Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks – Madison Square Garden – 25/10/23 – 7:00 pm (ET)
After what feels like an eternity, the 2023-2024 NBA season is finally here and the Boston Celtics open their new campaign at Madison Square Garden against their Atlantic Division rivals, the New York Knicks.
Some familiar faces have left the organization during the offseason, but some notable acquisitions have been added to the already star-filled locker room. Can we continue our preseason form with an opening-day win?
Here is how both sides might line up, why, and who might miss the game due to injury.
After going 4-1 in the preseason, how might the Boston Celtics starting five look for their season opener?
With the multitude of starting five options that Joe Mazzulla has at his disposal, Derrick White had to make a point for himself during the preseason, and that is exactly what he did. While all eyes were fixated on the arrival of Jrue Holiday from the Portland Trailblazers, Derrick White has continued to perform at an exceptionally high level, particularly on the defensive end, proving that he deserves a starting role.
Yes, White was exceptional on the defensive end during the preseason, but after making the All-Defensive second team, that didn’t come as much surprise. White deserves a starting role this season based on the preseason, as well as how prolific he was during the regular season and playoffs last year.
Alongside White, we’ll likely see Holiday or Jaylen Brown in the backcourt, depending on Mazzulla’s frontcourt selection. However, I’m expecting Horford to be given a rotational role for this game, and small-ball to be the gameplan from the start, making room for Holiday and Brown to both get a starting spot. I think we are yet to see the best version of Holiday, but as his chemistry continues to build with the rest of the team, then we will see why the Celtics traded for the All-Star guard.
With the stellar All-Defensive backcourt duo demonstrating their worth and top form throughout the preseason, it appears fairly unlikely that Mazzulla will make any changes in the guard positions for this season opener. Can both White and Holiday make All-Defensive teams this season?
As I’m sure most will expect throughout the season, the first two names in my predicted lineup for the Celtics season opener is the All-Star wing pairing of the “Two Jays”, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Throughout last season, as he has done every year of his career so far, Tatum took another leap forward, this time putting his name firmly in the MVP conversation. After averaging an incredible 30.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.7 BPG, he has truly established himself as one of the top stars in the league – and the analysts seem to agree with that. ESPN ranked Tatum at No. 6 in their top 100, CBS Sports has him at No. 7, The Ringer rates him at No. 5, as does Bleacher Report.
It’s impossible to ignore how far Tatum has come since being drafted 3rd overall in the 2017 draft. According to FanDuel.com, Tatum is the 4th favorite to win the MVP award this season at +750, while the Celtics are tied with the Milwaukee Bucks as favorites to win the Championship this season at +380.
So, now at the more mature age of 25, and with his newly bulked-up physique, this year holds the potential for Tatum to cement his place as the league MVP and lead this Celtics side to Championship No.18. I anticipate big things from Tatum this year and expect him to be the first name added to the starting five.
As already mentioned, I expect both Tatum and Brown to start for this season’s opening game against the Knicks. After receiving the blessing, and the potential burden, of the $304 million contract extension, Brown must begin this campaign as if the weight of the extension is non-existent.
During the preseason, Brown showed us glimpses of what we have already come to expect from the two-time All-Star, and that’s the high level at which he has performed throughout his career so far.
I’d argue that Tatum and Brown are the best duo in the league and I expect them to be in the starting lineup for most games throughout the season, if they are both available that is. The Celtics locker room looks a bit different from last year, but the two main names have remained. Can this duo lead the organization to banner No.18?
Lastly is the center position and, with Robert Williams no longer being in Beantown, there is one stand-out name who is poised to take on this starting role, and that is the newly acquired Kristaps Porzingis.
During his preseason run with the Boston Celtics, Porzingis has been looking nothing short of consistent and ready for the regular season. Throughout this preseason run, Porzingis played in all 4 of the Celtics victories and looked incredible throughout. From his opening 3-pointer to his alley-oop dunk and his consistent shooting, the fans have been well and truly on board. Losing Williams hurt, but Porzingis has what it takes to fill the void left after his departure – if he can stay healthy that is.
Although most of his career has been plagued with injuries, his stats when available are a testament as to why he was the 4th overall pick in 2015, and why the Celtics did what was necessary to acquire his services. As long as he can stay healthy while playing in Beantown, he will be a huge contributor to any success this Boston Celtics side is going to have while he is here.
Boston Celtics Predicted Lineup
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis
With a more small-ball lineup being the go-to for the Celtics’ final two preseason matchups, I expect that to continue, utilizing the All-Defensive backcourt duo, the All-Star wing duo, and their newly acquired, sharpshooting big man as much as they can.
With the defensive capabilities in this lineup, it will be a tough time for any team to get any offensive momentum going, and with the sheer amount of shooting and scoring options, it will be a hard time trying to stop them – especially when the momentum starts to build.
This is the best the Boston Celtics have looked in a while. Do you think this is a championship-winning team?
