in the NBA, the Celtics, like every other team in the league, should be very excited to play this coming season.
This NBA summer has built up a lot of hype for the coming season, and the players - just like the fans - should be excited for the first tip off.
The Celtics were not inactive this summer, they made some great additions to their roster to make sure they stay competitive in the ever-increasing level of play in the Eastern Conference.
The Kendrick Perkins injury hurts them a little bit, but they've more than accounted for his absence by signing both Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal to split minutes at center.
It should be interesting to see how the two of them fit into this team together.
Now teammates, the two O'Neals should be satisfied splitting minutes at center for the Celtics next season as they both look to wind down their careers.
The two-faced center attack should give opposing offenses and defenses some problems. On the one hand, they will be facing a humongous brick wall and will have to plan accordingly. On the other hand, they will be facing an athletic, shot-blocking extraordinaire and will have to adjust to this style of play as well.
Look for Boston to switch the O'Neals fairly often in the hopes of causing confusion and match-up problems for opposing teams.
Not only do the Celtics start four Hall of Famers and an All-Star point guard, their bench is as solid as they come.
They may not be the most talented bunch, but they bring so many intangibles to the floor—just look at the picture.
Having players like Glen Davis and Nate Robinson can really help a team out. They provide great energy and are just a joy to have as teammates. Aside from those two, O'Neal (either one) and Kendrick Perkins will be coming off the bench at center, and they also have Marquis Daniels on the perimeter.
The loss of Eddie House is somewhat masked by the draft choices of Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody.
Rajon Rondo is coming off a career-year last season as he seemingly improves significantly from year to year. As well as averaging just under 10 assists per game, he is coming off some wonderful playoff performances from last year.
He should be coming into the 2010-2011 season with a full head of steam and there's no reason to believe he won't improve from his play last year.
He has established himself as a well-respected member—and leader—of the Celtics and only looks to further ingrain that relationship he has with his teammates this coming season.
Look for Rondo to shoot into the ranks of the superstars next season.
There are very few teams in the NBA who have the luxury of having every one of their players know their role on the team.
I believe the Celtics are one of those teams.
On Boston's starting five last year everybody knew their role. They've been playing together for several years now and it has become a fairly close-knit group.
Shaq knows he is not going to be the guy in the headlines or standing out in the box scores. He knows where he is with his game right now and he can still be of an immense impact on a basketball game for a playoff team.
For the past several years Boston has been considered the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
That means every other team in the NBA has been out to get the Celtics, and every team Boston plays gives them their best shot.
In a way, the stars are aligning themselves perfectly for the Celtics. There has been a lot of hype surrounding a team that plays its home games in South Beach - the perfect way to take the target off Boston's back.
Miami will be playing with all the spotlights for years to come starting next season, meaning the Celtics will have free range to dominate its opponents who no longer feel the need to give Boston their "best game".
Boston will have a great shot at making it back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
As the Boston Big 3 ages, so grows their "veteran-ism". Like a good wine, the three potential Hall of Famers are not getting worse with age—they are using it to their advantage.
And one more season means one more year of experience (especially in Rajon Rondo's case). It's scary to think about how good the Celtics can still be, especially while Rondo is still improving and moving into his prime.
Make that four Hall of Famers with the addition of Shaquille O'Neal. They may play less minutes, they may be less athletic, but they are still the players they are and can take over a game at any moment.
There are teams who step their game up when the playoffs come around and there are teams who fold (Cavaliers, Mavericks and Hawks come to mind).
Boston is one of the teams that elevate their game when it's playoff time.
No matter where they are seeded next year, don't expect them to be an easy outing. They have a very good chance at getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett joined forces several years ago as three comrades seeking an NBA championship. They accomplished that feat in 2008 and have revisited the NBA Finals and Eastern Conference Finals since, but have come up empty.
Nobody said that once Pierce, Allen and Garnett got a ring they would be satisfied; there is always room for more.
Everyone on this team wants to win. Rondo looks to build on a potentially long and illustrious career of achievements, the Big 3 all want to win another championship, and then there's Shaq.
The Big Shamrock made a statement saying he wants to play for six teams and win six titles in 20 years of NBA play. The Celtics are his sixth team, but he only has four titles (only? I know...). This means he wants to win not just once in Boston, but twice.
This is one of the most competitive rosters in the NBA.
There's no question the Boston Celtics will be out to defend their Eastern Conference title next season. They may not be the favorites to win it again this season, but they must be treated as the defending champs.
In fact, the Celtics have quite a bit to prove this coming season. They have to prove they were worthy of winning the title last year, they have to prove they can still play atop the Eastern Conference with Orlando, and they have to prove the world wrong by not letting the Miami Heat reign supreme.
Boston and Orlando have been running the Eastern Conference for several years now, they're not just going to let the Heat take control just because of some free agent signings, are they?
The Celtics will be out to make a statement next season, I guarantee that.