During a rare quiet moment amid the Boston Celtics’ summer of roster-turnover chaos, Danny Ainge stopped to study his new-look squad.
The Celtics had signed free-agent Gordon Hayward earlier that month, but Ainge still couldn’t shake a feeling that his team needed another ball handler with Isaiah Thomas’ lingering hip injury. (Ainge was unaware that almost at that exact moment, Kyrie Irving was asking the Cleveland Cavaliers to find the trade that would deliver him to Boston in August.)
What started with a megadeal sending two future Hall of Famers to Brooklyn has turned into a master class in roster reshaping. Four years, 20 trades and a blockbuster point guard swap later, Boston is back on the fast track to title contention.
While there’s plenty of up-and-coming offensive talent in which to invest up front — Tolvanen certainly qualifies — Nashville’s young backup goalie could also pay out rich fantasy dividends for years and years to come. Through 26 appearances (23 starts), the 22-year-old boasted a .925 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average in his second real NHL season. At 35 years old, Rinne has one year remaining on his current contract. We’ll see what course the Preds choose to take after that.
Pelton: The Pelicans, who led the league by shooting an effective 58.0 percent in the first round (treating 3s as 1.5 field goals to account for their added value), will do no better than the league average of 52.1 percent against the Warriors in the second round.
Marks: Cleveland will lose to Toronto. Yes, I am betting against LeBron James. James’ string of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals will end in Toronto and start the rumor mill about his future six weeks before free agency. The first-round series versus Indiana taught us that despite James’ heroics, this Cleveland team has flaws that plagued it during the regular season.
Analysis: The big conferences dominate here, as you would expect. The exceptions are Roethlisberger (MAC), Smith (Mountain West) and Wentz (Missouri Valley). Wilson could actually count for both the Big Ten and the ACC, since he went to N.C. State before playing a year at Wisconsin.