But the team would be doing even better if they had All-Star forward Gordon Hayward healthy. Hayward broke his ankle in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers and hasn’t played a minute since.
Celtics fans were hoping that he could make it back onto the court at some point this season. This was especially the case recently, when he posted a video of himself dribbling and shooting around.
But if there was any hope that Hayward can make it back this season, head Coach Brad Stevens dashed this notion.
“He’s still super long way from even being in a 1-on-1 workout where he’s cutting,” Stevens told reporters.
Patience. One goal.
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) March 2, 2018
Stevens Wants to Focus on the Current Roster – Not Hayward’s Small Chance of Playing
Given that there are less than 20 games left in the regular season and Hayward isn’t even close to 1-on-1 drills, it’s a given that he won’t be ready for playoff basketball in April.
Stevens has essentially known all along that there’s a very slim chance his star forward would play. And he’s been saying over and over that he doesn’t think Hayward will suit up. But this is the most definitive he’s been about saying so.
The #Celtics Brad Stevens reiterated that Gordon Hayward WILL NOT return this season. Stevens said Hayward is progressing but is a “super-long “ ways away from doing 1-on-zero work, and being able to cut.
— A. Sherrod Blakely (@ASherrodblakely) March 3, 2018
Celtics Thinking about the Future
Sure, Boston could try to rush Hayward back in hopes that he could support a playoff run. But this Celtics team has been focused on building for the future ever since the 2014 steal they got in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
GM Danny Ainge used the assets from this trade to construct a team that’s capable of competing for the Eastern Conference title year in and year out.
Having Hayward slowly work his way back into shape only fits the notion that Boston wants to get him ready for next season. This is especially the case when considering that Hayward’s ankle was reportedly swollen and purple during All-Star weekend.
Celtics Still Have Plenty Left to Chase Title
The team still has All-NBA point guard Kyrie Irving (24.8 PPG) leading the charge. And he has an excellent supporting cast with Jaylon Brown (14.0 PPG), Jayson Tatum (13.2 PPG), Al Horford (12.8 PPG), Marcus Morris (12.8 PPG), Terry Rozier (10.4 PPG), Marcus Smart (10.1 PPG), and Greg Monroe (8.3 PPG).
The Celtics are still within striking distance of earning the top seed in the East before the playoffs start. Overtaking the Raptors would give Boston home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Even if they can’t catch Toronto, the Celtics would still have home court in the first round and semifinals. This is huge, assuming they run into the Cavs (36-26) in the second round. And the way the standings currently shape up, this is a definite possibility.
Boston Celtics 2018 Futures
While Boston currently holds a 6-game lead over Cleveland, they’re still not favored to win the East in our GTBets NBA futures. The Cavs are a big favorite at -120, mainly because LeBron James is still the top of his game. Furthermore, Cleveland has been the East champions three seasons in a row.
Boston is also sitting behind Toronto in our odds. Assuming they can move past the Raptors in the standings, then they’ll likely move up in our NBA futures too.
Boston currently has the fifth-best odds (+2000) odds of winning the NBA title. Aside from being behind Cleveland (+750) and Toronto (+1400), they’re also behind the Golden State Warriors (-200) and Houston Rockets (+250).
The team felt like they had a “formula” to beat the Warriors last year, thanks to two victories over the eventual champions. But that was with a very different roster, and there’s been a lot of turnover this season.
It’d be interesting to see how this new-look Celtics team performs in the playoffs. Last year, they made the Eastern Conference Finals and were beaten by the Cavs 4-1.
Here’s a look at our NBA futures as of now:
2018 NBA Eastern Conference Futures
- Cleveland -120
- Toronto +310
- Boston +400
- Milwaukee +2000
- Philadelphia +2000
- Washington +2000
- Indiana +7500
2018 NBA Championship Futures
- Golden State -200
- Houston +250
- Cleveland +750
- Toronto +1400
- Boston +2000
- Oklahoma City +3500
- San Antonio +3500
- Washington +6000
- Milwaukee +7500
- Minnesota +8000
- Philadelphia +8000