Wednesday, December 17, 2014

C's December will decide the Future: Playoffs, Buyers, Sellers??

Photo: Getty Images

We have reached the so called “grind” of an NBA season. The point of the season only highlighted by untimely injuries, career records broken, and ugly jerseys worn in marquee matchups on Christmas day. Normally, by this time of the year  you can tell who is a contender and who will be in contention for the ping pong balls in June. Yet the Celtics have a lot still to be decided. They’ve lost a bunch, but have been competitive in nearly every contest. Usually, I’d remind myself and others “Almost only counts in Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and when discussing Peyton Manning’s career,” but the Eastern Conference sucks!!! The C’s are only 1 ½  games out!

After starting the season with the toughest stretch of their schedule the Celtics limped into December at 4-10. The Celtics then started the easiest stretch of the schedule and have gone only a pedestrian 4-4 in the month of December. During this stretch the up and down C’s experienced their best win of the year against Washington; as well as the two worst losses of the season against Charlotte and New York. A typical roller coaster ride of results for the green so far in this young season, but it is imperative they take advantage of the rest of the month, because more than just a playoff spot depends on it.

Photo: Getty Images
The final seven games of the month are against six sub-.500 teams. The Celtics have a stretch of the Magic (twice), T-Wolves, Heat, Nets, Wizards, and Kings to close out 2014. They should have no problem winning  5 out of 7, and put themselves in a much improved standing for the Top 8 in the East. The Celtics should also have no problem getting up for the games against the Magic, Heat, and Nets. They are directly competing with those three teams for the final spots. Plus, the timing couldn’t be better for the C’s. Brooklyn has reportedly tried to sell off anyone on their current roster. They will play a fragile Miami team while Chris Bosh is out with a calf strain. Also Jabari Parker is out for the season with a torn ACL - so the Bucks who sit in the 6th spot will have a tough time holding on to that seed. The window is open for the C’s, no doubt about it, but will they take advantage is the question.

Like I stated earlier, the results the Celtics put up in the rest of 2014 will have drastic effects on the playoff positioning but also the team’s future plans.  The trade deadline is fast approaching and the rest of the NBA is foaming at the mouth to see if the Celtics will go into sell mode or not. Danny Ainge will need to assess the team’s chances of a playoff run soon, because he has cards to play whether he is buying or selling at the deadline. Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted yesterday “Among most active teams on phones: (in no order): Celtics, Pistons, Suns, Timberwolves, Hornets, Clippers, Pacers, Nets, Nuggets, Rockets,” So take that for what it’s worth but it’s not secret the C’s will be active either way.

Photo: Getty Images
Let play hypothetical for a minute. If the Celtics are able to show they have fixed their late game issues and go on an impressive run to end the year, they could vault all the way up to the 6th seed by the end of the year. At that point, Ainge and the Celtics would have to look to pick up some pieces to improve their playoff chances. There are a ton of potential expiring deals and pending free agents out there on bad teams that would help the C’s. Players like Greg Monroe, Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, or even Brook Lopez are all looking like they will be available by February 19. The Celtics have a plethora of first and second round draft picks to offer as well. They have two firsts, and two second rounders in 2015, then in 2016 they have possibly 3 first round picks to work with! (check everything out here or take my word for it because it is very confusing)

So IF Ainge is willing to gamble on any of these players and try to trade and then extend them, he has more than enough assets to barter with.

Now this being Boston, this article wouldn’t be complete without focusing on the negative. So, what happens if they blow it and lose 5 out of 7 and are firmly in the Eastern Conference basement? Well, the rest of the NBA are drooling over this possibility of the Celtics becoming sellers. They have players on team friendly deals (except Avery Bradley… smh…) and would potentially be a huge help to a contender. Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and of course Rajon Rondo would be shiny new additions for NBA Execs across the league. Teams like Houston, Cleveland, Dallas, Memphis, and even Atlanta could be calling Danny Ainge about the services and price tag for these players. Ainge could cut his losses and gather more assets for a future blockbuster in draft picks, young players, and a chance at the lottery again this year.

So for the critics who say December basketball is meaningless; I say to you, not in Boston my good sir! Because these next seven games in 2014 could make or break the current state of the Celtics in a major way.

-Sean Dutra

Follow Sean on Twitter: @SeanDutra

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