• The Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA but are they real contenders to dethrone the Warriors?
By Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver
November 18, 2017

Andrew Sharp: The Celtics are not the best team in the East, and I feel like we’re going to look back and laugh at this stretch. They just feel very Hawks-y right now. Granted, they’re Hawks-y with the best coach in basketball and with Kyrie Irving, so there are definitely some things working in their favor. But I refuse to take this team seriously.

Ben Golliver: Who do you think is the best team in the East?

Sharp: Well, it may be some of an empty throw, and we’ll revisit when Isaiah comes back to play with Cleveland. I’m definitely not going to put the Wizards there, but they’re in the mix.

Golliver: Slow down, slow down. I’m not going to let you wiggle out of this, because I know this is where the emailers are coming at you hard. I agree by June I don’t think Boston is going to be the best team in the East. Nothing has really shaken me from that. Right now I think that it’s their throne. I don’t really know what’s the counter that anyone else has been better than them at this point of the season.

Sharp: We can all read the standings. They’re clearly in first place right now. I’m just saying that I think we’re going to get to May and look back at this first month as sort of a fluke, and one of the things that I don’t think is sustainable is Al Horford. Once they start playing really good teams, particularly in the playoffs, I don’t think he can hold up and be quite as dominant as he has been. He’s looked awesome for them for the past couple weeks, but that’s the piece that I think will sort of come back to earth over the next few months.

But the flipside of that—I have a question for you. And I didn’t give you this in advance because I wan to put you on the spot: Who do you think will beat the Warriors in a playoff series? Not necessarily this year, not necessarily next year, but the next team to beat the Warriors in a playoff series.

Golliver: Oh, man, that is a tough one. I think the smart money would just be on the Spurs because they’re always going to be really good. I can’t see Cleveland doing it. I think they’re going to blow up this year. You can make solid arguments that it’s probably Boston, Milwaukee, Philly or whoever gets that big superstar upgrade or franchise-changing guy in free agency and that puts them over the top against the 2019 Warriors. I’d say one of those three.

Sharp: I think, if I had to put money on it right now, I would put money on the Celtics to make it happen, especially if they can get Anthony Davis without giving up both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. They just have so many great pieces there, and they’re able to sort of turnover the backend of that roster and replace them with talented guys and Semi Ojeleye is exactly the type of dude they find that other teams don’t. And if you add Anthony Davis as sort of the crowning piece to bring it all together, I think they could just be really, really dangerous.

Golliver: Yeah, Anthony Davis will do that to you. I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. I think we need to drill down on who you think the best team in the East is if its not Boston, because you’ve done an amazing job of talking around that for the last five minutes.

Sharp: No, I think that by the end it’s going to be either the Wizards or the Cavs or the Raptors—maybe not the Raptors. Wizards, Cavs or Bucks, let’s say that. And the Celtics will probably be in the mix, but I think the biggest takeaway from this first month is just how great their foundation is and how dangerous they will be 1) When Hayward gets back and 2) If they’re able to pull off the Anthony Davis trade in the next year and a half. And it’s dangerous to be openly courting a superstar for that long, and a lot of things can change and a lot of things can go wrong. But I think that it’s just so clear that Stevens is great, they can get the most out of Kyrie while hiding his weaknesses and the front office is awesome at stocking the rest of the roster.

Golliver: I liked you a lot more when you didn’t just gush about the Celtics for 15 minutes straight. I do think this, though, if you’re putting all the players on Boston and Golden State into a pool, aren’t you taking three Warriors before any of the Celtics? So aren’t we at least two years away from having this conversation? I’d take Steph, KD and Draymond, in some order, before any individual player on the Celtics. And if you have that type of talent gap at the top, I mean, what are we even talking about? 

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