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Although the Boston Celtics never stopped being interesting, they’re officially on the verge of juggernaut status once again. And they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
This is a big deal when you consider where the Celtics were just a few years ago, having traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry ahead of the 2013-14 season, beginning what everyone thought was an extensive rebuild that would take years to complete.
So much for that.
Not only did the Celtics miss the playoffs just once during this “restructuring” period, they’ve now emerged as the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the reigning-champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Sportsbooks are, in turn, starting to recognize them as such. The Celtics have the fourth-best title odds in the league (+1400), according to TopBet, putting them behind the San Antonio Spurs (+750), Cavaliers (+300) and Golden State Warriors (-250). And they’re noticeably ahead of other contenders such as the Houston Rockets (+2000), Toronto Raptors (+2500) and Los Angeles Clippers (+3000).
This is a big deal, and proof that the Celtics’ best betting appeal comes on the futures front.
Sure, they’re solid game plays when making spread wagers. But you’ll want to steer clear of over/under gambles, because after enduring defensive lapses for the first part of the 2016-17 season, Boston have put it together on the less glamorous e
nd, combining stingy sets with a potent offense to emerge as one of the most balanced teams in the NBA.
That balance is great in terms of relevancy and the Celtics’ chances of making a dent in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but it’s disingenuous to figuring out whether a team, like Boston, is going to tilt toward one side of the floor on any given night, since it fares well at both ends.
In the grand scheme, if there is going to be a non-Cavaliers team coming out of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are the pick.
The Raptors doubled down on their current spot in the pecking order, acquiring stretch forward-center Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic, but they still don’t match the versatility the Celtics have on the defensive side. The Washington Wizards (+3300) have been on a tear since Christmas, but they rely too much on their starters and don’t have the depth necessary to preserve the stamina of their key players entering the postseason.
Heck, there’s a chance the Celtics finish with a better regular-season record than the Cavaliers, who continue battling injuries to Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, plus a total lack of engagement on defense.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are hitting their stride, championing a faster-paced style that allows them to light up the scoreboard without jeopardizing their defensive stances.
Only one other team in the NBA is melding speed with the Celtics’ offensive efficiency and defensive fortitude: the Warriors. And while that’s not to say the Celtics are better than
the Warriors—they’re not—it does suggest that they’re one of two or three teams outside of Cleveland and Oakland you can use as a championship play without feeling like you’re taking an unnecessary risk.
Best of all, this feeling isn’t projected to change.
Looking at the Celtics’ future, they have cap space, trade assets and draft picks. By the start of the 2017-18 season, they could have, theoretically, signed a top-five free a
gent, then turned one or both of their Brooklyn Nets picks into the acquisition, via trade, of Jimmy Butler or Paul George or whatever other star might become available on the chopping block.
So don’t just view the Celtics as immediately intriguing. They’re going to be one of the most terrifying teams in the NBA for quite some time.