Yes. Still. Celtics were a contender before...how many times do we have to see them "shockingly" awaken in the playoffs right around the time our best player goes from 30 mpg in reg season to 37 mpg in playoffs before we realize that there is some causation there? Also, the team was always going to finish stronger once the old-heads got the finish line in sight/the young-heads were fully integrated to their roles on the team.
Barring a KG injury or team-shaking trade, Celts finish at worst 26 - 12 over last 38 games.
Bradley/Lee/Pierce/Sully/KG dominates defensively
Offensively, dirty secret...lots of individual offensive talent on this team. One problem before is that Terry/Lee/Pierce all better with ball in their hands than spotting up. Terry and Barbosa needed more consistent minutes. Sully better offense creator than Bass, didnt need to be spoonfed the jumpers like Bass did. Pierce/KG/Sully one of best passing frontcourts in NBA, takes playmaking burden off of Bradley and Lee.
Offensive summary: Rondo is one of the best spoon-feeding passers in the league, on a team where the talent doesn't fit the spot-up rolls he needs. The downgrade of Ray as a lightening quick spot-up shooter (even over contest) from deep and the absence of Brandon Bass's jumper combined to severely limit the offensive ceiling of the style of play that we were playing. It'd be a lot to ask KG and Pierce to do it on their own offensively at this stage, but if the supporting pieces work better in the new paradigm they should have the support they need.
Bottom line prediction: offense improves marginally, defense improves significantly, Celtics no worse than 26 - 12 down stretch. Still a contender.