Not only has Danny Ainge turned the Boston Celtics back into NBA title contenders faster than almost anyone imagined, he’s also set up the C’s to be successful for a very long time.
Although we’re still months away from the playoffs, and LeBron James remains a thing that exists in the NBA, there’s no denying the Celtics’ standing as a legitimate title contender. Maybe they won’t be able to usurp the Golden State Warriors’ throne this season, but if the Celtics can win a game or two against the Warriors in June, would anyone be shocked?
Ainge’s grand plan is coming into focus more and more each day. Wednesday’s game in London against the Philadelphia 76ers was just the latest example. Boston erased a 22-point deficit while storming back to beat the Sixers.
Ainge’s decision to trade the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft to Philly has never looked better. He moved to get the No. 3 pick, which he used to take Tatum, and the player the Sixers took at No. 1 — Markelle Fultz — remains physically unable to shoot a basketball. The Los Angeles Lakers are a trainwreck, which is also good for Ainge, as he acquired the Lakers’ protected first-rounder in that deal with Philly.
There’s a decent chance the Celtics — for a third consecutive season — end up with a pick in the top three of the NBA draft. Two years ago, they took Jaylen Brown, whose second-year leap has him looking like a franchise cornerstone. Tatum would be the Rookie of the Year favorite if it weren’t for Ben Simmons. And now the Celtics are positioned to add yet another young gun in the draft — just weeks after they complete what they hope is a deep playoff run.
Not only are the Celtics getting better, they also seem to be getting younger. Brown is 21. Tatum is 19. Heck, even Kyrie Irving is just 25. It all led The Ringer’s Zach Kram to wonder whether the Celtics are the best young team in NBA history.
And there’s one paragraph from the story (which is very much worth a read) that shows just how bright the future is for the Celtics.
(Emphasis is our own.)
“Then there’s Boston, currently the East’s top seed with a (34–10) record, as a gerontological outlier. The Celtics are one of the league’s youngest teams, as only the lottery-bound Lakers and Suns boast lower average ages than Boston’s 24.5; not a single Celtic is older than Cleveland’s average age.”
Oh, and also this.
“The Celtics aren’t just an anomaly this season, though; as a team this young and competitive, they’re a historical aberration as well. Before this season, 142 teams since the advent of the shot clock played with a weighted average age younger than 25, and they were generally awful, finishing with an average .365 winning percentage, which translates to a 30–52 record.”
In other words, the present looks good for the Celtics, but the future is even brighter.
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