Why the Boston Celtics' hopes of competing with the best in the east is a little premature

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When asked by ESPN if the Boston Celtics would be the biggest challengers to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, shooting guard Isaiah Thomas' response was emphatic.

"Fact. I wouldn't say no other way. I wouldn’t put any other team in that position, so that’s a fact," he said.

It's a slightly bold claim after the Celtics failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs in the last two seasons, losing in six games last year to the Atlanta Hawks, who were subsequently swept by the aforementioned Cavs.

But after finally making a breakthrough in free agency and attracting an All-Star to the franchise, the winning feeling has returned to Boston. 

The arrival of Al Horford from the Hawks in the summer represented far more than just bringing in one of the top centers in the league for the Celtics, it meant they were ready to compete. 


The C's are the most decorated team in NBA history having won the title 17 times and after undergoing a rebuilding process over the last three seasons, Thomas believes this crop of players can bring the glory days back to Boston. 

"We want to win and we want to win now," he said. 

On paper, the franchise is still maybe one or two stars away from becoming a championship caliber team, but the belief in the camp is certainly there and that's the first step towards success.

In Brad Stevens, the organisation has one of the best young head coaches in the league and having guided the team to the playoffs in the last two campaigns, he is more than capable of delivering something special in Massachusetts. 

But to go from first rounders to NBA Finalists in one year is some leap for Boston and despite their self-confidence, they would be wise to dampen expectations.  

A place in the second round of the postseason would represent progress for this team and an Eastern Conference finals berth should be seen as a success. But hopes of challenging the Cavaliers should be nipped in the bud for now, at least until we see how their season pans out.

There's no doubt they will be one of the top teams in the east and have a realistic shot at claiming the number two spot behind the reigning champions and thus securing home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. 

However, they are still a young team with flaws in some areas where they need to improve before they compete with the best. 


There's no doubt that Horford is an excellent pick-up for this team, but at the age of 30, he isn't a franchise changing player.

The big man averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game last year and as he will be a bigger part of the Celtics' offence, those numbers can certainly increase in the upcoming campaign.

The four-time All-Star was a big part of one of the best defences in the league last year with Atlanta and will fit seamlessly into the defensive culture that Stevens has created at TD Garden. 

But the veteran isn't the type of player that can transform this team into contenders like a Kevin Durant would have done for example. If they were successful in acquiring him this past offseason, the nature of this article may have had a different tone. 

It was clear that while the Celtics had a balance of multiple good players, they needed more star power and Horford will give them the opportunity to attract more. 

In his refreshingly honest interview with ESPN, Isaiah was under no illusions as to exactly what they need to add. 

"Someone who can put the ball in the basket," the 27-year-old said. "A knockdown shooter would be what we need. I’m not saying anything against the guys that are on this team right now, because we have a talented group, but I think that is the most important thing we need.

"We need spacing, because we got a lot of guys that can create and attack the basket, but we definitely need spacing."

After winning 48 games, many would expect the men in green to hit at least 50 this year and climb up the east, but it's still baby steps for Boston, it may be premature to take giant strides just yet.

Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division
Isaiah Thomas

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