The Boston Celtics have lost seven of their past ten matches and have slipped to eighth in the Eastern Conference standings. With two All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are both averaging over 24 points per game, being two games below .500 is unacceptable.
The road ahead doesn't look much easier for the Celtics either. Of their 16 games in April, 11 are against teams currently occupying a playoff spot. Things could get worse for Boston before they get better.
But with only 24 games left in the regular season, the Celtics don't really have the luxury of waiting for things to get better. Especially if they are to avoid a lowly playoff berth or worse, no postseason at all.
But why does a roster as talented as the Boston Celtics find themselves teetering on the edge of missing the playoffs? We assess below.
5 reasons the Boston Celtics are below .500 in the 2020-21 NBA season
After reaching their third conference finals in the past four years last season, the Boston Celtics came into this campaign expected to challenge for the top-seed in the Eastern Conference. While that is now a distant dream, their recent run suggests that even a top-four finish would require a minor miracle.
There are plenty of issues that have unraveled as the season has progressed, but below we list the five biggest areas of concern for the Celtics.
#1. Frontcourt vulnerability
Before the season, it was well-known that the Boston Celtics could struggle in the frontcourt, particularly in the paint. Their failure to address that problem is the main reason behind their disappointing form in the 2020-21 NBA season.
It was evident from the get-go that Daniel Theis wasn't going to cut it. While Tristan Thompson could provide efficiency as a scorer and rebounder, neither had what it took to challenge Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kevin Durant in the frontcourt.
Fast-forward to the trade deadline, general manager Danny Ainge had an opportunity to bring in a player who could be a season changer for the Boston Celtics. But no move for the likes of Nikola Vucevic or Andre Drummond came to fruition. Instead, the team traded for Moritz Wagner and Luke Kornet, who appear to be more of a like-for-like replacement for the outgoing Theis.
Boston ranks 24th in the NBA in giving up second-chance points to the opposition. This stems from their poor defensive rebounding. If they can make the playoffs, they will likely be dominated at the rim by the likes of Embiid and Antetokounmpo.
The Celtics defense ranked among the top-five last season but is in the bottom ten in the current campaign. They allow more three-point attempts and a higher field-goal percentage than over half the teams in the NBA.
Part of the problem could be put down to Marcus Smart's absence earlier in the year. But the Boston Celtics just don't look like the same side that held the 76ers to only 100.5 points per game in their playoff series last season. Without him, the Celtics are 10-9. But Smart, Brown and Tatum are recording career-low defensive efficiency ratings.