Nobody can deny it. The Boston Celtics are an exciting team to watch. But the conversation gets cloudy when some describe them as being “for real.”
Whatever your definition of “for real” is, I almost wish we didn’t even have to bring up that phrase with this current group of Celtics players. As I type this, the C’s are in the playoffs, as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, with a 30-37 record, and are a ridiculous 22.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the top seed.
It’s as unnecessary to mention the race for the top seed as it is to consider the Celtics “for real.” But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the next month-and-a-half of basketball here in Boston. Because whether the Celtics get into the tournament or not, there are plenty of positives.
If we’re talking about an NBA playoff series in a month — even if it results in the worst-case scenario of a sweep — there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting the kids some postseason experience.
And not just the players. Coach Brad Stevens is also in that conversation.
An obvious Coach-of-the-Year candidate, Stevens would also benefit from a taste of a seven-game playoff series.
If the Celtics are still playing after April 15, it’s not a sign that they’re “for real.” It’s a sign that they aren’t that far away from being a legitimate contender in the East. And that’s where Danny Ainge comes in. All of a sudden, his entire roster’s trade value has increased. He has money to spend in free agency, and plenty of draft picks. So the Celtics could be just an offseason move or two away from re-entering the league’s heavyweight fight.
If I had to guess Ainge’s reaction to how the Celtics are playing lately, I would say that he’s pleasantly surprised, given the fact that he traded away Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green months ago.
Isaiah Thomas is a valuable piece, but even he’s missed some time during the Celtics’ recent run, along with one of the team’s best players in Jared Sullinger, who hasn’t played since Feb. 11 because of a foot injury. Perhaps Ainge had his eye on someone in the draft when he made all those trades. And if the Celtics end up missing the playoffs, there’s a positive to that scenario as well.
If they miss the playoffs, it’s because I’m assuming they stumble down the stretch, and others don’t, which would make it possible for the Celtics to finish with one of the worst 10 records in the league. That gives them a shot to land an even better impact player in the draft.
If most mock drafts play out to be true, and let’s say, Kentucky’s 7-foot shot-blocker Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t a top-five pick, then he’d look great in Green. But even if that scenario doesn’t play out, the pros outweigh the cons to any result of the Boston Celtics’ season.
So enjoy the ride.
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