The Tank team of the Win/Tank Tug O’ War landed a huge blow when the Celtics lost to the Bobcats. Even the most optimistic Celtics’ fans know that if the C’s were to become the darkest horse in recent memory, they need to win against all beatable teams. Charlotte is a beatable team.
The slightly less optimistic Celtics fan thinks the C’s can make some noise in the Eastern Conference but also concede that an additional piece, or pieces, are necessary for contention.
Whatever you think about the C’s chances this season and beyond, Charlotte and the C’s next opponent Portland both serve as excellent cautionary tales. Charlotte has been in the lottery for years and consistently pick the wrong player. This can cripple a team. If you subscribe to the Tank philosophy, you’re relying on Danny Ainge to accurately evaluate talent. Ainge has always been a bit up and down in this department but this upcoming draft would be really hard to screw up.
Then there’s Portland, a team more like the Celtics than you think. They have their Rajon Rondo (LaMarcus Aldridge), they have their Jeff Green (Nic Batum), and they have their Avery Bradley/Jared Sullinger rolled into one (Damian Lillard). They are also a team that can’t attract free agents, much like the Celtics. That, however, might change if Lillard, Aldridge, and Batum show their one piece away from contention, much like the Houston Rockets did when they lured Dwight Howard. James Harden, Chandle Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik were enough to convince Howard that Houston could contend for a Championship.
There is, however, one huge distinction between Houston and Portland/Boston. For up-and-coming teams trying to attract marquee free agents, it’s not about how much of your core is on the right side of 30, it’s about how many of them are on the right side of 25. Harden is, Rondo, Green, and are not.
The Celtics may very well be one piece away from being a serious playoff contender, but how would Ainge get that piece to come to Boston over other more desirable locales. If you’re still undecided about whether you want the Celtics to tank or compete this season, you should first decide whether you want the C’s to be Portland or Houston. By stock-piling first rounders, Ainge has set himself up to get an established NBA player with star potential on the right side of 25 (i.e. James Harden). However if the Celtics keep winning, the value of those picks decreases dramatically, and with it goes the next James Harden in a Celtics Jersey.