There's no denying that one day Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen will no longer be Celtics. They will either retire or play for a different team. We can enjoy the success that these players have brought to Boston, but like the Cousy-Russell-Havlicek era of the 60's ~ 70's, and the Bird-McHale-Parish era of the 80's, this era of Celtics glory will pass too.
But if Ainge desires to bypass the years of gloom that follows the glorious heydays, he needs to bring in good players who will carry the torch left by the Big 3. Celtics fans are all too familiar with the pain and heartache of following disastrous Celtics teams--and no one in their right mind wants to endure more of that. Thus, Ainge needs to hit homeruns with the drafts/trades/free agencies and get us the type of players who will keep the winning tradition here in Boston alive.
Getting Garnett and Ray Allen cost us most of our future. But Ainge was able to hold onto some young talent who should be solid contributors for many years to come. Namely Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. Both are starters for this championship team and both held their own against top competition--despite being 24 and 22 years old, respectively. Perkins is turning into a fine defensive player, while Rajon has the potential to be a top 7 PG in this league (once guys like Kidd, Nash, and Miller retire). Rondo will be more aggressive with his own offense in the future, and this will take his PG play to a higher level.
Outside of these two, Ainge has brought in other young players who will have the opportunity to make their impact felt--possibly as starters, but most likely as role players off the bench. Leon Powe shows the potential to be a fine low post scorer and steady rebounder as a reserve, and Big Baby has the body and power to battle other team's Hulks. Tony has starter potential, and his two-way game is a valuable asset. But like many other youngsters in the league before him, he may never reach the level of consistency to be a proficient player. And his time may run out after this season (last year of his contract). Its all or nothing for Tony this year.
Gabe Pruitt has a solid all around game as a backcourt player (either the 1 or 2). He has a combo guard;s game, and this will allow him to find a niche off the bench. His shooting is ahead of his PG skills, and Ainge and Rivers are hoping he develops this part of his game. In time, Pruitt has a good shot at being a regular in the rotation, albeit a solid, but unspectacular player.
Ainge did well to bring in 2 other wing players with solid basketball talent and amazing physical attributes. Bill Walker and JR Giddens are 2 young guys who will be groomed to be the heir apparent at SG in 3-4 years. Walker has a better shot based on talent and abilities, while Giddens is a wildcard because of his defensive abilities and internal motor.
Another young player Ainge is giving a shot to is Semih Erden. He's a 7 foot Turkish player who has length and mobility like Pau Gasol. Intriguing prospect who will come over to the NBA next year. Not much is known about him, but based on projectibility and natural physical gifts, he's a guy to keep an eye on. Ainge feels Erden is a first round talent in next year's draft.
Our young talent pool was not totally depleted by the trades that brought Garnett and Allen here. On the contrary, we still have a good handful of players who can provide supporting roles. To put it on paper, we have at least 2 starters in place (Perk and Rajon), one guy who could start in the very near future (Tony Allen), 2 young big men who have good roles off the bench (Powe and Baby), a future backcourt player who can fill in at the 1 and 2 (Pruitt), and 3 players whose potential ranges from bench warmers all the way to the starting lineup (Walker, Giddens, Erden).
What Ainge has to do now is get lucky with the draft and land a big time talent--like he did in '04 when Al Jefferson was our pick at 15. Big Al had many doubters, but has quieted them by cementing himself as one of the league's top young PF's. Many people did not think they'd see the day Jefferson would become a 20 and 10 guy--but Ainge proved his eye for talent when for the second year in a row, Jefferson did better than 20 and 10.
It isn't likely that Ainge can find a big time talent with late round draft picks, so he'll need to either find a way to get into the middle of the round or higher, or else trade for a big time talent.
To get a mid round draft pick, or higher, Ainge will most likely have to get it via a trade of one of our star players. This is a big possibility, as Ainge is not afraid to pull the trigger on an unpopular trade. Future franchise players are coming. BJ Mullens and Brandon Jennings could make a big splash in the NCAA's, and guys like Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansborough could solidify any team's starting rotation. Moving an aging star player for an incoming player with star potential sounds very much Ainge-like.
Or Ainge can attempt to pry a big time player through free agency--and one of the biggest years of free agency in history is approaching in a couple of years. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh head the draft of '03 (among other big named players) who will be eligible for free agency, and its debatable if these 3 will stay with their current teams. Its speculated that LeBron might be landing with the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets (headed by Jay-Z). Dwayne Wade may want to bolt Miami since the Heat are years away from competing. Toronto is a small market, and it may be time for Chris Bosh to spread his fame in a bigger market.
I can't pinpoint which player Ainge may have his cross hairs pointed at, but I'm sure he's looking to take a shot at, at least, one big time player who will reach free agency in a couple of years.
Ainge has made his mark as a genius general manager (technically he's the Head of Basketball Operations) in just his 5th year at the helm, but he's not going to end his legacy here. He's going to continue working his magic to bring more titles to Boston. Ainge has proven to be a guy who sticks to his "vision" and keeps one eye looking over the horizon. His moves may shock some and leave others disgusted and confused. Ainge may have had more haters in his early tenure as a GM than he ever had as a player for the Celtics, the Kings, and the Blazers. But don't second guess his moves until he's had a chance to mold the team according to his vision. The process may not be pretty, but the end product has been sweet, to say the least.
One of the favorite catch phrases among bloggers the past few years, when referring to Ainge's moves, was "expect the unexpected". I'm thinking the new phrase should be, "expect changes". Its likely that Ainge won't sit still, even after winning the championship.
Like last time, just buckle in and go along for the ride. Danny will make it worth your while.
We are hearing talks of Maggette being lured here. This could mean the end of Ray Allen's short stay in Green, or it could mean Posey is not coming back. Either way, Ainge is not going to stay put and let things pass him by. He's being proactive with his options. Yes he'd like to keep Posey around for another run at the title, but not at the price and the duration Posey is asking for. Losing Posey is big, and I'd hate to see Posey on the enemy's side. But that's the type of unpopular move Ainge is willing to make to keep his vision intact. Not only is he trying to bring in young talent and star players to Boston, but he's also trying his best to keep us out of the red financially.
As for future moves, I'm in favor of making an attempt at Josh Smith. He's the type of two-way player who causes havoc with his length, athleticism, and skills. He and Rudy Gay are at the top of my wish list of young SF's to go after. Rudy Gay may not be available, but word is that Josh Smith is being sought after by a number of teams. If he's available, now is the time to make a splash for the future.
Yi Jianlian is a guy Ainge likes, and I'm not sure he'll be in New Jersey's (Brooklyn's) long term plans. He's another SF who could cause havoc with his miss matching abilities.
Overall, there are a lot of young star level players who may become available at any given time, and Ainge is going to keep his eyes open for a big catch. He knows that time is limited with the group of players he has now, and is most likely already gearing for the future.
One thing with Ainge is you know his teams will never be old and stagnant. They may be young and inexperienced, but always with a bright future in sight.