With the first half of the season gone, and the Celtics possessing a similar record to that of last year, the same questions are being asked, what is better for the team: playoffs or lottery?
When Ainge traded away both Rondo and Green for future assets, it was assumed that the Celtics would waive the white flag this season in hopes of a high lottery pick – but after a stirring victory against the East-leading Atlanta Hawks going into the all-star break, the unlikely thought of playoffs for these stubborn Celtics in 2015 is now starting to become a reality. But what is best for this team? To make the playoffs or to blow it up even further for a better draft pick to keep building? There is a valid argument to be made for both camps.
An unlikely run to the playoffs could have a greatly positive effect for this young Celtics team. For starters, it would mean that our young core has stepped up, increasing their value to the team and around the league – this is especially important considering Ainge’s history of drafting/developing young talent, and then trading for a superstar. It would also mean that Coach Brad Stevens will add another feather to his cap and pick up some valuable playoff experience whilst gaining even more recognition for the job that he has done. Having a successful culture within the team is also critical with free agency on the horizon as potential free agents would factor this in to their decisions.
If the Celtics were to sputter down the home stretch and only make the playoffs because the lack of competition in the East, then there could be a negative effect for this team. The team could miss out on a potential lottery pick/quality young player, they could be stuck in the dreaded land of mediocrity, or there could even be a false sense of where this team is really at.
We have all been down this road before – Ainge guts the team, and lets them free-fall into the lottery, where we cross our fingers, cross our toes, clutch on to a rabbits foot or a four-leaf clover in hope for at least a top 3 pick in the draft. In theory, this is a great idea, especially when the draft class is tipped to yield some potentially great players, it is a great way to acquire a franchise-altering player without having to sacrifice money/players/assets for them.
The reality is however, unless the team is bad enough (bottom 2, which the Celtics have no chance of being) – there is no guarantee that you could end up with a top 5 pick, let alone a top 3 pick. This strategy can be flawed as the team would be relying on luck over anything else, and for the Celtics, luck has not been on their side when it comes to the lottery balls.
“I would love to see our team in the playoffs, but I don’t want to see us back into the playoffs with a really bad record and not even have a fighting chance. If our team can keep getting better by developing, if we can make some deals at the trade deadline that put us in position to actually get into the playoffs and have a chance to win a playoff series, I think that would be a lot of fun.” – Danny Ainge, January 30th, 2015
Danny Ainge has nailed exactly how I feel with this quote. I would love to see the Celtics reload at the trade deadline, and make a serious run for the playoffs. Given that the Celtics have already won 20 games, and has the most games remaining against teams that are sub .500, the chance to increase lottery odds may prove quite difficult – especially with Lakers, Knicks, 76ers and Timberwolves all on 13 wins or under. What I do not want to see however, is a team that makes the playoffs due to inferior competition, and then in turn, gets swept by a higher seed.
With the trade deadline rumours swirling all around the NBA and the Celtics in particular, it seems like it is a real possibility that the Celtics may actually pick up a piece or two to assist in a push for the playoffs which is a far cry from what direction everyone thought the team was going after trading Rondo and Green within a month of each other.
Given the position we are in, I would love to see a young, feisty team fighting all the way through for the second half of the season – we have tried to be lottery players in the past with no high picks to show for it. As a fan, it is so much fun to watch a competitive, scrappy team fight hard and play for something meaningful every night rather than watching a lot of moral victories. Not wanting to be mediocre is one thing, but wanting to either contend or have one of the worst records with no in between is too extreme. Let the young guys learn, play and earn playoff experience.
What do you think is best for this Celtics team? Would you like to see them make a run into the playoffs, or would you like to see them try their luck at a higher lottery pick? Leave your comment below.