What’s Considered a Successful Season for the Celtics?

Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens watches from the sideline as they take on the Atlanta Hawks during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Hawks 111-103. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens watches from the sideline as they take on the Atlanta Hawks during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Hawks 111-103. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The Celtics are coming off a 48-win season, so what’s considered a successful season this year?

The only way the Boston Celtics can shock the NBA world, and exceed expectations, the same way they did last season is if they made it past the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. Boston is viewed as one of the favorites to grab the second seed in the Eastern Conference and possibly compete with Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals this year, although getting past the Cavaliers still seems out of their reach.

After many considered Isaiah Thomas becoming an All-Star en route to the Celtics winning 48 games and battling the Atlanta Hawks for six games in the playoffs a success, as previously noted, the expectations for this team are a lot higher in 2016-17. To many, the acquisition of Al Horford instantly bumped them ahead of the Toronto Raptors, leaving only the Cavaliers to catch in the East. These are higher expectations than many players on this young team have ever experienced.

Therefore, should expectations be somewhat tempered for a team with many of their players never making it out of the first round? Maybe, but it won’t. The Celtics will be under the microscope this season trying to prove themselves, showing they’re the real deal, even without that coveted third star on the roster.

This is the first season under Brad Stevens that real things are expected to happen from the Celtics. In his second season, making the playoffs was considered an amazing coaching job by Stevens. Last season some people didn’t think Boston was a playoff team heading into the season, however, with the emergence of key players and Stevens’ coaching, they tied for the third best record in the East.

With expectations being hard to exceed this season, what’s a successful season for the Boston Celtics?

Simply put, they need to win in the playoffs. No one remembers great regular seasons unless a team makes noise or does something memorable in the postseason. The Golden State Warriors won a record 73 games this past season, although their inability to win in the postseason puts a damper on their historic season.

While winning upwards of 50 games sounds like a dream, especially when considering where this team was just three short seasons ago, the Celtics can’t be satisfied by regular season wins.

Great teams don’t worry about the regular season because winning in the postseason is all that matters. It’s why since the 2010-11 season, LeBron James led teams have only won the conference regular season championship twice. Granted the Celtics don’t have a LeBron James leading their team in the playoffs, but the road to the Finals still goes through Cleveland, no matter when you play them.

Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Therefore, while locking up the second seed likely means the Celtics winning close to 55 games, it means nothing if they aren’t able to get deep into the playoffs. While it’s never a guarantee that a team makes the playoffs, Boston has as good of a chance as anyone, barring major injuries. Rarely do teams projected to finish in the top-three in their conference completely miss the playoffs.

Therefore, a loss in the middle of February shouldn’t have Celtics’ fans pulling their hair out. Of course Boston wants to win every game, but the regular season is just the warmup to the real season for the Celtics this year – the postseason.

In the end, Boston doesn’t need to win the title to have this season be considered a success. At the same time, simply winning regular season games isn’t enough. Sure, it would be a great testament to the work Danny Ainge has done if Boston were able to eclipse 50 wins and even reach 55 this season, but it’s not what the Celtics are aiming for.

A 45 win season with a deep run in the playoffs should be considered more successful than a 60 win season with a first round exit. Boston proved they could win in the regular season last year. They were the only team to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors on their home courts last season and tied for the third most wins in the conference.

The rotation that Brad Stevens set was brilliant as he was able to utilize his depth and keep his starters fresh throughout the season. Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley all became household names around the NBA, as a team who came into the season without a true star became one of the most dominating teams in the East.

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The next step is to win in the postseason, though. Brad Stevens has lost in the first round during both appearances, compiling a brutal 2-8 record. Granted the Celtics were banged up last season, the Hawks were simply the better team in the playoffs. Adapting to the slower pace and needing guys to step up when it counts were huge lessons the Celtics learned last season.

Barring a run to the NBA Finals, the Celtics aren’t going to surprise anyone this season. Following last season, Boston has a target on their backs now, especially when it comes to the Cavaliers and Warriors. The aurora that once came with the Boston Celtics coming into town is back as teams are anxious to try to knock off one of the top teams in the East.

The development of key, young players like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will be huge for the Celtics’ future, however, at the same time, their time is now. Their window is open, meaning regular season wins dwindle in comparison to anything they do in the postseason.

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The Celtics can’t just win a couple of games in the playoffs this season, they need to win a series or two, and compete against the Cavaliers – taking a game or two and pushing them to the brink. Even with the Toronto Raptors still a threat, anything outside of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance would be disappointing for a Celtics team who has the weapons to push the Cavaliers to a six or seven game series.