Can the Boston Celtics Still Make the Playoffs?

By Andre Khatchaturian
BU News Service

Rajon Rondo thinks the Boston Celtics can still make the playoffs. Considering the fact that the Celtics have the fourth-worst record in the NBA, it’s not a surprise if Jim Mora’s “Playoffs?!” rant played through your head after hearing Rondo’s bombastic statement.

That said, let’s examine what Rondo said more closely. All he said is that the playoffs were a possibility and he’s right. But it’s also a possibility that Bostonians can go through an entire winter and not see a blizzard. According to Basketball Reference, the Celtics only have a 2.3 percent chance of making the playoffs compared to a 7.3 percent probability of winning the draft lottery. Just because something is a possibility, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Boston is currently 5.5 games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth seed and 6.5 games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh seed in the conference with 33 games to go. That’s more than enough time to make a comeback. However, the problem is that the Celtics aren’t the ninth seed. They have four teams ahead of them that can also get hot.

Rondo probably knows this. He’s not crazy. He knows that the team is most likely not going to make the playoffs. What he’s doing by making that statement is being a great team captain and leader. It’s his job as captain to give a positive outlook and motivate the young team. If he made a negative statement about the team’s playoff chances and said that the team was playing for nothing, what kind of message is he sending to the rest of the players on the team? He would likely get blasted by the media if he gave a negative outlook on the season.

With that said, the Celtics have an advantage in that they finally got Rondo back after he missed half the season due to injury and he’s beginning to play better. He had his best game of the year against the atrocious Orlando Magic this past Sunday when he scored 19 points and 10 assists in a Celtics’ win.

The Celtics also have a relatively easy schedule compared to the Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, and Cleveland Cavaliers. They have the sixth easiest schedule in the NBA based on strength of remaining schedule.

So with Rondo getting the rust off and the Celtics having a cupcake schedule, it should mean that the point guard’s claims of a late playoff run are valid. However, every other team in the Eastern Conference can make the same claim. The New York Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and the fifth easiest schedule in the league. They still have plenty of time to get hot and make a run. They’re also only two games behind the eighth seed – a much more manageable deficit than what the Celtics are facing.

The Celtics front office is also showing signs that they probably do not want to make the playoffs through some of their decisions. For instance, Chris Johnson, who averaged 8.7 points per game and shot over 41 percent from three-point land  will likely be a payroll casualty because the Celtics don’t want to get too close to the luxury tax and would rather have more financial flexibility. A team whose goal is to make the playoffs would probably not be concerned with financial flexibility and would likely choose to keep a player who has been doing everything right in his short stint.

As mentioned before, the Celtics have a higher probability at this point to win the lottery than to make the playoffs.  Even in the weak Eastern Conference, it’s going to take a lot for the Celtics to make the playoffs. The Celtics are one of the many reasons why the East is weak. They’re not a dormant super power ready to flip a switch and go on a run.

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Posted by: Andre Khatchaturian on