What do we have here? Are the C's for real?

Sille Skrub

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Today is February 16th and the Celtics have just won their 9th in a row, smashing Philly by about 50. They are 34-25.

It's time to take a good, hard, post-trade deadline look at this team. Is it for real? Do we have to re-adjust our expectations now?

How do you see the rest of the year playing out and how far can they go?
 

Ale Xander

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Today is February 16th and the Celtics have just won their 9th in a row, smashing Philly by about 50. They are 34-25.

It's time to take a good, hard, post-trade deadline look at this team. Is it for real? Do we have to re-adjust our expectations now?

How do you see the rest of the year playing out and how far can they go?
NOOOOO, what are you doing???
 

benhogan

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They go as far as the JAYs 3pt shooting this year, which has been inconsistent all season. The defense is elite. They will be competitive in the playoffs and grow from it. EC Finals would be a great result. BUT it's still all about 2023 and beyond for title runs behind a Top3 NBA player in Jayson Tatum.

Nothing has changed from my preseason POV
 

moondog80

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This feels a lot like the Pats season at the point where they routed Tennessee. Hopefully it doesn't end the same way.

I've thought all along they were pretty good. East is loaded this year so first round exit to conference champs are both in play IMO. But they are legit contenders now and well situated to get better for the next few years.
 

Marbleheader

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They have been impressive for sure. As long as they finish in the top 6, I would be happy with the regular season. I don't expect a long playoff run but stranger things have happened.
 

RorschachsMask

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They are for real in that i think they’re legitimately very good, and CLEARLY headed in the right direction. But I can’t see them beating the Bucks or Nets this postseason, Sixers are still wait and see.

Tatum being a fringe top 10 player in a year where his go to weapon hasn’t been there bodes incredibly well for them, going forward.
 

bosockboy

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They are for real in that i think they’re legitimately very good, and CLEARLY headed in the right direction. But I can’t see them beating the Bucks or Nets this postseason, Sixers are still wait and see.

Tatum being a fringe top 10 player in a year where his go to weapon hasn’t been there bodes incredibly well for them, going forward.
Nets have dug a pretty big hole in the standings.
 

Buck Showalter

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They are for real in that i think they’re legitimately very good, and CLEARLY headed in the right direction. But I can’t see them beating the Bucks or Nets this postseason, Sixers are still wait and see.
Agreed. This flash of brilliance has been welcomed indeed. But if the season ended today - they'd play Milwaukee (3 vs. 6) in the first round.

Can't say I'd be going into that with a ton of confidence to be honest.
 

Jimbodandy

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They are for real in that i think they’re legitimately very good, and CLEARLY headed in the right direction. But I can’t see them beating the Bucks or Nets this postseason, Sixers are still wait and see.

Tatum being a fringe top 10 player in a year where his go to weapon hasn’t been there bodes incredibly well for them, going forward.
Yeah this is a great point. Tatum has taken it to another level in distribution. He's not getting drowned by extra attention and traps and generally finds the right guy.

Brown’s working on that too, but Tatum is way ahead of him. And the defense is back.
 

Ed Hillel

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Nets have dug a pretty big hole in the standings.
What's going to happen in the playoffs with Kyrie? I have to imagine they're going to find a way to let him play in away games, right? Even at Full Strength, if Williams is healthy, I think it's a dogfight series. Same with the Bucks.
 

bankshot1

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The defense is real.

Or real when they want to play with tenacity and bad ass attitude and for 48 minutes.

Offense seems to be aided by having a PG who moves the ball and is unselfish.

I still have my doubts about the offense but the D travels well, is very good, and the Celts will, as I've said a gazillion times, be a tough out in a 7-gamer.
 

lexrageorge

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I think the team is for real in that they are a serious playoff threat as opposed to last season where they were invited to the playoff party as a courtesy. The defense is definitely real and could allow them to steal a series. Not sure how much further they can go.

