The NBA Trade Deadline and All-Star Weekend have come and gone, so that means we’re in the home stretch of the 2019-20 NBA season. In this serious post-All-Star Break, we’ll go over the outlook for every team in the NBA. Here, we’ll provide a short glimpse at championship odds and playoff chances for each team. Also highlighted are key injuries to note and a fantasy basketball player to watch the rest of the season.
Where do the Boston Celtics stand at the All-Star Break?
Playoff Chances: 100%
Championship Odds: +2000
Division Odds: +120
Conference Championship Winner: +700
DPOY: Marcus Smart (+8000)
MIP: Jaylen Brown (+8000), Jayson Tatum (+8000)
If you had told people four months ago that the Celtics would be heading into the All-Star Break in third place in the Eastern Conference, I think the reaction would have been somewhat subdued. While initial perceptions of Boston weren’t nearly as high as they currently are, the consensus around the league seemed to be pretty straightforward: the East was a two-team race between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Could the Celtics be the third-best squad? Sure. Yet there would be a significant gap that separated them from the likes of the Bucks and the 76ers.
Instead, while the raw result is the same, the process has been far from anticipated. Milwaukee has distanced itself from all other comers in the East, with Toronto and Boston representing the clear second-tier, at least as it pertains to the regular season. All the advanced statistics back up the Celtics’ dominance, too. With 28 games remaining on its schedule, Boston ranks third in the NBA in defensive rating (105.7), third in net rating (6.8) and fifth in offensive rating (112.5). The threat of an underperforming Philadelphia roster still looms large in the playoffs; however, if the Celtics can secure the two-seed, they might be able to ride an advantageous bracket and home-court all the way to the Conference Finals.
Prediction: Ousted by the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Key Injuries for Boston Celtics
Jaylen Brown, SG/SF (calf)
Brown’s calf issue doesn’t appear to be overly serious and should be rectified with a week off, yet these are the types of ailments that have been nagging at Boston all year long. Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward have been hit hardest by the injury bug, with the latter having only appeared in 37 contests in 2019-20 due mostly to a fractured hand.
The thing to remember with the Celtics is that their roster tends to be a little top-heavy. You don’t have to go too far down the team’s leaderboard for minutes played before encountering the likes of Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye. However, that possible red flag doesn’t matter nearly as much when rotations shrink in the playoffs. Not having to dig deep is why the health of Smart and Hayward is so crucial to the squad’s success. To wit, when those two players are sharing the court with All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, Boston is outscoring opponents by an absurd 16.1 points per 100 possessions. They have an incredibly high ceiling.
Fantasy Basketball Spotlight: Jayson Tatum
Look, “doubt” is a strong word for a former third-overall pick entering their third professional season, but there were definitely some concerns surrounding Tatum coming into 2019-20. It now appears that all the struggles we saw in his sophomore campaign can simply be attributed to roster construct. Tatum’s 22.1% usage rate from last year has now ballooned all the way up to 28.1% in 50 starts, despite Danny Ainge replacing one high-usage player (Kyrie Irving) with another (Walker) during the offseason. The 21-year-old has been particularly fantastic so far in February, averaging 28.3 points per game with an impressive .617 true shooting percentage. It’s a stretch that’s seen Tatum produce as a Top-15 asset in standard 5x5 formats.
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