4. Boston Celtics (19-17, No. 7 Seed)
The Boston Celtics are about to blow up – and not along the lines J. Cole rapped about in his Friday Night Lights mixtape. Why are the Celtics so eager to trade Rajon Rondo? Is Danny Ainge willing to dismantle The Big Three to finally rebuild? Who are the Celtics targeting to get in return for any one of their Big Three? These are the kind of questions that have lingered in Boston since baseball’s hot stove month of December. As the trade deadline nears, most NBA insiders believe the Celtics will make some type of blockbuster move. Yet it remains unclear who in their core is going to be dealt, if at all, and what the market value is for their aging stars, particularly Jesus Shuttlesworth and The Big Ticket, both on expiring deals.
In hindsight, Ainge missed the golden opportunity to hit the reset button last year. He doesn’t have anyone else to blame but himself for the level of uncertainty surrounding this group. Ainge was tempted and bold enough to trade a key member from their championship runs – Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green – before last year’s trade deadline. However, it’s unconscionable to think Ainge seriously believed the C’s would be better off without Perk, and with Green instead, against the Heatles. So why didn’t he have the balls enough to completely change the course of the Celtics future and deal one or two more of the core cats when they could’ve fetched better long-term assets? Ainge’s indecisiveness from last season is at the root behind the trade winds passing by every new tweet.
Rondo, for better or worse, is being shopped harder than a father trying to cop last-minute Toys R Us gifts for his kids on Christmas Eve. His monster triple-double of 18 points, 17 boards, and 20 dimes versus Linsanity on Sunday – the likes of which hasn’t been seen since The Big Dipper and The Big O – would suggest he’s helping his case to stay with the C’s. But, in reality, he is equally making a case for other teams to up the ante to acquire him. While it’s may be too late to trade either Allen or KG for anything worthwhile, Ainge must pull the trigger on any fair trade for Rondo and Paul Pierce to avoid a slow death back to irrelevancy. In free agency, there are far too many variables that’ll detract players from joining the Celtics, which is why Ainge must continue to obtain cats he can control via trade. The moves, or lack thereof, that Ainge makes by the deadline will determine whether Beantown could add another banner to their record number of NBA titles in the foreseeable future.