Path to the Playoffs: The Wizards and the Celtics

Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The additions of Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal have the Wizards eyeing the playoffs, but it's a tougher Eastern Conference than you remember. This week, Path to the Playoffs takes a look at the Boston Celtics.

Today's bit examines last year's playoff teams destined for a lower seed...if they don't miss the playoffs entirely. That doesn't seem at all likely for the Boston Celtics(barring a spate of injuries). But with the Heat, Pacers and Nets all seemingly destined for a Top 4 finish, the fourth spot is going to see some fresh competition and as is the case every year, the headliners are older.

The big unknown, of course, is Jason Terry. As long as the team is winning, all will be well. He's a forceful personality to add to a locker room that belongs to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It's hard to imagine anything getting too out of that hand in that locker room and some mild friction is probably the worst fans could expect.

Is Jason Terry Avery Bradley's backup? Is it an open competition? How will Bradley's growth be affected by a player used to a starter's minutes on a squad sorely needing his scoring touch? How will the Celtics' offense adjust to not having Ray Allen spacing the floor for Rajon Rondo?

While Boston certainly missed Allen in the Heat series, one has to wonder if the presence of Avery Bradley there might have turned the horse. With a freshly minted rotation of Bradley, Terry and fellow new addition Courtney Lee, SG is once again a strength for the Celtics and it's hard for me to see them falling to scrap with the Wizards for a low playoff seed.

It's tough to match their speed, defense and scoring in the back court or their experience and skill in the front court. In a way, you could make an argument they're roughly analogous to an older Wizards squad...as long as you weren't looking too closely.

Personally, I see the Celtics in the mix for the 4-6 seeds at the lowest, maybe a spot or two higher if Fab Melo overcomes the defensive curse of Syracuse prospects, Jared Sullinger's back holds up and proves he can score in the low post at the NBA level. Those two are important depth given the age of the roster. I can't imagine the Wizards successfully challenging them in a playoff race and I'm likewise sure that anyone who runs into them during the playoffs will have their hands full as they defy mortality one more time.

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