The New York Knicks went 1-3 during their preseason, will they make any notable changes for the regular season?
During the Knicks’ preseason campaign, Jalen Brunson has had limited minutes on the court, which has kept us from witnessing the level of performance we know he is capable of. Last season Brunson took a huge leap forward and continued his good run of form into the FIBA World Cup in the summer while representing Team USA. If he continues on this upward trajectory, he could become a significant asset and play a pivotal role in launching the Knicks to success – a feat that has eluded the team for some time.
Brunson 2021-22: 16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, and 0.8 SPG
Brunson 2022-23: 24 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 6.2 APG, and 0.9 SPG
Although he played exceptionally well last season, Brunson was snubbed when it came to the All-Star game, which he claims did not bother him, and that he was happy to see his teammate make the cut. If he continues to improve his game like he has been the last couple of seasons, Brunson making the 2024 All-Star game is a genuine possibility.
I expect Brunson to start for their season opener on Wednesday night, and if he continues to play like he did last season, the Boston Celtics All-Defensive guard duo will have their work cut out for them – but I feel confident in their ability to do so. The question remains: Is Brunson capable of being the driving force for success in the Knicks organization? This season provides him with the opportunity to answer that question.
When it comes to the shooting guard position for the Knicks, there is one stand-out player who, even though he didn’t have the best preseason, I still expect to make the starting five and that is Quentin Grimes. As he approaches his third season in the NBA, the 25th overall pick from 2021 has the chance to make a name for himself this season – a bit of a recurring theme for the Knicks.
During the 2022-23 season, Grimes showed good all-around improvements, earning him 66 starts throughout the campaign – compared to only six games that he started in his rookie season. With strong competition in the form of Donte DiVincenzo, RJ Barrett, and Josh Hart, now is the time for the 23-year-old to step up and secure his starting position going forward. Speaking of Barrett…
Although I don’t expect him to start at the shooting guard spot, I do think he will start this season opener as their small forward. There were talks during the offseason about Barrett potentially having a bench role this season, but surely after some of his preseason performances, those conversations can be looked back on and laughed at.
Barrett vs. Timberwolves: 23 points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals
Barrett vs. Wizards: 19 points, seven rebounds, and three assists
Much like many of his fellow Knicks teammates, Barrett faces the pressure of delivering a standout season. In an organization as storied as the Knicks, which has been without a trophy for such a prolonged period of time, the collective desire to return to the winning side is evident. The weight of expectations is heavy, but Barrett and the rest of the organization are determined to bring the Knicks back to their old winning ways. Do you think Barrett has what it takes to be a part of a successful Knicks side?
While Brunson missed out on being an All-Star last season, his Knicks co-star Julius Randle secured his place among the best in the league, and understandably so. Last season Randle had the best scoring year of his career so far and excelled in multiple areas as he averaged a notable 25.1 PPG, 10 RPG, 4.1 APG, and 0.6 SPG.
Even though Randle boasted an incredible season average, there have been rumors circulating recently, that include Randle, around a trade for Joel Embiid, should the Philadelphia 76ers consider this offer?
The preseason wasn’t the most successful for the Knicks as a team, and Randle was one of the players who didn’t play at his best throughout. Nonetheless, he managed to end their preseason campaign with a 20-point, 10-rebound performance against the Washington Wizards. Despite his less-than-ideal preseason, his All-Star-caliber performances from last year solidify his role as one of the key figures in the locker room. I fully expect him to start in the season’s opening game for the Knicks.
Lastly, Mitchell Robinson is by far the best big man on the Knicks roster currently, with consistent rebounding and post-scoring being his most notable assets. With Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims being the only alternate options, I don’t see Tom Thibodeau going with anyone other than Robinson for this season’s opener.
“I’m him” was his reaction to being ranked No.100 in the ESPN Top 100 rankings, so one thing Robinson certainly isn’t lacking is confidence but, with his name being included as a part of the Embiid trade rumors, Robinson needs to prove himself early on to make the organization rethink its options.
However, I can’t imagine any franchise turning down the chance to land the 29-year-old, reigning MVP. Is this the year for Robinson to really make a name for himself? Or will the Knicks consider a roster shake-up in hopes of competing for their first championship in 50 years? If there is a time to make a drastic change, it is now, due to the foundation of young talent that the Knicks possess.
New York Knicks Predicted Lineup
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Quentin Grimes
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson
I’ve settled on what I expect to be the Knicks’ starting five for most games this season, assuming all players remain available and no major trades occur. The organization’s eagerness for success and the overwhelming desire to secure their first championship in 50 years raises questions about their current roster’s ability to do so. If the Knicks don’t start their season off with a bang, some changes might be needed.
Do you think their current roster will take the necessary jump forward this season? Or do the Knicks need to make some changes?
Boston Celtics: Jay Scrubb – OUT (Torn ACL)
New York Knicks: None
Boston Celtics 121, New York Knicks 112