In Tatum, the team would inarguably have the best player on the floor against the Knicks, Wizards, Hawks, Hornets, Cavs and Raptors. The Bulls are closer call, but I'll put Tatum as #1 and DeRozan/LaVine as perhaps the 2/3 best players in a hypothetical matchup. Bucks and Nets obviously put out the best player in any matchup, as do the Sixers, although we still need to see how the new pieces fit together in Brooklyn and Philly. Miami is the toughest call, as Butler schooled Tatum badly in their prior playoff matchup, but I think 2022 Tatum is much stronger than 2020 Tatum.

The real issue in terms of their potential reach into the later playoff rounds is that the East is wide open and they could end matched up against theoretically any of the above mentioned teams in the first round. Which means there is a 50% chance they end up playing the eventual Conference Champion in the opening round.
 

Ed Hillel

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I think the team is for real in that they are a serious playoff threat as opposed to last season where they were invited to the playoff party as a courtesy. The defense is definitely real and could allow them to steal a series. Not sure how much further they can go.
"Steal a series?" You don't think this team is legitimately top 4 in the East? I think their defense is good enough to allow them to "steal an NBA title" tbh. There are no superteams right now, and top 5 on the court and top 7-8 overall, the Celtics have to be near the top of the talent pool. I have no idea what the hell happened to this team for about 18 months, but we gotta remember this team made multiple conference finals with the same core stars when they were in their early 20s. If they have, I guess, "rediscovered" themselves, they are a legitimate threat. Especially with both Williamses progressing as they have.
 

lexrageorge

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Yeah I wish the teams behind them weren’t playing like crap, I think the Nets end up in the play-in.
I think the Nets are perfectly fine with being the 7th or 8th seed. Gives them 2 bites at the apple to get into the conference quarters. They are going to take their time getting Simmons back and are going to be extra cautious with KD's injury.

I'm assuming that NYC will somehow find a way to bend the rules to allow Kyrie to play come April 1st. Only risk is that perhaps Adams is a major Knicks fan (I honestly don't know). Of course, Kyrie would not be available for any games in Toronto, as the Canadian government is unlikely to change any rules no matter what.
 

Cellar-Door

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One thing we should note....

They are favorites by 538's RAPTOR model, but 2nd by their ELO Model, where the Suns are truly Runaway (40%) favorites.

People really need to mention what model they are using rather than "OMG 538 says they're favorites", they put both models on the same page for a reason.
 

Jeff Van GULLY

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It's really too bad about the ASB coming up and potentially stopping their momentum. They are playing as hot as you can.

White has fit in seamlessly so far, which is extraordinary, especially as he's still learning the playbook and his teammates. Will his performance continues at such a high-level or will natural growing pains arise as everyone on the team continues to adjust to the new rotations? And what of Smart and his injury?

If Smart is back in short order, give me 5-8 games post-ASB to tell me if they are as legit as they seem or if we see regression (and how much).
 

BigSoxFan

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To me, this team has gone from no chance of doing anything in the playoffs to being a potential tough out. I would give them pretty good chance of taking out Chicago or Cleveland in a series. Would be kind of lukewarm on other matchups. But, at the very least, we can dream again.

Just hope they can stay healthy and last night obviously wasn’t great on that front.
 

NomarsFool

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They still occasionally fall into the trap of Tatum iso, dribble dribble, fall away 3. That was falling last night and making him look unreal. If he’s not making those, their offense looks a lot different.

Defensively, they are elite, but good offense can beat good defense. Against a really good team I think we’ll hear a lot of “Good defense by Grant, better shot by ———“

Should be fun, though. I like the addition of White a lot so far.
 

RedOctober3829

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The good thing is that there isn't a guard that's going to play big minutes that the opposing team can abuse defensively. Smart and White will prevent what teams did to Kemba and IT. I would love for them to pick up another scorer for the bench in the buyout market and possibly another big man.
 

Eddie Jurak

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Presuming health, I think they have a chance (albeit a small chance) to win it all after the Derrick White deal.

