The Boston Celtics picked up arguably their biggest win of the season Tuesday night when they won on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers 112-109. The victory pushed them ahead of their rivals in the standings for the East’s No.4 seed as they look to reach the conference finals for a third straight year.

Boston wasn’t expected to beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 conference finals, and they exceeded expectations by taking the Cavs to seven games without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward last year.

This season is different. The Celtics can’t afford an early playoff exit because it might cost them the chance to sign not just one, but two superstars to long-term deals.

Irving hasn’t committed to re-signing with the Celtics as a free agent this summer. The point guard’s repaired relationship with James has created speculation that he might want to rejoin the NBA’s top star with the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s no secret that Irving is intrigued by the idea of returning to his hometown with one of the New York teams, and rumors that the Knicks are hoping to pair Irving and Kevin Durant picked up steam when Kristaps Porzingis was traded to create two max contract slots.

All of this has happened amid the team’s pursuit of Anthony Davis. When the New Orleans Pelicans held onto the superstar at the trade deadline, it put Boston in the driver’s seat to acquire him this offseason.

There is a feeling that Davis’ willingness to sign a contract extension with the Celtics beyond 2020 would be determined by Boston’s ability to keep Irving. If Irving heads elsewhere in free agency, the Celtics might be less likely to make all their assets available to the Pelicans out of fear that Davis could walk in a year. In that case, the Lakers, Knicks or even the Clippers could grab Davis with a more desirable trade package.

Nobody knows what Irving, perhaps the most fickle star in the league, will do this offseason. He told reporters before a game at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1, “Ask me July 1,” when questioned about his future. He might not truly make up his mind until he officially hits the market.

It isn’t just that Irving might not know in which direction he is leaning. The events of the next few months, specifically how the Celtics perform, will greatly influence what happens in free agency.

Much of Irving’s perceived frustrations in Boston have been related to the struggles of the team, particularly that of the younger players, which resulted in a lackluster start to the year. After the Celtics entered the season as the prohibitive favorites in the East, they went .500 over their first 20 games.

“Things this season haven’t gone as I planned, and that’s part of being on a team where you’re still trying to figure things out,” Irving said earlier this month. “So I’m always going to be mature about that, professional, come to do my job every single day and really just see what happens. And that’s what it really comes down to.”

Kyrie Irving Celtics Knicks
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, Dec. 6, 2018. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Celtics have since performed like one of the NBA’s best teams, going 26-11. They’ve won 11 of their last 14 games, even beating the new-look 76ers as Irving nursed a knee injury. Boston is second in the East and third in all of basketball in point differential.

What if the Celtics play to their potential and reach the 2019 NBA Finals? Is Irving really going to leave that team—and an extra guaranteed year at a max salary—for a team that hasn’t been a contender in years?

That is a big “if,” of course, considering Boston’s ups and downs and the way of the top of the conference has improved. Even during the Celtics’ latest turnaround, forward Marcus Morris noted that this season hasn’t been fun for Boston, and there are nights every so often when the team simply doesn’t look right.

There are four legitimate threats in the East to make the finals—all due respect to the Victor Oladipo-less Indiana Pacers. All of them, except the Celtics, made significant additions at the trade deadline.

The Philadelphia 76ers traded for Tobias Harris, giving them the conference’s most talented starting lineup. The Toronto Raptors acquired Marc Gasol, as well as Jeremy Lin after the trade deadline. The Milwaukee Bucks added Nikola Mirotic to a team that already owns the NBA’s best record.

Perhaps Boston’s win over Philadelphia proves that the Celtics would still have the edge in a series over the 76ers, who they have dominated for the last two seasons. Boston could still have trouble in a second-round series against the Raptors or Bucks, both of whom are likely to remain ahead of the Celtics in the standings and have home-court advantage until the conference finals.

Leaving Boston to play with either James or Durant might sound even more enticing to Irving if the Celtics can’t win more than one playoff series.

Irving is having the best season of his career. To go along with his 23.6 points per game, he’s setting personal highs with averages of 6.9 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 49.8 percent shooting from the field. He’s arguably been the league’s most clutch player.

When Irving asked to be traded from Cleveland two years ago, he wanted his own team. He has that with the Celtics, though it hasn’t been all that Irving hoped it would be.

That will likely change if Boston has a deep playoff run, but Irving might very decide that he’d rather go elsewhere and play with another star that’s already won a championship if the Celtics’ postseason doesn’t go as planned.