2020 NBA Playoffs: Celtics' path more daunting with tournament seeding

2020 NBA Playoffs: Celtics' path more daunting with tournament seeding

The Boston Celtics project to have a daunting playoff path if the NBA is to launch directly into its typical postseason format upon a potential summer restart.

But the possibility of the league testing a 1-16 seeding format could increase the degree of difficulty even further.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has expressed interest in the 1-16 format but has admitted that travel is the biggest impediment in a potential conferences-go-out-the-window format. So as the NBA ponders a single-site reboot to the 2019-20 season, 1-16 playoff seeding is something that Silver could pitch his owners in a season that would already be resuming under unique circumstances.

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Would the Celtics (and other Eastern Conference teams) be on board with that plan?

That vote might hinge on whether the league is planning any additional regular-season games before the playoffs. Some shuffling of the current standings could be advantageous for Boston, if only because the current 1-16 bracket is an absolute bear.

Under the current standings in a 1-16 field, Boston would be the fifth seed and draw the same first-round matchup against Philadelphia as the East-only bracket would deliver. The difference is Round 2 matchups and a possible matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers under the 1-16 format.

In fact, if higher seeds won out, Boston would have to beat the 12th-seeded Sixers, fourth-seeded Clippers, top-seeded Bucks, and second-seeded Lakers to emerge as champions in a 1-16 format. That’s a murderers' row of opponents and the case can be made it would be the four best teams in the entire postseason tournament.

Those four teams have the highest probability of wining the NBA Finals based on FiveThirtyEight’s projections at the time of the season being suspended. The Sixers, Clippers, Bucks and Lakers had a combined 83 percent chance to win the title, according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, while Boston itself accounted for another 6 percent.

FiveThirtyEight also has a metric called “full-strength rating,” which rates teams based on having all of its top talent available. Sort teams by playoff full-strength rankings and the list goes, 1. Clippers, 2. Lakers, 3. 76ers, 4. Bucks. Boston is sixth with the Rockets one spot in front.

In a typical East-only bracket, the Celtics would swap out the Clippers for the Raptors in Round 2 (again, assuming higher seeds advance). It doesn’t alter Boston’s path all that much considering the Bucks and Lakers would come later, but it's undeniably more desirable to face Kawhi Leonard’s former team than having to deal with him and Paul George on the same Clippers team in Round 2.

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Ultimately, if the NBA can simply resume games and cobble together a postseason, beggars won’t be choosers. This year’s champion is going to have an asterisk attached, regardless of the format, because of the long break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 1-16 format might be a bit more agreeable for Boston if a handful of regular season games shifted the standings a bit.

The Celtics were a game behind the Clippers for the fourth-best record when the season paused and teams 11-13 are virtually tied at the moment. Drawing the Pacers instead of the 76ers, or the Nuggets instead of the Clippers, might be a tiny bit more agreeable — at least as we judge teams based on their potential from what we saw earlier in the season.

From an entertainment standpoint, it’s undeniable that the cross-conference matchups could add some tremendous intrigue.

The Celtics and Clippers played two tremendously entertaining games with a total of three overtimes during the regular season. Getting a best-of-seven series in Round 2 would be phenomenal from a viewer’s perspective.

What’s more, if Kyrie Irving were healthy enough to get back on the court, a first-round matchup between the Nets and Lakers would have some extra sizzle. One potential downside: A possible showdown between L.A. teams would require both squads to make the championship round of the 1-16 format instead of just the conference finals in the typical format (and the Lakers get a very agreeable path to that title round).

That this is even a debatable topic is an encouraging sign as the NBA explores ways to simply restart the season and crown a champion.

Scottie Pippen: Celtics' Jayson Tatum capable of being best player on an NBA champion

Scottie Pippen: Celtics' Jayson Tatum capable of being best player on an NBA champion

Jayson Tatum has received plenty of praise during the 2019-20 NBA season for raising his game to an All-Star level, and one NBA legend is confident the Boston Celtics forward is capable of taking his talents even higher.

The Boston Celtics will enter the league's 22-team restart at Walt Disney World Resort later this month as one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. ESPN's Jalen Rose was among the first national voices after the restart format was announced to predict the Celtics were capable of going on a deep playoff run. He even picked the C's to win the conference and reach the 2020 NBA Finals.

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For the Celtics to make the Finals and contend for the franchise's 18th championship, Tatum likely will have to carry the team as its best player and go-to scorer. Chicago Bulls legend and current ESPN NBA analyst Scottie Pippen thinks Tatum is ready to take on that challenge.

Here's what Pippen said on ESPN's "The Jump".

Rachel Nichols: "Do you think Jayson Tatum is already, now, capable of carrying that best player on a championship team title?"

Pippen: "Rachel, I really do. I think this has been a breakout season for Tatum. He started out this season sort of on a mission to separate himself from the other players who've grown and developed, as well as really showing some leadership by becoming an All-Star this season. His scoring was really starting to peak right there (before the season was paused) -- he again separated himself a little bit from the other players to show he was going to be the go-to guy, the offensive leader for that team. I think if this team is to make a run, it has to rely on Tatum's ability to carry them offensively, and I feel like he's totally ready."

It's impressive when a six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer gives you this kind of praise. It's deserved, too.

Tatum, particularly during his dominant month of February, was going to toe-to-toe with some of the league's best players and putting up crazy stats. One of the games that stands out is the Celtics' thrilling double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers right before the All-Star break. Tatum scored 39 points and outdueled reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

The 22-year-old forward has shown he's capable of being the best player on a title contender, but he won't have to do it alone. The Celtics are the only team with three players (Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker) averaging 20-plus points per game, and Gordon Hayward isn't far behind with 17.3 points scored per game. Boston has great scoring depth, and with Tatum and Walker able to create their shot in any situation during crunch time, C's head coach Brad Stevens has plenty of options late in games when his team needs a bucket.

Celtics apparently brought awesome NBA title inspiration to practice

Celtics apparently brought awesome NBA title inspiration to practice

The Boston Celtics quite literally had their eyes on the prize Monday, it appears.

Celtics big man Vincent Poirier shared a video on his Instagram story Monday that appeared to show Boston's 2008 NBA championship trophy at the Auerbach Center.

How's that for some inspiration?

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The Celtics haven't won an NBA title since Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the 2007-08 C's captured the team's 17th championship.

Many believe Boston can compete for a title during the NBA's restarted season in Orlando, however. Kemba Walker has had several months to rest his injured knee, while Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart give the Celtics impressive depth at both ends of the floor.

The C's were the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference when the 2019-20 season halted in mid-March, but it many ways all bets are off entering an unprecedented playoff format that will be played in a neutral location without fans.

NBA teams are set to travel to Orlando this week to begin ramping up for the "seeding round" in late July. The Celtics' entire team is on board at the moment, and now the squad has some extra motivation as it gets set to enter the bubble.