The Boston Celtics have continued to surprise everyone this NBA season as they sit in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference – a position that not even a die-hard Boston fan like myself was expecting. Boston have won more games (31) than what they did last season (where they finished with a record of 25-57), even though they now have a weaker roster after trading two of their highest profile players in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green in the past couple of months.
Everyone in Boston expected a team that was in tank mode, but now they are egging on their squad in hopes of a playoffs berth. Playoffs are a fantastic achievement for any team that is on the rise, but is it an ideal finish for the Celtics?
Are playoffs the best option?
For any team, no matter what skill level or history, making the playoffs is a huge deal and should be accepted with pride and a feeling of success within an organisation. In Boston’s case, this is no exception as Brad Stevens and co. continue to show that the team in green are a rising and improving squad. Making the playoffs shows that the team has improved, which may suggest that a successful future is closer than what was originally thought.
Securing a playoffs berth can hinder many factors when it comes to a team that is rebuilding, especially when Boston have stocked up on draft picks over the past couple of seasons (here’s a link to how many picks the Celtics own). Given that Boston can now choose to fight for a spot in the playoffs or tank for a better draft pick, which option would be better for them?
Playing for experience
Let’s say that Boston end up making the playoffs, what type of impact would this have on the players? Just look at what happened to Kawhi Leonard, the small forward from San Antonio who exploded in the NBA Finals. He won himself the Finals MVP trophy along with his first championship title. The playoffs are unpredictable and players get a sudden boost of adrenaline when they hit the court with millions of fans watching them. Players such as Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas or even Tyler Zeller could have a huge postseason, and this will have a positive impact going into their next season.
Furthermore, a seven game series against elite teams will prove to be a positive experience for all the young players. They get to gauge themselves in this rebuilding phase, match themselves against some of the best, and also understand the concept of teamwork. No team in the playoffs has made it far without playing together as one unit. If the Celtics make the playoffs, expect a harder, faster and stronger unit going into the 2015/16 NBA season.
Next stop: NBA Draft
If the Celtics end up missing out on the playoffs, it would be likely that they would end up with a pick that is around the number 10 range, due to the fact that they are simply too far ahead of other teams that are fighting it out for a high draft pick. But if they do end up making the playoffs, say the eighth seed, they could end up with a pick that could be in the number 15 range. This means that they would go down five draft spots. NBA drafts are unpredictable – would the Celtics losing five spots affect their future? Probably not. For example, some players fell in the drafts and were picked up by other teams, but they were still able to perform as well as their top 10 peers. Look at Jared Sullinger, an injury plagued player who fell into the Celtics’ arms at pick 21 in the 2012 draft. He’s now their starting power forward and one of their building blocks for the future. Anything can happen in NBA drafts, because not all the top picks work out to be the best.
A rising team could be the place to be
When free agents hit the market, they usually look for teams that they think would suit them best. For upcoming free agents such as Greg Monroe, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Brandon Knight and Draymond Green, the Boston Celtics could be the team that they have searched for. The Celtics have plenty of cap room and with a rising squad, perhaps come free agents would love to jump on board and continue the rise into the NBA ranks. Signing young and promising free agents is key for a team that is determined to progress and the players mentioned before all fit into that category. Danny Ainge has a serious plan in Boston and I’m sure that if a player signed with the Celtics, they wouldn’t regret it.
It’s only a matter of time before the Celtics begin competing with some of the best teams in the NBA. In such a weak Eastern Conference, their fight back towards the top of the rankings could be short-lived. If the Celtics can make the playoffs this season and sign players that they need, I expect Boston to rise quickly into one of the most promising teams in the NBA.