Tanking is often a touchy subject among Boston Celtics fans. They are so used to the Celtics contending year in and year out that the idea of a losing season is preposterous. On the other hand, some fans have embraced the idea of “tankapalooza” because of the promising draft class coming up at season’s end. Last night, the Celtics lost to one of the worst teams in the league, the Philadelphia 76ers, on a buzzer-beater by Evan Turner. For some the loss was tough to swallow and brought fans back to the reality of the state of the team. The Celtics are now looking at a 15-33 record in the basement of the Eastern Conference. Despite having the third-worst record in the league, Boston is exactly where it should be.
In the NBA there is one spot you want to avoid at all costs—caught in the middle of the league. Why? It is almost impossible to build from the middle. In order to rebuild to that next championship, the Celtics need to have at least one bad year. This way, the team can obtain various assets and a potential franchise player from the draft.
Some say that history tells us that the odds of the Celtics winning the No. 1 pick are against them. Also, many say there are no guarantees that the player picked will be a good player. That is true, but remember, the Celtics included the No. 5 overall pick in the 2007 draft in the trade that brought back Ray Allen. It’s not about having the No. 1 pick or hoping to obtain a franchise-altering player. A top pick, whether it’s No. 1 or No. 7, is an important asset to the team. The chances of landing a proven star player in a trade are increased. However, the kids in this year’s draft don’t look too shabby.
These Celtics are a low-playoff team at best. So, what would be the point of making the playoffs, getting creamed by the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers and then ending up with the No. 16 pick in the draft? It’s a path that leads to nowhere. Again, it is extremely difficult to rebuild from the middle. From 2003 to 2006, the Celtics were stuck in that middle-ground every year. They were good enough to get a low playoff spot but could not contend for a championship. Finally in 2006-07, the Celtics ended up with the worst record in the league and look what happened the next year — they won a championship.
The only time it is acceptable to be in the middle is if you’re a team on the rise. The Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers are perfect examples. They have already gotten their young nucleus of players from previous drafts, so trying to make the playoffs, whether it be a low or high seed, is actually a step in the right direction. Since they already have pieces like John Wall, Bradley Beal and Kyrie Irving in place, being in the middle for a couple years does hurt their overall progress. The Celtics, on the other hand, do not quite have those type of pieces yet. Therefore, they need that high draft pick to move them forward.
Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Jeff Green, and Rajon Rondo are good players to have on a competitive team, but Boston is still missing that one piece to take them to the next level. Boston has lost 20 of its last 23 games, and some fans are tired of the losing and ready for a winning team. Be patient, fans; the Celtics now have the third-best chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the draft, so winning will come sooner than later. It may be difficult to accept, but it is better for the future of the Celtics.