The Resurgence of the Celtics


     Any real Celtics fan can remember exactly where they were when the Celtics won the championship in 2008.  Doc Rivers and the Big 3 brought a winning atmosphere to Boston sports, and it was an exciting time to be a basketball fan.  But as the Big 3 passed its prime and the Celtics’ winning ways started to decline, many fans were worried that the Celtics would be rebuilding for way too long.  With a new coach and a team full of young talents, 2016 looked like another year of mediocrity for the rebuilding Celtics.  Despite low expectations, the hot start for Brad Stevens and the Celtics this year has been turning many heads in the basketball community.  The future for this team looks as bright as ever, and the potential for a championship is steadily returning to Title Town.

     The makeup of this year’s Celtics team is surprisingly unique for such a successful team.  There’s no clear cut superstar on the team, and this can be seen in the players’ salaries.  The highest salary this year belongs to Amir Johnson at $12 M, and the second highest salary is all the way down at $7.7 M for Avery Bradley. High profile teams like the Cavaliers, pay players up to $23 M a year, with results not much better than the Celtics this year.  I talked to IHS teacher, Mr. Downing, a lifelong Celtics fan, about how this Celtics team is managing their success. He told me that the Celtics, “don’t need to overpay a superstar to win.”  With improving players on the roster, such as Isaiah Thomas, locked up on long term contracts, the Celtics will be able to continue improving while having the money to make some big-time moves.  A well-rounded team like the Celtics has been a rare sight in the NBA over recent years.  Christian Collum (CC3) is a dedicated Celtics fan at IHS, and he compares this Celtics team to the Atlanta Hawks from 2015.  He told me that, “The Celtics have no clear superstar, but they play well enough together to make up for that.  They’re playing like the Hawks were during their peak in 2015.”  The pieces have definitely been falling into place for the Celtics, and a championship could be in sight as the team continues to learn and grow.

     There is no doubt that the Celtics have made great strides to right the ship this year, but fans are still wondering how soon results will be seen.  The East has been weak this year compared to the West, with teams like the Warriors and Spurs.  The Celtics sit in a tie at fourth place in the East, well behind the top two teams in Cleveland and Toronto.  They have shown this season that they can beat any team in the league, but Christian has doubts about how far the Celtics can go this season.  When I asked him if the Celtics could legitimately win the East this year, he replied, “no, the Cavs are too good. With this team, the Celtics are a step below Cleveland.”  It’s tough to envision a team full of under-appreciated players beating a team with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in a seven game series.

      The youth on the Celtics is important to consider when thinking about the future of this team.  Mr. Downing pointed out that while “the Celtics players will be hitting their primes, other stars in the league will be on the decline.  The time for the Celtics will come over the next 5 or 6 years.”  Young players like Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder are still finding their play-styles in the league, while seasoned veterans like Thomas and Johnson are attempting to hit their primes in Boston.  This is good news as big time players like LeBron are beginning to slow down with their production.  Along with the growing potential of the current Celtics players, the high draft picks in the coming years offer a great opportunity for success.  

     Next year alone, the Celtics have three first round draft picks and four second round picks. One of the first round picks for this year, from Brooklyn, has the potential to be a top five selection.  The Celtics have even more picks in 2017 and 2018, with another first round pick each year from Brooklyn.  This is huge for a team that is really starting to play well.  It offers the question of whether the Celtics will be better off keeping and using their picks, or trading them for proven commodities in the league.  Mr. Downing had cautious advice for the Celtics’ use of the draft picks, suggesting that they should, “see where the picks land first.  Danny Ainge can be trusted to make smart moves for the team, not for PR.”  

     Christian had more definite advice for how the Celtics should use their draft picks.  He told me that, “the Celtics should trade their most valuable picks for proven players now.  It’s easier to take a risk on a player who’s had success rather than a rookie out of college.”  With rumors of Kevin Durant wanting to come to Boston at the end of his contract, trading the draft picks seems even more appealing. The Celtics are already a young team, so trading for veterans or leaders looks to be the best option for the team.  Landing one more major piece, like a KD, could easily be the key to a championship as soon as next year.  

     There are so many great sports franchises in Boston that a few years of rebuilding seems like a surprising failure.  The winning atmosphere puts pressure on Boston teams to succeed, and this pressure is currently doing good things for the Celtics team.  It’s an unorthodox team with a new, unproven NBA coach in Brad Stevens, but this new team is learning how to do well very quickly.  It’s not outrageous to picture the Celtics on top of the East over the next few years, depending on what pieces they can add to the team.  Being a Boston sports’ fan has been an exciting journey over the past decade, and it looks as if the winning ways aren’t going to change any time soon.