Are the Celtics really the 6th best team in the NBA?
Whisper all you want Brad, but the Celtics talents are no longer a secret
The latest round of ESPN's Marc Stein's NBA Power Rankings put the Celtics in the 6 spot. High praise for what Brad Stevens and the Celtics have been doing lately, and on the heels of a 9-1 record in their last 10 games, much deserved. The power rankings traditionally rank where the league is at that very moment, and in that case there is no doubt the Celtics deserve to be there. Are the Celtics the 6th best team in the NBA though? That is a very different question.
Two weeks ago Stein's rankings had the C's at number 11, and 3 weeks ago they were at number 15. Ripping off a 9-1 stretch that includes wins over the Cavaliers and Bulls will vault you ahead as an Eastern Conference team. The reality is that the 6 ranking is probably the Celtics ceiling, and the 11-15 area is their floor.
The 5 teams ahead of them are Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, and Toronto. Toronto is the only team there I think it would even be in the realm of possibility for the C's to leapfrog, although they somehow seem to separate from us even though I don't see them as far superior. Right below the C's are the Clippers, who despite missing Blake Griffin have been 18-4 without him. If that keeps up I would see them getting back ahead of us, if it doesn't maybe they aren't better than the Celtics.
The Eastern Conference jostle is the more interesting to follow. The already mentioned Cleveland (36-14) and Toronto (34-16) are ahead both ranking and record wise, and right behind the C's (31-22) are the Hawks (30-23) and the Heat (29-23). Not a huge spread there, and one hot or cold streak could vault or tumble any of them besides Cleveland, who I am still giving a lock for number 1 in the East.
So are the Celtics really the 6th best team? Right now yes, but just like the East seeding, there will be many more changes throughout the year. The recent 9-1 is obviously unsustainable, so I would expect them to be more like 8th-10th by the end of the season. For now though? Six is good.