NBA: Are the Boston Celtics Still a Playoff Contender?

Nikhil BaradwajSenior Analyst IDecember 31, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics during warm up before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The first 30 games have been brutal for the Boston Celtics, as the team has stumbled to a 14-16 start. Shockingly enough, Boston still would find themselves in the playoffs if the season ended today, and only seven games out of first place in the conference and the Atlantic Division.

However, things are not looking good for the C's. Last night, Boston was routed by the lowly Sacramento Kings and did not look like the team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

With players like Danny Granger and Derrick Rose bound to return to their squads during this season and the New York Knicks playing outstanding basketball, Boston might find themselves holding onto a bottom-four seed if they make it to the playoffs.

Even so, teams like Brooklyn and Milwaukee have been more impressive than Boston so far and seem to have some room for improvement as well.

Yes, Boston has the ability to be a Finals team, especially because of the depth of this roster. Yet, the chemistry between this team is not what it was last season. Boston has been playing disjointed basketball all year and has been shockingly porous defensively.

Over the past six seasons, the Celtics have relied on their defense to keep them in basketball games. This team does not have the necessary offensive weapons to give up 98.1 points per game.

The truth is, the 2012-13 Celtics have not been even close to what they were last year. General manager Danny Ainge should assess this roster during the trade deadline and make appropriate changes, if they remain the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

While Ainge should not give up just yet on this team, he should be realistic with how this team could perform in the postseason. If the level of play remains at where it is currently, major changes need to be made.