The NBA season is anywhere from 9-12 games in, which is hardly enough time to determine how good or bad your favorite team is. But the cream is starting to rise to the top. The Cavaliers, Hawks, and Raptors sit atop the Eastern Conference while the Clippers, Warriors, and Spurs lead the way in the Western Conference. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the 76ers and Pelicans in the basements of their respective conferences. No surprise there, either.

Speaking of the Pelicans, they recently won their second game of the season ... by beating the Celtics.

Boston goes into Wednesday's game against the Mavericks (7:30 p.m., CSNNE) in the middle of the pack at 5-5. That .500 record may tell the story of an inconsistent bunch that can get under their opponent’s skin with tough defense one game, and then be labeled a “finesse” team by their own head coach in another game.

Despite the up-and-down start, there’s still plenty of reason to be confident that this group can right the ship and climb their way up the standings towards the top, where everybody thought they’d be to begin the season.

Get healthy

Al Horford ... remember him? The Celtics' massive offseason free agent signing has played in just three games this season, as he's currently suffering from concussion symptoms from a hit to the head during practice. It’s easy to forget Horford is even on the team since we really haven’t seen much of him in green. But he will waste no time fitting in once back. In his first game with the Celtics, he posted a stat line only reached by 12 Celtics' since the 1983-84 season: 11 points, five rebounds, six assists and four blocks. Jae Crowder, suffering from an ankle sprain, is another huge void in the Celtics' starting lineup. While Crowder isn’t the focal point of the offense, he’s hit some big shots for Boston and provides the toughness and defensive mindset necessary to win in the NBA.

Bradley the All-Star?

Yes, it’s a bit premature to be talking about All-Stars, and Avery Bradley certainly isn’t one of the first names that come to mind when the topic is brought up. But the reigning First Team All-Defense guard is doing it all for the Celtics right now. Not only is Bradley averaging 18.5 points per game (three more than last season) he’s averaging a whopping 8.3 rebounds per game (up from 2.3 last season), and 3.7 assists – all career highs. At an average of $8.5M the next two seasons, Bradley is one of the best bargains in the NBA. And to think… two years ago there were a lot of people who thought that was a bad signing. Bradley is becoming one of the best two-way players in the NBA.

Rich in youth

A few years ago, Danny Ainge made the tough choice to blow up the roster, trade his superstars, and start from the bottom. Faced with a similar situation, Mavs owner Mark Cuban went another direction. He kept his superstar in Dirk Nowitzki and tried to build through free agency. The 2-7 Mavs are now in a tough spot. They don’t have much youth at all, and don’t appear good enough to compete for a championship out West. Meanwhile, the Celtics are rich in youth. Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, and now Jaylen Brown are not just assets but key parts to the Celtics' success. Include Jordan Mickey and Crowder as players Ainge added because of an eye towards the future – one that looks bright.