The defense is for real and that would be the difference-maker. It was for real before they added Derrick White, who is a legitimate upgrade. Smart, Rob, White, Tatum, Horford all can really defend, individually and in team concepts. Jaylen maybe a notch below but he can fit on this team. Both bigs can handle some perimeter defense. And when they can't, as when Trae Young was repeatedly torching Rob, they can adjust. Sometimes they put Rob on the least threatening permiter player so that he can focus on help defense. Off-ball, they switch out of bad matchups before teams can attack. Sometimes the read the oppenent's play and do off-ball swtches to get the matchup they want - like if they want Smart to be the one to pick up the PNR ballhandler then when Smart sees the play coming he will switch onto the picksetter and then onto the ballhanlder.

The offense is a work in progress and is not a championship offense, though the addition of White helps from both a 'talent' and a 'system' point of view. The offense is getting better, but is still likely to be the reason the Celtics get eliminated.

Their chance at a banner would be a long-shot situation where their defense plays up to its full potential, the offense is enough to manage, and they get a few fortunate breaks.

Probably their likeliest scenario is to climb up to 4th or 5th, win round 1 reasonably easily, and then have a real battle in round 2 that could go either way.
 

Devizier

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Feels like a later edition Spurs squad, could put it together for an unlikely championship, most likely a noisy playoff exit. But they have the pieces?
 

Cellar-Door

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I think this team is a contender. Not a favorite, but a contender.

They lack the true top 5-8 talent you usually need, but...

They have an elite defense which usually means you are at least in most games. They have a top 12 player in Tatum who can go insanely hot and win you a game or two.
If they had one more consistently excellent 3pt shooter I'd feel a lot better.
 

Toe Nash

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The good thing is that there isn't a guard that's going to play big minutes that the opposing team can abuse defensively. Smart and White will prevent what teams did to Kemba and IT. I would love for them to pick up another scorer for the bench in the buyout market and possibly another big man.
This is a good point. Assuming health they have a top 8 that is very switchable and has no weak links on defense. It would be very hard for teams to find and exploit a particular matchup, so you have to just slow down the unguardable guys like KD / Giannis as much as you can and hope to lock down everyone else and get buckets to fall on the other end.

It always seems this way when things are going well, but they are hopefully buying into Ime as a leader too and he could keep them on track in tough situations.

The high-end talent of the Bucks, 6ers and Nets would probably win out over 7 games but injuries and weirdness can happen. The 76ers and the Nets seem particularly vulnerable to that with Harden and KD being older and Kyrie and Simmons being insane.
 

lovegtm

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Not sure why people are specifically so worried about the Bucks. That team gets bounced in the 2nd round last year if any 2 of Brooklyn's big 3 is healthy. The Celtics routinely play them well, and have the defenders/fouls to throw at Giannis.

The Bucks probably would be favorites, but if Tatum's shot comes back, the Cs might just be the better team.
 

teddykgb

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Tell me if Robert Williams is healthy at playoffs time and my answer changes dramatically. If everyone is available I think they’re a tough out for anyone but will be undone unless Tatum comes all the way back on his outside shot. As it stands, I think any injury or middling performance will doom them in a 7 game series. There have been way too many low 3 point percentage games grouped together this year and if that happens during a playoff series I just don’t see how they can advance. They don’t have the secondary scoring to win when their main guys aren’t having good nights
 

bigq

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The NBA is a game of runs both within an individual game and also in terms of the season at large. The Celtics are white hot right now and a ton of fun to watch and follow. They have also been frustratingly mediocre throughout the past season and a half outside of the past several weeks. White has been a fantastic addition and appears to be a great fit. A lot has gone right this season including fantastic play and development from TL, Smart and Grant Williams. This team will still go as far as the Jays take them however I like the team's defensive focus which can cover up for when the Jays' shots are not falling. And I really like the team's depth from 1-8 (maybe 9). I don't expect the on switch to remain continuously on throughout the rest of the regular season and playoffs however if the team can remain healthy I think they will have a good playoff run but I dont' think they would get past Milwaukee. Playoff series match ups with the 76ers or Nets would be a lot of fun.
 
