Celtics a second-tier 'solid playoff team' in Grantland rankings

With the NBA season now here, Zach Lowe of Grantland wrote a piece detailing the tiers of the NBA. The tiers that Lowe includes on his list are contenders, solid playoff teams, 8th seed contenders, high lottery and low lottery teams. This year the Celtics have moved up and are listed in the second tier of the NBA in solid playoff teams, along with other teams such as the Grizzlies, Wizards, Bulls, Hawks, Heat, Pelicans and Raptors.

Compared to where Boston was ranked last year in Grantlands' rankings near the bottom of the conference, the team impressed people enough to where they're considered a lock for the playoffs.

In the article, Lowe details:

Boston Celtics: The snark brigade likes to mock Boston’s cute little rebuild by noting Danny Ainge has put together a star-less team with a bunch of seventh men and no realistic path to a championship. That’s partly true; there’s no universe in which the current group of Celtics, even with above-average improvement from every player, wins an NBA title.

But calling these guys “seventh men” shortchanges them. Boston has a lot of good NBA players, and there is a hard-to-quantify power in giving all your minutes to average-or-better players — and none to bad ones.

Lowe also briefly analyzes the C's style of play:

Boston doesn’t have a single ball handler that scares you as both a shooter and a driver, though Marcus Smart’s playmaking in the preseason was super-encouraging; getting more from Smart would allow Boston to cut Evan Turner’s minutes and slide Avery Bradley into spot-up corner-shooting mode. The C’s compensate with constant cutting and ball movement that puts a defense on its heels, scrambling to catch up with all the directional changes. It’s hard to guard, but smart teams might succeed by forming a shell and forcing Boston to kick it around the perimeter. Kelly Olynyk is the one Boston big who can bust that strategy with his passing and shooting; he is poised for a breakout season.

It is encouraging to see the team jump in the rankings this year with how well they played after the trade deadline last season. That trend of playing well should only continue as the organization added some nice pieces like Amir Johnson and David Lee which should help the squad on both sides of the ball. Smart's evolution as a ball-handler must continue and given the strides he made in the Summer League and preseason, the future looks bright for him. It's also going to be very fun to watch Isaiah Thomas and David Lee work in the pick-and-roll game as they are two of the best in the league at running that style of play.

According to Lowe, the Celtics outlook on the season is much brighter than before:

In the big picture, Boston is in the happy position of not banking on any one method of advancing to the next level. The Celtics will have cap space, they could net a game-changing star in the lottery with one of Brooklyn’s picks, and they’re gathering the goods to make a Godfather offer for any disgruntled star.

With the club now on the same level as Eastern Conference playoff teams like Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, and Washington, there should be a lot of competition for spots in the postseason. However, while the Celts do want to make and advance in the playoffs, they also have the luxury of owning Brooklyn's first round pick this year. That pick could be a potential top five pick if Brooklyn is as bad as everyone thinks they're going to be.

As Boston begins their season this week, it's going to be very interesting to see how all the new pieces will fit into Brad Stevens system. After getting a taste of the playoffs last season, the Celtics are hungry to not only make the playoffs again, but to also advance farther than the first round. With a bright future ahead, this season is going to be a lot of fun for the team and their fan base.

Image Credit: Associated Press
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