In my Machiavellian dreams, I occasionally drift off into flights of fancy in which I Jedi-mindwarp the world (O.K. NBA) events to the Celtics’ advantage. My latest psychic manipulation drops the Celtics into 7th place in the East, the Clippers into 8th place in the West (and I’ll take 9th or 10th and roll the dice in the lottery), and leaves New York just out of the playoffs replaced by Milwaukee. Should these stars fall into alignment, I feel it would give Boston its best chance to both win it all and to build for the future.
The reasoning goes something like this: maximize the draft haul and go for the big prize rather than just making it to the second round. If you want to settle for a second round exit as your moral (or is that morale) victory, then bettering Philadelphia and New York and thus winning the Atlantic for fourth seed is just the ticket. Better yet, move past Atlanta and Indiana as well and secure first round home court advantage. This avoids the dreaded first round matchup with the Bulls or Heat.
Here’s the thing though, if you hope to win it all then almost certainly the road goes through both Chicago and Miami. Now would you rather tackle those two clubs on successive weeks or do you have a better chance if there is a series against some “other” club in between? To make it through to the finals, you have to win three series. I just think there is a better chance of running the table without having to beat the top dogs back to back at the end of a month of playoffs.
Now let’s look at the case for not maxing out the regular season. Doc has said he prefers health over seeding for the playoffs. The schedule has Boston finishing out against mostly playoff teams while Philly draws the bottom feeders. There is also the ridiculous back-to-back-to-back coming up in mid-April. Pietrus may not return from his concussion-forced layoff until late April. Pierce and Garnett have been pulling a heavy load leading depleted troops on a post-deadline surge. What is really frightening is pointing out that NBA-DL rookie Stiemsma (with whom I’m actually delighted) is a much more adequate replacement for Garnett than anyone not named Pietrus is for Pierce. In the next month the Big (and Aging) Three could really use some Popovitch treatment—some “DND-old” box score entries like Gregg tallied for Duncan sitting out a game recently. This season, more than most, hitting the playoffs with sound bodies outweighs venue (or opponent); and they need to be in rhythm even more than on a roll.
The Celtics’ regular season record will determine whether they pick near the bottom or top of the 16-24 slot for which they find themselves competing. Ditto for the Clippers who barring a complete collapse and striking lottery gold will convey their 2012 1st round pick to the Celtics. Now it is fantasy to hope for those to be #’s 15 & 16, but both in the upper teens is not out of the question. In this draft enriched by two years of early departures due to last season’s lockout uncertainty, these late teens look a bit more like late lottery. Similarly the second round picks may well produce rotation players more in line with a normal late-first. All-in-all, a great year to maximize draft picks and position. Here is hoping that the last game of the Celtics’ season features a large dose of E’twuan, JJJ, Ryan Hollins, Keyon, and Marquis going against a Milwaukee playing their way into the playoffs. The box lines on the Big Four should have three DND-old’s and one DND-R&R.
My fugue state culminates with me basking in the glow of the improbable Championship as the June 28 draft begins and drooling over the Celtics’ 16, 17, 45, and 47 picks. ESPN is in commercial break with the Big Three touting the new miracle product Rejuvin. The running line at the bottom of the screen announces that Kevin Love has just expressed his intention of leaving the Timberwolves after the 2012-13 season to go where they “play basketball the right way.” Happy dreams!
Boston, and all points beyond