The State of the Boston Celtics
The Celtics have officially completely the teardown of what is left from the 2008 Championship by trading Rajon Rondo. The teardown really started back in 2012 when Ray Allen decided to go to Miami in free agency (still a scumbag for doing so). Then, the summer before the 2013 season we saw the real end of an era when Pierce, Garnett and Rivers all left through trade. So, the Celtics were able to build a Big 3 and sustain success for about 6 seasons. They easily could have gotten two and possibly three titles from it, but in the end finished with just the 2008 Championship. It was a fun ride to watch, but now seems like ancient history. The decision to trade Rondo to the Mavericks was a very smart one as Rondo’s career seems like history too, but it also means the Celtics traded their last legitimate asset on the team. It is now time to continue full on rebuild of this franchise. And even though the team is in the middle of a rebuild, the Celtics may not be that far away from being contenders as originally thought. The young Celtics team went on a surge in the second half of the season and found themselves in the East playoffs facing the conference favorite Cleveland. It was obvious that the Celtics had no chance in this series and were overmatched by a more talented Cleveland team. But the young Celtics team that is supposedly in a rebuild showed great promise for a team that lacks a true star and leader.
This past summer, I was one who wanted Ainge to go after Kevin Love. My thought process on getting Love was a quick rebuild. A core of Love, Rondo and Green could get you a playoff spot in the East and from there you could try to attract another star to the mix and try to become a contender. At the time, I really thought getting Love would have been the best idea for the organization to avoid a long rebuild and possibly be contending within 2-3 years. Honestly, after seeing Love play with his Big 3 in Cleveland this season, I must say I’m glad Ainge didn’t send the house to Minnesota for him. I don’t think he’s as good as he hyped up to be. His stats in Minnesota may have just been a product of him being the only legit talent on a really bad team. Love doesn’t feel like a real winner to me, at least not yet. He is still very young and could get even better. But for now, I’m glad the Celtics did not trade away assets for him.
So here we are. The Celtics have a really young team. They have A LOT of draft picks in the upcoming seasons and will have cap space in about two seasons. I doubt that the Celtics will be able to attract a ton of free agent talent here in the coming years so the cap space part really doesn’t matter at this point. The draft picks are important, that’s huge. The Celtics own ten first round picks in the next four seasons, which is more than enough to completely make over a team. The thing with all these picks is you can’t use them all. Well, you could, but you don’t really want to. I would think Ainge is hoping to unload a couple of those first rounder’s to acquire an already proven player that can improve the team immediately. The rumors have begun to swirl that the Celtics are ready to send the farm for DeMarcus Cousins. That is a move that I would easily get behind as Cousins is a dominant player in this league and has many years ahead of him. Also Cousins is already locked up for three more seasons at a bargain rate for a player of stature, so if the Celtics do trade for him they already have a somewhat long term guarantee.
The Celtics were able to surprise this season and come together as a band of misfits to make the playoffs without a definitive star (Thomas doesn’t count either). This team has some of the pieces that a championship team would need. The biggest thing missing is one or two main stars or scorers that the team can depend on. But, looking at the roster, Thomas would be a great bench scorer for a contender. A guy like Jae Crowder would be a great high energy guy for a championship team as well. And guys like Smart, Sully and Olynyk are all great contributors that I can see being a part of winning teams if the Celtics can find a star to lead them. The Celtics are in great shape in terms of salary cap as well, because they have gotten rid of every big contract on the roster (Rondo, Green, etc.). Not to mention the gross Gerald Wallace contract is up soon, which will free up even more space for the team.
The crop of free agents this offseason is deep and the Celtics can certainly be serious buyers in this summer’s awaited frenzy. Obviously the biggest issue for the Celtics has always been getting the big name players to come to Boston. I think they did a great job in recruiting Love to want to be in Boston, but the Minnesota front office just didn’t want to send their best player to Boston, again. It also helps that the Cavs offered to send the possible future of the league Andrew Wiggins in a deal for Love. Back to the point, if the Celtics are able to pull off a deal for Cousins, they would have a starting point and could sign one or two more big name guys to solidify the roster and become serious Eastern Conference contenders. The Celtics could target the likes of Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Greg Monroe or DeAndre Jordan and completely change the look of the team. Say the Celtics were able to sign any one of these players then sign a very good second option like Wesley Matthews, Draymond Green or Josh Smith then boom the team would go from a surprise playoff team in the East to a team that could contend for a top four seed and give the front runners real trouble.
The fact of the matter is the Celtics have all the flexibility in the world with all the cap space and draft picks. It also doesn’t hurt that they have one of the more savvy general managers in the league in Danny Ainge who could make almost any trade happen. So I will stick to my optimistic narrative that I employed last year around this time: the Celtics will be fine, the rebuild is not going to be as long as people think. I believe the Celtics are in a spot where they can easily be contenders by next season at the earliest and they will be contending for the East sometime in the coming years. That is almost a guarantee. Ainge has put this team in almost too perfect a position to quickly reload the roster and bring a winning culture back to Boston. The big splash that was promised last off season is coming soon. Hopefully it is this off season, but the big splash is coming and when it does the Celtics will be back!