Here's what we know at the unofficial quarter mark of the Boston Celtics season:
1. They're not that good - They're 8-12, and by winning percentage, that makes them the 21st best team in basketball. They've also been very fortunate in the scheduling department thus far, playing the 27th most difficult (or 4th easiest) schedule in the NBA this season (their opponents have a combined .462 winning percentage).
2. They're in 1st place - Yup. Everything above is true, yet your Boston Celtics are currently the least terrible team in the absolutely awful Atlantic division. Sure the lead is only 1/2 a game - but it's a lead. And that means the Celtics are currently the 4-seed in the Eastern Conference. The worst 4-seed of all time.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Boston has tied the 2006-07 Nets for the worst winning percentage ever by a division leader 20 games into the season.
Celtics lead division at 8-12, tied with 06-07 Nets for the worst in NBA history by a division leader through 20 games. From @EliasSports.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 4, 2013
Of course 2006-07 was the last time the Celtics were not very good. During that season, the Cs were 7-13 after 20 games, 1 game behind those division leading Nets through 20 games. The Cs then won three straight games to climb to 10-13 and things looked pretty decent.
Then the Celtics embarked on an amazing 3-29 stretch, including a franchise record 18 game losing streak, plunging themselves from the top of the Atlantic down to the bowels of the NBA.
I'm not saying that this will happen again of course, only pointing out that records after 20 games aren't always a strong predictor of things to come. For those printing playoff tickets..it may be time to take it down a notch.
But on the flip side, it's clear that the Celtics have a far better shot at making the playoffs this season than many of us thought six weeks ago. Personally I had them at 21-61 and 30 or so games behind the division winning Nets.
And that ain't happening.
In fact, judging by former ESPN analyst John Hollinger's "playoff odds" formula, the Cs have a 50.8% chance of making the playoffs at the moment. Hollinger's formula uses a combination of factors (performance to date, upcoming schedule, ect) and runs 5,000 computer simulations of the season to determine a teams likely record at the end of the season.
As of now the system projects Boston to finish 35-47, and in 8th place in the Eastern Conference. For what it's worth, Hollinger also gives Boston a 25.9% chance to win the division, a 0.5% chance of making the NBA Finals, a 0% chance of winning it all - and a 2.9% chance of getting the #1 overall pick in the draft.
Hollinger's system does not take injuries into account, meaning that Rajon Rondo's return should boost Boston even higher (the Nets injuries of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry are also ignored). So it's far from a perfect formula.
But it's just another confirmation of what appears to be a developing theme - that we have no idea what the hell to expect from the Celtics this season. It's completely possible this team is hosting a playoff series in April, or that they're winning the lottery come May. As scary as that may be for some of us, the uncertainty is pretty damn fun.
No matter where you fall on the "what's best for the future of the team - a good draft pick or a playoff run", sports are supposed to be fun. And nothing is more fun than uncertainty. Especially in a league like the NBA, where you seemingly know the true contenders and pretenders before most seasons begin.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 12/04/2013 02:27:00 PM Tweet