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tbb345

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I think they have a small chance of winning it all. They are an ELITE defensive team and they seemed to have really pushed the pace and upped the ball movement recently.
I think they would definitely beat both Chicago and Cleveland in playoff series. I like their chances against Miami as well.
Unfortunately, I still think Milwaukee would beat them and potentially Brooklyn and Philly (no idea how either of those teams will look but if they both gel and are healthy they could be very good)

The big weakness, and what I think will ultimately be their undoing, is lack of shooting. They really, really need a dead eye shooter who can crack their rotation. But, at the same time, players can get hot and both White and Smart have shown the ability to hit open 3’s…
 

Just a bit outside

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The defense is legit so it all falls to the offense and therefore the Jays. If they are hot this team is going to be tough. If they are not they will still be a tough out but probably can't win.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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Who the hell knows? The higher the certitude, the larger the discount for the opinion.

They are playing well right now and for those who have been following closely, it is a welcome turn. That said, about six weeks ago, many fans were openly discussing the lottery. At present its tough to call this team a serious contender well before the playoffs begin and in the week leading up to the all star break. This part of the schedule is notoriously messy as injuries mount, bodies get moved around (and I have to believe that the trade deadline impacts level of play in certain instances too) and fatigue seems to be more of a factor.

I am enjoying their play and will take it as it comes. However beyond that, its difficult to game out the paths until we are closer to the tourney where we'll know who they have coming off the bench and how the other teams are set up with health etc.
 

Fishy1

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A few thoughts. I think basically this team could beat anyone, including the Bucks, in a 7 game series, but that the Bucks and Nets (assuming the latter are healthy) would be favorites.

The Tatum who's showed up the last few months has been trying really hard to make good reads on offense. Despite still struggling with the three ball, he's averaged nearly five assists in the last two months. That brings him a lot closer to being the top ten player we hoped he would be.

Jaylen has also made a concerted effort to pass the ball, with less impressive results. Still, he's not coughing the ball up constantly as much.

Both Jaylen and Jayson have struggled with their shot. If the defense stays focused and those two get really hot... Well, then maybe we've only seen the beginning of what this team can do.

How much upside does Rob still have? He's so efficient, and it would be great if the team could find him for three or four more lobs a game. Hopefully White helps with that.

Other questions: how much better does White make this team? Can Pritchard, Nesmith or Hauser step in and be volume the sharpshooter the bench has needed? I think the team can protect all of those guys' defensive deficiencies - we've seen plenty of good to great defenses cover for Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Korver, etc in the past, so I believe this team can too. If Nesmith can find his shot, he's got the inside track, because he's shown he can also attack closeouts and do the little things (rebound, hustle) even if that means he plays out of control at times

Finally, I'm happy to see the nonsense about this being a .500 ball club has disappeared. This forum was full of negativity for months because the results weren't what we wanted them to be. I understood it, but found it a little embarrassing especially since the team had so obviously improved the roster and was suffering from a lot of missed threes they should've been making. The defense has been absolutely insane. Much more fun to watch a winning ball club, regardless.
 

benhogan

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Not sure why people are specifically so worried about the Bucks. That team gets bounced in the 2nd round last year if any 2 of Brooklyn's big 3 is healthy. The Celtics routinely play them well, and have the defenders/fouls to throw at Giannis.

The Bucks probably would be favorites, but if Tatum's shot comes back, the Cs might just be the better team.
Horford and Grant are pretty good at slowing Giannis down from the nail with Rob playing free safety

Smart /White are high-level defenders that flourish in taking charges in the paint when Giannis would put his head down/Bullrun the rim.

If Brown/Tatum both hit 3s at over a 40% rate they become EC favs. Just don't trust their shooting this year (hope I'm wrong)
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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They were a below .500 ballclub six weeks ago and with the same core. I believe they have improved and have more defined identities individually/as a team since then. However if we seem them cool off after the ASB and then get bounced early in the playoffs, it won't be a shock.

