If you're an NBA fan (especially one in Boston) who's hoping for some actual parity in the league this year, then you're probably going to hope that J.R. Smith's predictions for the upcoming season are very, very wrong. On Monday, the Cavs guard told Cleveland.com that he doesn't think the Celtics will be a threat to Cleveland's run of three straight Eastern Conference championships, despite the additions they made over the past few months (more on that in a sec).
First, Smith gave a quick assessment of the C's lineup after being asked if he thought they'd be a greater challenge than they were last season (where they were beat in the Conference Finals by the Cavs in five games despite being the top seed).
"Not really. Yeah, they have [Kyrie] but last year, they had Isaiah [Thomas]," Smith said. “Avery [Bradley] and Gordon [Hayward], obviously, they bring different things to the floor. Gordon’s a better offensive player, but obviously Avery’s a better defender. Pretty much a wash there. People are expecting good things from (Jayson) Tatum, but he’s a rookie so I can’t really go there with him. Al (Horford) is gonna be Al—a pick-and-pop guy, doesn’t really roll as much. Jaylen (Brown) has obviously gotten better."
From there, he made it clear that he thought Boston offered little challenge to the Cavs, adding, "I think they’re the same—I don’t want to say the same team, obviously, because there’s different people in different jerseys—but I don’t really pose them as a big threat to us."
This past offseason the Celtics added to their already talented roster, which went 53-29 last year, by drafting Jayson Tatum out of Duke with the third overall pick. They also signed free agent All-Star Gordon Hayward and (of course) traded point guard Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving.
Anyway, we shall wait and see if those transactions make any sort of difference or if it will just be same ol' same ol' when the Finals roll around again in June.