The Boston Celtics were within one game of the NBA Finals last season despite not having either Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving for their playoff run, but with a healthy squad, Irving believes they have the talent to match up with the best.
"Can we beat Golden State in a seven-game series? Yes," Irving told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. "Because of who we have, and what we're establishing here, not just for this season, but for hopefully for the next few years, something that's pretty special."
The Warriors have made four consecutive Finals appearances and won three championships during that span, including each of the last two since adding former NBA MVP Kevin Durant during the 2016 offseason. And while they are the gold standard of the league right now, Irving believes his team is more than capable of dethroning the champs.
After all, this is someone who has faced Golden State three times in the Finals and is a big reason why the Warriors aren't the four-time reigning champs.
"I've played against Golden State in three straight Finals (2015-17)—two that I was able to participate in—and seeing them evolve, with the talent they have, and then adding DeMarcus Cousins [this offseason], it's like 'OK, the whole league is on notice,'" Irving told MacMullan.
"But there's one factor that they're aware of, and I'm aware of, and that's that I've seen them up close. I've played them so many times. We've gone in a seven-game series [when I was in Cleveland], so I know what it takes."
Irving acknowledged that the Warriors could be even better by adding All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. However, the Celtics could also be much improved as they are healthy.
Boston has made it to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals. While they were expected to be among the favorites in the East last year, their championship aspirations took a major hit when Hayward broke his left leg on opening night. Although he appeared in 60 games, Irving was ultimately shut down in March as he needed surgery to remove a tension wire in his left knee.
Even without Hayward and Irving, though, the Celtics proved to be a formidable foe. They survived a tough test from the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and knocked off the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the second round before ultimately falling to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Veterans Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier provided leadership without Hayward and Irving, with Rookie of the Year candidate Jayson Tatum and second-year guard Jaylen Brown stepping up even more.
Golden State will enter the season as heavy favorites to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but as long as Boston stays healthy, Irving believes the Celtics can make things interesting.