To make matters worse, Brown suffered a late-season injury, putting the Celtics’ playoff hopes at risk. It’s a punch for Celtics fans. But at the same time, other contenders like the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat are praying for Brown’s speedy recovery and making changes to their roster.
Assuming the Celtics qualify for the NBA Playoffs even without Brown as one of the bottom seeds, they will most likely face the Sixers or the Nets. It’s a shame to lose Brown at this point in the season. But the Celtics still have a chance as they are equipped with a balanced roster and a brilliant mind in coach Brad Stevens.
But if they face the Sixers in the playoffs, chances are the Celtics will be the ones swept away this year. Last season, the Celtics embarrassed the Sixers by hitting them 4-0 in the first round. But now the Sixers are better than ever with a championship coach in Doc Rivers who is on a revenge tour to prove he hasn’t failed. There’s also the addition of veterans Dwight Howard and Danny Green, who bring wisdom to their young teammates in every game. Of course, there’s Ben Simmons and the big man Joel Embiid who is one of the favorites to win the Plum MVP. Even with Brown in the fold, the Sixers will likely oust the Celtics. What’s more now that Brown isn’t in the picture?
The same is true for the Nets if they ever meet in the playoffs. Since pulling off a string of punches, including acquiring James Harden, the Nets have climbed into the top favorites to win everything to already give them the title. But in reality, the Nets are a pretty volatile team in the middle of their power roster. While they expect Harden to return to the playoffs, there will always be lingering concerns about his health. The same goes for Kevin Durant who missed several games with lower leg injuries.
Additionally, recent NBA history reveals that even great teams need time to develop. Just look at the Miami Heat led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. So if the Nets and Celtics meet in the first round, don’t be shocked if Beantown ends up with less Brown annoyance, especially with the likes of Marcus Smart surpassing the entire Nets squad.
Again, assuming the Celtics and Nets meet in the first round, the series winner will then face the series winner Miami Heat against Milwaukee Bucks. This presents an interesting dilemma for both Heat and Bucks. They faced the Celtics in the last two NBA playoffs and ended up progressing. So it’s easy to imagine Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer wanting the Celtics to end up with the opening round upset.
It would be a great scenario for the Bucks and the Heat. In a way, their tickets to the Eastern Conference Finals hinge on a first-round victory for the Celtics, even without Brown. As noted, the Nets are a volatile power team. But the Heat and Bucks respect them enough to know that Steve Nash and his wards have all the potential to make it through the NBA Playoffs and win it all.
Of course, the above analysis assumes the Celtics will manage to make their way through the play-in tournament and finish a seventh or eighth seed. But what if the Celtics don’t? That would likely mean a walk in the park for the Sixers or the Nets who will face a much weaker and inexperienced team, likely the envy of the Bucks and the Heat. And maybe, much to Jaylen Brown’s disappointment.