This is a very thin team on offense and even a rotational injury feels like it could significantly alter their path. People can dream on them now but unrealistic expectations were probably what had some fans thinking Udoka wasn't up to the task at the start of the year.
 

PedroKsBambino

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If Brown/Tatum both hit 3s at over a 40% rate they become EC favs. Just don't trust their shooting this year (hope I'm wrong)
Not sure I'd put them as favorites, but I agree that is the key---if those two are 25+ PPG efficient scorers and creating at level they have been for the last 6ish weeks, this is a very, very tough team. If they are less than that, though, odds are they compete but fall short offensively against Milwaukee, etc. They are really dependent on those two creating most of the offense, because the role guys beyond them are just that.
 

lexrageorge

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They were a below .500 ballclub six weeks ago and with the same core. I believe they have improved and have more defined identities individually/as a team since then. However if we seem them cool off after the ASB and then get bounced early in the playoffs, it won't be a shock.

This is a very thin team on offense and even a rotational injury feels like it could significantly alter their path. People can dream on them now but unrealistic expectations were probably what had some fans thinking Udoka wasn't up to the task at the start of the year.
I don't think it was unrealistic at the preseason to expect this team to be better than 0.500. Even the more skeptical fans were probably disappointed when the Celtics dipped 3 games below 0.500 on January 6th.

The defensive metrics do not lie; this team is one of the league's better teams in that department. I agree that may not by itself be enough to get this team to the Conference Finals, never mind hoisting a trophy. And a first round exit remains a distinct possibility, as they could get a really difficult draw. However, I think it's also fair to expect this team to do better than be a candidate for the play-in.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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I don't think it was unrealistic at the preseason to expect this team to be better than 0.500. Even the more skeptical fans were probably disappointed when the Celtics dipped 3 games below 0.500 on January 6th.

The defensive metrics do not lie; this team is one of the league's better teams in that department. I agree that may not by itself be enough to get this team to the Conference Finals, never mind hoisting a trophy. And a first round exit remains a distinct possibility, as they could get a really difficult draw. However, I think it's also fair to expect this team to do better than be a candidate for the play-in.
The Celtics, with largely the same core, were .500 all of last year - they weren't some juggernaut entering the season.

It was clearly unrealistic to expect a team with a brand new coaching regime with different areas of emphasis to avoid struggling early on, especially absent a lot of preseason time together. It was also unrealistic to expect this team to perform well when various core players missed time due to protocols, injuries etc. And it was unrealistic to expect this team not to struggle when both Tatum and Brown aren't playing their best.

So yes, there were more than a few fans who didn't scale their expectations properly. Their defense is amazing and they are playing better right now. However I would argue that any championship aspirations for this team are a bit premature. This team was 18-21 just over five weeks ago and that clearly happened if anyone wants to go back to look at posts about getting a top pick, selling off assets, trading parts of the core etc.

I am not trying to rain on the parade here - I am just not ready to attend yet.
 

NomarsFool

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The Celtics, with largely the same core, were .500 all of last year - they weren't some juggernaut entering the season.
I think 2021-2022 Grant Williams is a meaningful upgrade over 2020-2021 Grant Williams.
I think 2021-2022 Robert Williams is a significant upgrade over 2020-2021 Robert Williams.
I think Derrick White is a significant upgrade over Kemba Walker.
I think Al Horford is an upgrade over Enes Kanter.

I think Tatum / Brown / Smart are largely the same, I'd agree - although I feel like Smart is playing more within himself this year than last. So, not a juggernaut - completely agree - but sometimes enough small changes can have a synergistic effect.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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I think 2021-2022 Grant Williams is a meaningful upgrade over 2020-2021 Grant Williams.
I think 2021-2022 Robert Williams is a significant upgrade over 2020-2021 Robert Williams.
I think Derrick White is a significant upgrade over Kemba Walker.
I think Al Horford is an upgrade over Enes Kanter.

