The Boston Celtics amassed a ton of hype entering the 2020-21 season amid the expected development of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The two were named All-Stars which meant the hopes were reasonable. The Celtics as a team, however, teetered between a mid-tier squad to a team barely making it to the NBA Playoffs. As of writing, they’re seventh in the Eastern Conference and will likely participate in the play-in tournament.
To make matters worse, Brown suffered a season-ending injury, putting the Celtics’ postseason hopes in jeopardy. It’s a gut punch to Celtics fans. But at the same time, other contenders like the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, and Miami Heat are praying for Brown’s speedy recovery as well as making tweaks to their roster.
Assuming that the Celtics make the NBA Playoffs even without Brown as one of the bottom seeds, they will most likely face off against the Sixers or the Nets. It’s unfortunate to lose Brown at this stage of the season. But the Celtics still have a chance as they’re equipped with a balanced roster and a brilliant mind in coach Brad Stevens.
But if they face the Sixers in the postseason, it’s likely that the Celtics will be the one who gets swept this year. Last season, the Celtics embarrassed the Sixers by pummelling them 4-0 in the first round. But now, the Sixers are better than ever with a championship coach in Doc Rivers who’s on a vengeance tour to prove he’s not washed up. There’s also the addition of veterans Dwight Howard and Danny Green, who shower their younger teammates with wisdom every game. Of course, there’s Ben Simmons and big man Joel Embiid who’s one of the favorites to win the MVP plum. Even with Brown in the fold, the Sixers will likely oust the Celtics. What more now that Brown is not in the picture?
The same is true for the Nets if ever they meet in the postseason. Since pulling off a series of moves, most notably the James Harden acquisition, the Nets have risen to the top favorites to win it all to just-give-them-the-title-already. But in reality, the Nets are a pretty volatile team amid their powerhouse roster. While they expect Harden to return come postseason time, there will still be lingering concerns about his health. The same is true for Kevin Durant who has missed several games due to lower leg injuries.
Besides, recent NBA history reveals that even super teams need time to develop. Just look at the Miami Heat headed by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. So if the Nets and the Celtics meet in the first round, don’t be shocked if Beantown ends up with the upset minus Brown, especially with the likes of Marcus Smart out-scrapping the entire Nets team.
Again, assuming that the Celtics and the Nets will meet in the first round, the winner of the series will then face the winner of the Miami Heat versus Milwaukee Bucks series. This presents an interesting dilemma to both Heat and Bucks. They’ve faced off against the Celtics in the last two NBA Playoffs and ended up advancing. So it’s easy to imagine Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer wishing the Celtics end up with the opening round upset.
That would be a great scenario for the Bucks and the Heat. In a way, their tickets to the Eastern Conference Finals rely on a Celtics first round win even without Brown. As noted, the Nets are a volatile powerhouse squad. But the Heat and the Bucks respect them enough to know that Steve Nash and his wards have all the potential to breeze through the NBA Playoffs and win it all.
Of course, the analysis above assumes the Celtics will manage to power their way through the play-in tournament and end up as the seventh seed or eighth seed. But what if the Celtics don’t? This would likely mean a walk in the park for either the Sixers or Nets who will face a much weaker and inexperienced team, much to the envy probably of the Bucks and the Heat. And perhaps, much to the disappointment of Jaylen Brown.