The Boston Celtics, despite their loss to Detroit before All Star break, are arguably the hottest team in basketball. They went on a 9 game win streak before that loss. I don’t expect Boston to have this success for the rest of the season. But they are clearly putting themselves in a good spot to succeed because of how good they’ve been playing. I was holding off this article for a while because I wasn’t sure how long they can sustain this streak. Maybe their loss to Detroit was the end of this. But I don’t think so. I think the Boston Celtics are becoming the team people thought we would see for the last 2 seasons!
Before we talk about them compared to some other Eastern Conference teams, we need to know exactly who the Celtics are. I mentioned on my trade deadline recap article that I wasn’t so happy with the trades they made at the deadline. But I am second guessing myself about that. Boston had a starting 5 that would look like, Schroder, Brown, Tatum, Horford and Williams as long as they were healthy before the trade deadline. Now they have White, Brown, Tatum, Horford and Williams which is easily a better starting 5 since White has been much better than Schroder this season. They did lose a lot of depth in these trades. Romeo Langford, Bruno Fernando, Josh Richardson, all key role players that they lost. But gaining Daniel Theis will give Horford more rest, even if it’s just for 10 minutes or so per game. They have more star power but not as much depth. But how do they compare to other Eastern Conference teams when we look at their chances of competing for a championship?
The list below is the NBA Standings currently and their best player. The number in parentheses next to the player is how they rank when it comes to best player on each team in the Eastern Conference. The only player shown is the team’s best player if they will play another game this season (so no Bradley Beal):
- Miami Heat: 38-21 | Jimmy Butler (4)
- Chicago Bulls: 38-21 | DeMar DeRozan (6)
- Philadelphia 76ers: 35-23 | Joel Embiid (3)
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 35-23 | Darius Garland (9)
- Milwaukee Bucks: 36-24 | Giannis Antetokounmpo (1)
- Boston Celtics: 34-26 | Jayson Tatum (7)
- Toronto Raptors: 32-25 | Fred VanVleet (10)
- Brooklyn Nets: 31-28 | Kevin Durant (2)
- Charlotte Hornets: 29-31 | LaMelo Ball (8)
- Atlanta Hawks: 28-30 | Trae Young (5)
- Washington Wizards: 27-31 | Kristaps Porzingis (11)
- New York Knicks: 25-34 | Julius Randle (13)
- Indiana Pacers: 20-40 | Malcolm Brogdon (14)
- Detroit Pistons: 13-45 | Jerami Grant (12)
- Orlando Magic: 13-47 | Cole Anthony (15)
So, when we look at this list, Jayson Tatum is surprisingly the 7th best, best player, in the conference. However, the Celtics as a team are not that far off from being one of those top Eastern Conference teams. While James Harden hasn’t suited up as a 76er yet, the Celtics aren’t too far off from the defending #1 Eastern Conference team going into the playoffs. I think, while the Celtics are the 6th best team in the conference, have a higher potential to win the conference than Cleveland and possibly Chicago. The Celtics have been in the playoffs before and Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, etc, have also been there and played well there. The Cavs do not have a lot of experience in the playoffs and a young team like that usually doesn’t make it far. You can say the same thing about the Bulls because while DeRozan has been there, he hasn’t been great there. However, the Bulls are continuing to prove me wrong and them doing it again wouldn’t surprise me.
Add that evidence above along with James Harden’s playoff play and Ben Simmons’ playoff play, the Celtics really do have a chance to be the championship contender, the team people thought they would be since Tatum and Brown got to Boston!