FINALLY! The circus act that has become the Dwight Howard “will I stay or will I go” saga (otherwise known as The Indecision) is over. Dwight stomped his feet loud enough, pissed off enough executives in the Magic front office, and even blew off Orlando youths at his own camp to get his way. In turn, Dwight has become one of, if not the most hated athlete in the NBA for his childish approach to this whole ordeal over the past 8 months. With Dwight Howard leaving the Eastern Conference, one would think that Celtics fans would be cheering, but how does this trade impact the Boston Celtics and their chase for Banner 18? Lets take a look:
With Dwight Howard out of Orlando, it essentially eliminates one threat in the conference. The Magic were a perennial 4/5 seed in the East, even making the NBA Finals a few years back, though they were never a truly legitimate title threat, they did have the potential to play a spoiler in the playoffs. With Orlando receiving a few boxes of Cracker Jacks, used thongs, and a bench player it is safe to say that they will no longer be much of a threat to the Celtics. Had Orlando gotten Pau Gasol as was originally reported (Before the Lakers pulled their used car salesman, snake in the grass trade you my crap for your great crap without giving up what we should have…like they have in the past (Gasol, Nash, Wilt, Kareem) the Magic may have made some noise, but with their top player now being…Jameer Nelson? Aaron Afflalo? They stand no chance in the East.
The biggest concern though for Celtics fans won’t be the Conference as a whole, but their own division. Gone are the days where the Atlantic division was a cakewalk and winning it meant nothing to Boston. Now, the Atlantic has to be the strongest division in all of basketball… seriously. Boston is still a legitimate contender with their rebuild on the fly approach taking off on the runway before our eyes, New Jersey erm, I mean Brooklyn was able to make a sorta Big Three of their own, retaining Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace while acquiring Joe Johnson. The Knicks still have Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy… oh wait. The Raptors still suck, and will for a while. But the Sixers may now be the most impressive team in the Atlantic thanks to this trade.
With the Dwight Howard trade, the Sixers were somehow able to land former Lakers center Andrew Bynum. Bynum, while a major health risk and potential one and done player gives the Sixers one of the most solid starting fives from top to bottom in the league. Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, and Andrew Bynum make for a pretty solid and well-rounded roster that can hit you from all ends of the floor. A team that took the Boston Celtics to seven games last season just got significantly better.
With that said, the fact that the Lakers got better and the Nuggets still even exist (nevermind the fact that they were involved in this trade) should be the last thing on Celtics fans mind. Often, Celtics fans get all worked up, building a team around what the Lakers have. The big concern that arose after the Perkins trade was “How can we beat the Lakers without Perk, Bynum will kill us!!” While that may have been true, did the Lakers even make the Finals that year? The reality is, the Lakers are just one team out of the Western Conference, they still need to win the Conference before we should worry about how we match up against them, a conference that should be mentioned is still VERY strong and won’t be a cakewalk to win. If you build a team around matchups against a team you will possibly face as little as twice a season, then you won’t be going far.
The Celtics fans need to focus on how they matchup against their own conference first, one that got significantly stronger during the offseason. The one benefit is it adds one more team that can legitimately beat up on Miami and level the playing field a bit, but the reality is it is just one more huge challenge for the aging Celtics. Gone will be the days of a first round playoff matchup against a clearly inferior team. Winning Banner 18 will mean going through four extremely talented teams in deep playoff series for each round. The East now has Miami, Chicago, Philly, New York, Brooklyn, Indiana, Boston all as legitimate threats with the knowledge that there will likely be another team or two lying in the weeds as an underdog that could make some noise this season (Cleveland? Atlanta? ) The Celtics have a very tough road ahead of them this season, there is no doubt about that but the reality is that the Celtics have also managed to improve their roster and should be able to stand up to any team in the division and hopefully the conference on their way to Banner 18.