A recent NBA rule change will hurt the Boston Celtics in their race to the post season.
The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are in a heated race for the Atlantic Division this season. In years past, this would have guaranteed the winner no lower than a 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, therefore giving them home court advantage for the first round. This is no longer the case.
This off-season, the NBA unanimously voted to change this rule and seed the Eastern Conference teams exclusively on their record; giving no advantage to the division winners (the same is true for the Western Conference).
With a number of teams lumped together in the current standings, it is not a long shot to think the Celtics could win their division, and still have a 7 or 8 seed in the playoffs. While the rule change helps the overall league, it may actually hurt the Celtics in this scenario.
The Celtics are looking to build off some of the success they had last season, which resulted in a 7 seed in the playoffs, and a quick sweep handed to them by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. While Boston seems to be a better team than they were for most of last season, they are still a long way from competing with some of the powerhouse teams in the Eastern Conference like the Cavs.
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At this point in the season, it seems likely the Celtics are at least another year away from competing for the Eastern Conference championship. The Celtics may not match up with teams like the Cavs, but there are many teams lumped into the middle of the pack they do match up against favorably.
If the Celtics are able to get a good seed in the playoffs, a match-up against one of these teams will help grow the confidence of the young players on the team and help elevate their growth. A first round match-up against the Atlanta Hawks for example (who the Celtics are 1-1 against this season) gives Boston a more realistic chance of winning the series. In the three years under Brad Stevens, the Celtics results:
- 2013-14- Missed the Playoffs
- 2014-15- Lost in the First Round
- 2015-16- ?
A first round win would go a long way in building the franchise by giving ownership and the fans the hope that this team is on the right path. With many assets in draft picks and young talent, the Celtics should continue to rise in the Eastern Conference standings; however, this rule change makes things a little bit more difficult in the immediate future.