In the planning for this off-season for the Boston Celtics there are several uncomfortable realities, more than a few severe restraints, and the fallout from a dash of rotten luck. On the plus side of the ledger there are just enough items to keep the loyal fan from becoming suicidal. It is going to be a long and hard haul and the final outcome may well depend upon developments well into the season. Danny Ainge will have to earn every cent of his paycheck if the Green are to be contenders in 2010-2011.
Just because it is easier to run through such a short list, let’s start with the positives. Rajon Rondo continues to emerge as a star. However far the C’s go, he will be the cog around which everything revolves. Kevin Garnett will probably be better this year than last. His knee surgery was the kind of insult to the body that requires a year to completely recover and at his age you might add a few months to that prognosis. Better than last year, certainly better than the year before, but probably not up to his level in the 2008 Championship campaign—Father Time is unrelenting and will have his due. Rasheed Wallace appears to have something to offer beyond a postseason that was at least better than his putrid regular season. His retirement, if true, and willingness to be bartered as an immediately expiring contract (again, if true) gives Danny a significant chip beyond the MLE. Combine Rasheed’s $6.3M and perhaps a sign & trade of Brian Scalabrine to a $3M/3-yr contract (last two years not guaranteed and with $3M cash for a buyout) and Danny can acquire just about any player/combination from a team (and there are several) willing to part with them for salary relief—assuming Wyc is free and easy with the checkbook. This assumes that Scal would be receptive to such a use with an open invitation to return to the coaching staff. Finally, the first step, drafting Avery Bradley (while widely criticized in the blogosphere for not addressing need), was a significant move toward becoming younger and more athletic.
A few comments about the Bradley draft. You don’t pick after the lottery and get a player without warts. Usually you don’t pick lower than 4 or 5 and get a player without warts. At #19 Danny got a player more highly touted than the #1 Wall entering college one year ago. Avery was considered perhaps the best defender in the Big 12 as a freshman, almost unheard of. He has a smooth shooting stroke and was deadly from mid-range. His speed was deceptive as he got separation and outdistanced defenders with no apparent effort. As for the warts, his year of college play was criticized for poor finishing at the basket, inconsistent outside shot, lack of point guard attributes, poor free throw percentage, and an absence of pick and roll activity. The finishing and outside shot should both improve as he fills out his lanky frame. He shot 20 points higher at the free-throw line in high school and I’m pretty sure the defense of charity tosses wasn’t tougher in college. His workouts brought acclaim for his pick and roll activity. Also for his aggressiveness and it seems likely some of his hesitancy in college was due to the unsettled nature of Texas’ team and point guard situation. His long wingspan will help off set his height disadvantage in covering two-guards and his defensive tenacity and ball-denial is made for suppressing high-possession, high-volume scorers prevalent at SG. Finally teaming alongside Rondo will allow him to apprentice point guard skills and plays to his greatest current strength—catch and shoot. Relieving Rondo will demand less point guard polish with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as players through whom the offense can run.
Now for the bad and the ugly. The news on Perkins injury has gotten worse and worse. It will likely take most of next season to recover from surgery to repair the so-called triangle - tears of the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament. Going into the next season that leaves the Celtics with exactly zero centers from last year’s team. My current three deep roster for the Celtics looks downright empty: PG Rondo ......................Lafayette SG .................................Bradley SF Pierce........................Gaffney PF Garnett......Davis........Harangody C .............................................. IR Perkins
And that is being awfully optimistic about draft picks and D-leaguers and assuming Pierce won’t blanch at seeing the holes in the roster and opt out and away! Even add in the Allen’s (which I think will be the only other holdovers) and we need some centers, a swingman and another guard. And the league is about to sport another two to five “star clusters.” I say two to five because I think a couple of those teams that have bared the cupboard are going to get left at the alter and end up with a roster full of feces for their trouble. Oh well they should have a pretty low payroll. It looks like Miami and Chicago are poised to enrich their formerly borderline playoff teams with an infusion of all-stars, and yes that is multiple. The good news is that these all-star duos and trios will have pretty weak supporting casts since the cupboard is, well, bare. Chicago has a couple of nice complementary pieces but Miami, New Jersey, and New York will be fleshed out with a MLE, perhaps an LLE, and minimum vets. Problem is that they will likely have a recruiting advantage in every category—do you want to play with three young stars or Boston’s three old ones? How about next year, or the year after? It’s going to be a hard sell for Boston’s mystique.
Against this backdrop Boston is working with the ability to resign their own free agents (most of whom proved so inadequate last season that Doc played an ever shrinking rotation), the MLE, no LLE, two draft picks (why oh why didn’t Wyc buy more?), two D-league late additions, and free agents (undrafted or discarded) willing to play for the vet minimum. Add to this the fact that Doc may or may not be here to steer the ship. Sounds like we are going to hunt the saber-toothed tigers (especially the newbies in the East) with popguns. Oh I forgot, and the surprise bullet—Sheed’s immediately expiring contract. If Danny can reconstruct this on the fly and get us back to the Finals again, I nominate him for new president of the Magician’s Guild!
How might he and Lucky pull off this amazing sleight of hand? A few guesses next time.[Discuss on CG Forums!]
It is a pretty stark picture. But if anyone can make something out of nothing, I think Danny can. I think everything hinges on Doc coming back however.