The current leaders of the NBA's Eastern Conference are the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With a little more than 25% of the schedule still to come, Cleveland hold a three-game lead for the top seed in the east. That lead follows Boston's victory over Cleveland on Wednesday, one that also helped protect the C's lead in the Atlantic Division. While last year saw the Raptors win two playoff series before falling to Cleveland in the conference finals, this season seems to be much less about Toronto and more about the Celtics rising up. Brad Stevens, the head of the Boston Celtics, is certainly a pivotal figure in Boston's surge.

Brad Stevens career recap

By most standards, Brad Stevens is still relatively new in the NBA as a head coach. In the early parts of this decade he was the head coach of the Butler Bulldogs, a division-one NCAA school based in basketball-crazed Indiana. The Bulldogs were on the map in college hoops before Stevens arrived, however Butler became a college basketball powerhouse under Stevens. They made back-to-back NCAA championship appearances, losing to the Duke Blue Devils in 2010 and to the Connecticut Huskies in 2011. In the 2010 season, Stevens was just one shot away from winning the national championship.

He moved up to the NBA with the 2013/14 NBA season and inherited what was a weak team at the time in Boston.

Stevens went just 25-57 in his first season, however there has been marked improvement year for year. In 2014/15 he went 40-42 and last season he went 48-34. In each of the last two seasons his teams made the playoffs, losing in the first round on each occasion. However, they did win a couple games last season before losing, an improvement over the prior season.

Stevens was head of the East's All Stars

Stevens has a career highlight this season as he was named the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Star team. With a record of 38-20 heading into this weekend, Stevens looks as though he will set a personal best for wins in a season. If he keeps his current winning percentage up, it projects to a season with about 53-54 victories.

A question with Stevens, is if he's able to take a team through the early rounds of the NBA playoffs.

It is worth noting that some of Stevens' contemporaries when he was in college have not really done much in the NBA. If Chicago, for example, doesn't at least make the playoffs there will loads of fans that will want to run former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg out of town. Billy Donovan could have done more with the OKC Thunder team he had last season in terms of regular season winning percentage. He probably should be doing more even with the Kevin Durant-less team he has this season.

But Stevens' main rival in the NBA playoffs will probably be Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lue took over last season and guided his team to the NBA championship.

That is the only head-coaching experience that he has and winning the title will protect him from criticism (despite only going 27-14 in last season's regular season).

However, I think this season's Boston Celtics will be a stronger No. 2 in the Eastern Conference than the Toronto Raptors were last season. I see Stevens' growing experience and improving players as a big reason for that. Furthermore, I think Stevens might actually emerge as a generational coach over the long run. The college results and the steady improvement in Boston are hard to ignore.

But what is also hard to ignore is the fact that Lue has more to work with. Lebron James and Kyrie Irving can make an average coach great and there's no shortage of a supporting cast in Ohio either.

It will be interesting to see who does what in the playoffs: the star-studded Cavs or the All-Star team coach. It's hard to bet against either, but the Lebron factor still looms a bit larger in my view.

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