NBA Pre-season win predictions: Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division

5 of 6

Oct 23, 2015; Manchester, NH, USA; (L to R) Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7), forward David Lee (42), guard James Young (13), guard Marcus Smart (36) and guard Evan Turner (11) come out of a timeout against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at Verizon Wireless Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics

Last season: 40 – 42

This season: 44 – 38

Small steps. That’s what the Celtics are poised to take, and they take enough of them to secure a playoff spot and even dog the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division “title”.

The green men won’t overwhelm anyone with their offensive prowess, but there’s sufficient balance to generate points. Avery Bradley is woefully underrated at guard. Kelly Olynyk will play “stretch-5”, if such a position exists, and will hit 3-balls, or weave effectively to the hoop. Isaiah Thomas doesn’t have any doubters left, does he? How such a tiny man gets off so many unencumbered shots is a mystery, but he does, and a lot go swish.

Whether Tyler Zeller, Amir Johnson and David Lee can protect the paint remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet against them. Evan Turner, a disappointment in his NBA career to date, showed some spark last season after arriving to play on the parquet floor. If Marcus Smart takes a step forward, the Celtics’ excellent young coach, Brad Stevens, won’t know who to play.

There’s enough depth and professional experience here to expect an over-.500 season.

Next: A Toronto three-peat?