Mike Greenberg: Condensed Playoff Schedule Would Favor Boston Celtics

Mike Greenberg
Mike Greenberg /

While the details of the NBA's plan to resume its season in Orlando sometime this summer will remain blurry until the final t's are crossed and i's are dotted, one thing is certain: there will be a lot of games in a short amount of time.

The NBA playoffs usually run from the third week in April until somewhere in the first two weeks of June. This season's postseason must be shorter because, if anything, the league doesn't want to push back the start of the 2020-21 season longer than necessary.

A condensed schedule would contain a lot of back-to-backs and two games in three nights for all teams participating, not to mention how the NBA might try to cram together exhibition games to ratchet up interest and give the players a few warm-up contests before the games start to matter. Mike Greenberg rightfully believes this will favor teams with youth and depth on their side-- and then connected the dots to find a more contestable conclusion that the Boston Celtics will walk out of the Eastern Conference with those advantages:

The path will indeed be more difficult for teams with regular load-management listings like the Clippers, although I thought we were past doubting LeBron James' physical ability in Year 17 of his reign. The Celtics do indeed have youth on their side, as Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, and Brad Wanamaker are the only three guys who are both 30 or older and receive regular minutes.

Greenberg's argument, however, could be applied to two other Eastern Conference teams that were better than the Celtics during the shortened regular season: the Bucks and the Raptors. Milwaukee is led by a 25-year-old reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who barely cracked 30 minutes per game. Mike Budenholzer is very good at spreading the minutes around and if any coach is prepared to manage minutes on a tight schedule, it would be him. Toronto, meanwhile, had six players average double-digit points per game and all but Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry are 26 or younger.

The Celtics are young and deep but don't have the one transcendent superstar to match up with Giannis and don't have the depth of the Raptors. Boston's depth is a little misleading, anyway. Their top six guys (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Walker, Hayward, and Daniel Theis) are all good-to-great players, but after them things fall off considerably. Enes Kanter is only good in certain matchups and his pick-and-roll defense will never be good enough for regular postseason play. Wanamaker can hold down the fort but not much else. The Grant Williams/Semi Ojeyele combo is good for spot minutes and that's it.

Part of the reason playoff hopes were high in Boston was because that top six were going to shoulder the vast majority of the minutes load when the games mattered most, but they don't necessarily benefit the most if that is taken away. It's debatable if they benefit at all.

Youthful talent and a deep bench, as always, are important for winning basketball games. A condensed playoff schedule would likely hinder older, shallower teams than a standard playoff bracket would. This does not mean the Celtics, who do not have the best young player in the conference nor the deepest bench in the conference, will stroll out of the East, as Greenberg suggests. But we should get to see it all unfold, something we could not say with any certainty as recently as two weeks ago.