What a difference a year makes in the NBA.

The Boston Celtics entered the 2018-19 season as the clear-cut favorites to win the Eastern Conference only to fall considerably short of meeting expectations. Following an active offseason, the new-look C’s now fit the mold of a pesky underdog ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Now without the burden of overwhelming hype, Jason McIntyre believes Boston is primed for success in the 2019-20 season. The FOX Sports host isn’t just expecting a respectable, bounce-back run from the green either. In fact, McIntyre believes a march to the NBA Finals is on deck for the Celtics.

“The team nobody is talking about — and this is where he loves to be — is Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics,” McIntyre said Wednesday on FS1’s “First Things First.” “Addition by subtraction. Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh, I think that’s addition by subtraction. I do believe Kyrie Irving totally messed with their chemistry last year. He was getting on the young guys’ case, he wanted to get his shots, he was angry at Brad Stevens last year because Brad Stevens is kind of tight with Gordon Hayward. Hayward coming off the injury wasn’t very good. If you guys follow the Team USA basketball, there are currently four Celtics on that team: (Jaylen) Brown, (Jayson) Tatum, Kemba (Walker) and Marcus Smart. They are building chemistry right now that they didn’t have last year. I believe this team, when you toss in Hayward coming off the injury, is not kind of a sleeping giant, but they’re the team nobody is talking about. It’s all Sixers, it’s all Bucks and the Celtics are going to be my pick to surprise everybody and come out of the Eastern Conference.”

McIntyre also is expecting big seasons from Boston’s pair of star swingmen.

“Tatum and Jaylen Brown were in trade talks the last two years. ‘Are they gonna trade ’em for Anthony Davis? What about Paul George, Jimmy Butler?’ Finally, that’s lifted,” McIntyre said. “They are without the pressure of, ‘Are they gonna be moved?’ They know they are the future. They are the foundation building blocks in Boston. I’m telling you guys, don’t sleep on the Celtics winning the Eastern Conference.”

There certainly are reasons to be excited about the Celtics ahead of the new season, but an NBA Finals prediction seems a bit lofty. Boston currently is very weak in the frontcourt, which won’t bode well against Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The East isn’t just a three-horse race either, as the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors all are expected to be in the mix as well.

But while the C’s probably aren’t ticked for the championship stage, the 2019-20 season likely will be more enjoyable for green teamers than the previous one. The new Celtics are poised to be an easy bunch to rally around, which should help limit the headaches and frustration that were aplenty last season.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images