‘Tis the season to ask unanswerable questions!
The Boston Celtics are 20-7 heading into Christmas which is good for 2nd in the East. So let’s ask the obvious question at the top of this article. Are they championship contenders or not?
The question is important for the near future because the trade deadline is in February and the team needs to decide if they want to “go for it” with a move that gives them a better shot at the title this year. That kind of move might cost future assets or younger players that might mean sacrificing longer term value down the line.
A major variable that needs to be considered is Gordon Hayward’s long term plans. If he plans on picking up his player option, then the Celtics can roll with the current core for at least one more year. If he opts out for a longer term contract with the team, they have an even longer runway. However, if he opts out and picks a new team like Al Horford did last year, then the calculus changes a bit. As with any player, health and injury status will factor in as well.
So is this squad good enough to take a shot at the crown this year? I’m cautiously optimistic personally. I think that they should be in that conversation but not necessarily considered one of the favorites yet. The Clippers, Lakers, and Bucks seem like the odds on favorites. Of course the Raptors weren’t favorites last season and the Warriors weren’t expected to be a dynasty level team at this point in 2014. These things evolve and history is written after the fact.
Still, there are plenty of “if’s” that need to fall into place for this team to reach that level of success. If Jayson Tatum becomes a top 10 player this season... If Jaylen Brown shows enough consistency to be considered a legit All-NBA type player... If Gordon Hayward can stay healthy and as productive as he did early this season... If the Celtics can get enough bench and center support to aid the core group... (note that as long as they are healthy I’m not concerned at all about Kemba Walker or Marcus Smart)
If all that falls together in the right way, they can compete with anyone in the league. Sure there are matchup problems with the Sixers and Bucks in the East, but the Celtics pose their own matchup problems as well. If the Jays have it going, Kemba is clicking, and Hayward and Smart are filling in all the gaps, the sky is the limit.
Of course that’s a Santa sack full of “if’s” and wishes. Injuries happen. Bad bounces happen. Bad games at inopportune times happen. Overcoming those obstacles is what every team faces on the road to the championship.
On one hand it is frustrating to be on year 4 or 5 of being “a year away” or “a move away” from being a title contender (except for last year’s detour of “definitely” being a title contender). On the other hand it is a tribute to this franchise that they consistently put themselves in position to be one of the last teams standing. All it takes is for everything to break right one year.
With the development of Tatum and Brown, this team could be in that position (or better) for several years to come.
Are the Celtics a title contender this year?
This poll is closed
Too early to tell.