Sunday, April 19, 2015

What the Celtics can win in this series

The Celtics have essentially no chance to beat the Cavs in a 7-game series. Even winning a single game seems far-fetched. But there are some things the Celtics have a good chance to win in this series: the experience, an increase in the trade-value of current players, the solidifying of Brad Stevens' reputation as a quality coach, and an increase of the team's appeal to top talent in the league.

Playoff experience is priceless. And while the C's aren't contending for the 2015 NBA Championship, the postseason experience some of these players get in the next few weeks could help them in future playoff runs. If the Celtics can play just one reasonably close game in this series, it will be a fantastic learning experience.

Isaiah Thomas has no playoff experience, neither does Tyler Zeller, Marcus Smart (obviously), or Kelly Olynyk (happy birthday to him, by the way). Getting a playoff series under their belts can only help them improve. Think about it, when has playoff experience ever made any player in any sport worse? Has anyone ever said "Oh, Player X was an okay player, until he played that series against Milwaukee. Ever since he got that playoff experience, he just hasn't been the same."

This series can also increase the trade-value of some of these players. If Isaiah Thomas averages 20+ points, if Tyler Zeller gets a double-double, if anyone makes a big game-winning shot, they could become more valuable in a future trade. Players with good postseason performances on their resume often command a higher price on the market.

Brad Stevens makes his players better. That's a scientific hypothesis that's been repeatedly tested this season, and continually reaffirmed. If Stevens can coach his ragtag bunch of misfits to a win or two, or just a few close games, then his reputation as a great coach will grow stronger. Players want to play for a coach who puts them in position to play better. And that also puts the player in position to get paid better.

That's one way the Celtics can increase their appeal to the league's top talent. Right now, the Celtics aren't a big draw for prime time players. But being a playoff team makes them more appealing than a lottery team. And being a playoff team that has proven postseason performers and a coach who makes players better, is even more appealing.

And as that appeal draws good-but-not-great players, the team becomes an even more appealing destination. Then eventually maybe you land the big star that puts you back into championship contention.

So this series won't end with the Celtics winning. But it might be the start of the Celtics' winning.