Don't Be Fooled, Boston Celtics Won't Tank 2013-14 Season
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The Boston Celtics won’t be tanking in 2013-14.
True, expectations for the team are lower than they’ve been in years. So if losing happened to become the norm in Boston, nobody would bat an eyelid. However, doing so could mean disastrous results for the team’s future.
In fact, it could even be considered the kiss of death.
Here are some of the reasons why the Celtics should strive for nothing but their best this season.
Too Good as Currently Structured
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Believe it or not, Boston’s roster is no joke.
From the opening tip of the season, Jeff Green should be getting most of the headlines. It’s an honor he certainly deserves.
After a subpar start to the year, the 27-year-old picked up his play, averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over the Celtics' final 16 games of the regular season. He was even better in the playoffs, posting 20.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in six contests during the team’s first-round loss to the New York Knicks.
Now, with the small forward position all to himself, Green should continue his ascension into NBA stardom.
Boston will also be expecting a turnaround out of Avery Bradley.
Following surgery on both shoulders last summer, the 22-year-old missed the team’s first 30 games of the season. When he returned, Bradley struggled with his shot, averaging just 9.2 points on 40.2 percent shooting.
With another summer of rest, the Celtics are hoping Bradley can return to form this year. More specifically, the form he ended the 2011-12 season in, when he averaged 15.1 points on 52 percent shooting (54.5 3PT%) in 15 games during April.
The team also returns last year’s first-round pick in Jared Sullinger. Throw in this year’s choice, Kelly Olynyk—on the heels of a terrific summer league performance—and Boston has a young frontcourt that should provide some optimism for the future.
And this is without even mentioning Rajon Rondo, who is expected to return in December after recovering from a torn ACL.
Stevens Needs to Instill a Culture
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When the Celtics hired Brad Stevens to be their new head coach, many were skeptical. The fact that he’s just 36 and a former college coach didn’t help matters, especially to those in Boston—Rick Pitino, anybody?
Regardless, it’s been quite difficult to find anybody who’s had anything but nice things to say about Stevens.
With that said, if the Celtics were to tank and finish with 20 wins or less, most, if not all of those people, would gladly recant those recommendations. Not to mention, it wouldn’t do anything but give way for more of that aforementioned skepticism.
What Stevens needs to do is push for the team to exceed expectations. That means winning 40 or so games and making the playoffs.
Doing so will show people Stevens means business. That he’s about winning games and returning Boston to the forefront of the Eastern Conference.
Losing is just not an option.
Still a Borderline Playoff Team in a Weak Eastern Conference
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Sure, the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are also up there. However, both teams are an injury or two away from being out of the picture.
Other than that, the conference is totally up for grabs.
According to ESPN’s 2013-14 NBA predictions, the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers will fill out spots No. 5-8 in the Eastern Conference. Surprisingly, all three were also predicted to finish with sub-.500 records.
If anything, that’s evidence of the lack of strength in the East. In comparison, you’d be lucky to wrap up a spot in the Western Conference with 50 wins.
That’s also good news for the Celtics—projected to win just 29 games.
It’s quite clear that it wouldn’t take a lot for the team to make the postseason this year. With the roster Boston has, this is a squad that could potentially finish as high as fifth in the conference.
It would be pretty pointless to give that up by tanking.
Need to Show Packed 2014 Free-Agency Class They Can Win
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And that’s just to name a few of them.
Fortunately, the Celtics only have a total of $48.7 million guaranteed on the books for 2014-15. That means the team should have ample space to try to lure in a big-name free agent or two.
The class also includes Chandler Parsons, Derrick Favors, Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Given that all are under the age of 25, they would be great targets for Boston to pursue.
However, would any of these players really want to come join a team that looks to be a lost cause?
Instead, players would prefer a team that looks to be on the rise. One that is potentially one or two additions away from making a serious push to be an NBA contender.
There’s no doubt the Celtics have the championship history. But it’s imperative they start showing a winning attitude.
Why Sacrifice Fan and Team Morale for a One-in-Four Shot?
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Sure, receiving the No. 1 pick in the draft can turn a franchise’s luck around. However, having the worst record in the league only guarantees that team a 25 percent chance of landing the top prize.
Not exactly the kind of odds to bank a franchise’s entire future on.
Furthermore, the worst team has failed to land the No. 1 pick more often than not. Only four such teams have accomplished the feat since 1985 and none since 2004. In fact, a team that finished in the bottom four of the league has only received the No. 1 pick just three times over the past nine years.
With all that said, is it really worth sacrificing team and fan morale on a gamble?
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan offers a closer look at the last time Boston attempted to tank. That was back in 1996-97 and the top prize was Tim Duncan. The Celtics wound up with the No. 3 pick and Chauncey Billups.
It was only seven years ago when the Boston fans were so disgusted that they actually chanted “MVP” to a Los Angeles Laker. Let that sink in a bit.
Why risk sending the fanbase into such a low again?
Not to mention, people considered Rajon Rondo difficult to coach. And that was when the Celtics were winning. Just imagine how he’ll be on a losing squad with a new head coach.
Either way you look at it, it doesn’t make sense for Boston to tank.