Boston Celtics

With Cleveland Cavaliers franchise piece LeBron James officially out of the Eastern Conference by way of a new deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics have become the odds-on favorite to represent the East in the 2019 NBA Finals.

The Celtics should face some sort of challenge along the way, of course, as the Sixers’ youthful core is another year older while the Toronto Raptors added Kawhi Leonard to their mix (though at the expense of DeMar DeRozan). The Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, and Indiana Pacers are also teams that can make life difficult for somebody if they get hot.

But Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, who appeared on Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum’s podcast last week, says it’s not something that’s up for debate: Boston’s going to round four next year.

“Oh, we’re getting to the Finals,” Brown offered. “No question about it.”

Brown isn’t just saying that because James moved from The Land to Hollywood, either. He finds that insulting, even.

“I hate how everybody is like, ‘Oh, LeBron’s gone in the East,'” Brown, who had brought up his issue with this line of thinking earlier this summer, told McCollum. “I know [LeBron] did have a strong hold on the East for the last seven years, but he barely got us out of there this year. And our mindset was like, ‘Man, he’s not beating us again.'”

Brown’s confidence shouldn’t surprise anybody, especially after what was a breakout postseason for the second-year pro.

And especially not after the Celtics came just one Game 7 victory away from competing in the 2018 NBA Finals, even without superstar scorers Kyrie Irving (knee) and Gordon Hayward (ankle) for the entire postseason, with both Brown and first-year pro Jayson Tatum playing absolutely gigantic roles for the C’s along the way. And in addition to expecting a return to 100 percent from both Irving and Hayward, the Celtics complemented their surprising near-Finals run by keeping almost everybody from their 2017-18 year in Celtic Green for at least one more run, too.

It’s more than enough to make a believer out of No. 7.

“We got a lot, a lot of talent on this team,” Brown said of the 2018-19 Celtics. “And we’ve got some real good mindsets, and it’s a pleasure playing with them all. But we have to be on one page if we want to be successful.”

The Celtics will open their 2018-19 season Oct. 16 against the 76ers at TD Garden.