I think Tatum / Brown / Smart are largely the same, I'd agree - although I feel like Smart is playing more within himself this year than last. So, not a juggernaut - completely agree - but sometimes enough small changes can have a synergistic effect.
*Entering the season* White was not on the team and '22 TL and Grant hadn't happened to enter the season. There were posts on this board earlier in the season suggesting that Grant Williams wasn't long for the NBA. And while TL's level up isn't unexpected, I think he has been better than many of us had hoped for at this point.

I believe this roster is a better than a .500 team but I am not sure how much better.
 
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DJnVa

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First team to win 3 straight road games by 30+ points is impressive.
 

Merkle's Boner

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I think one of the big question marks is Ime, simply because we are dealing with a rookie coach. Coaching in the playoffs is a totally different beast than the regular season and that’s where the great coaches step to the fore.
 

benhogan

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Not sure I'd put them as favorites, but I agree that is the key---if those two are 25+ PPG efficient scorers and creating at level they have been for the last 6ish weeks, this is a very, very tough team. If they are less than that, though, odds are they compete but fall short offensively against Milwaukee, etc. They are really dependent on those two creating most of the offense, because the role guys beyond them are just that.
I'm not sure either player has shot over 40% from 3 over a 15-20 consecutive game sample this season. So asking BOTH to do it is probably a completely unreasonable ask and low probability.

The defense will travel and is improving due to familiarity with IME's approach, rotation health, White/Theis addition, TL ascension, rotation shortening in playoffs.
 

benhogan

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I think one of the big question marks is Ime, simply because we are dealing with a rookie coach. Coaching in the playoffs is a totally different beast than the regular season and that’s where the great coaches step to the fore.
That's fair and not an IME criticism.

He may be the next "Pop" but he is still a rookie HC. Especially going up against coaches like Spoelstra, Budenholzer, Donovan, Nurse, Doc (?) who have been around the block
 

RG33

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Their defense is the real deal. They are starting to click offensively. If healthy, with Derrick White, they will be able to play with anyone in the NBA. Of course, they are relying on a 23 and 25 year old to drive team results, so there is the obvious risk that comes with that, and as others have mentioned they have a rookie coach who hasn't been in the heat of a postseason before calling the shots.

Either way, they are very well positioned for the future, and PBS has done a remarkably good job in a short amount of time of 1.) creating payroll flexibility, 2.) adding complementary talent/depth, 3.) ignoring the idiots who talked of dealing JB or JT.
 

mikeford

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I think how far they could go has to do with the seeding. I think right now they'd be slated to be on the side of the bracket with the Cavs and Bulls and Raptors? I think this team as presently constituted could beat all those teams. I'm less sure about the Bucks and Heat, and the Nets are a complete unknown at time of publication. That team might not make the playoffs or could win the entire thing from the 10th seed. Who can say?
 

Merkle's Boner

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That's fair and not an IME criticism.

He may be the next "Pop" but he is still a rookie HC. Especially going up against coaches like Spoelstra, Budenholzer, Donovan, Nurse, Doc (?) who have been around the block
Exactly. We just don't know yet. If you're looking at a head-to-head matchup with Miami you have to give a big edge to Spoelstra at this point. I am hoping for the best from Ime and the fact that the team has shown such improvement this season is a good sign.
 

Euclis20

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*Entering the season* White was not on the team and '22 TL and Grant hadn't happened to enter the season. There were posts on this board earlier in the season suggesting that Grant Williams wasn't long for the NBA. And while TL's level up isn't unexpected, I think he has been better than many of us had hoped for at this point.

I believe this roster is a better than a .500 team but I am not sure how much better.
They were a young team that had more than their fair share of injuries and covid absences last year, improvement was definitely expected. Their over/under was 45.5 wins - that seemed like a reasonable number before the season started, and it still does (they're 1.7 wins ahead of that pace right now).