With only four teams remaining in the NBA Playoffs, it means a few “contenders” have already been eliminated from title contention. The offseason is the time for these teams to retool to prepare for deeper runs next season. The Boston Celtics are one of the most storied and celebrated franchises in NBA history. The Celtics have won a NBA record 17 championships and have had such stars as Red Auerbach, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy and more be a part of the green and white during their careers. This season however, was not banner worthy by any stretch of the imagination.
The Celtics lost star point guard Rajon Rondo after starting the season just 20-23, which left them on the cusp of not even making the playoffs. With Rondo out, people immediately wrote off Boston and rightfully so — the Celtics looked disheveled all year long. Yet thanks to an increase in production from role players Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, the Celtics were able to stay on track long enough to secure the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
After losing the first three games in their opening round matchup with the New York Knicks it looked like Boston would be exiting the playoffs without making any noise at all. But, as always, the Celtics showed pride is valuable, stringing the Knicks along until the Celtics were finally eliminated in Game 6.
With the end of this season also comes the possible end of an era. Both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce face uncertain futures. Pierce could hit free agency and Garnett is contemplating retirement. KG and “The Truth,” along with former Celtic Ray Allen, formed the first Big Three of the modern NBA age and they not only brought relevance back to Boston, but an NBA title as well.
For the remainder of the post, I will assume the role of Celtics GM Danny Ainge. I will give my suggestions and analysis on who the Celtics should keep, who they should lose, and players to target in free agency and the draft.
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This doesn’t mean the Celtics should not keep anyone who is on their current roster; instead it means that they have no impending free agents that I think they need to re-sign. Boston has one lone free agent this season: Chris Wilcox. Every other rotational player (unless you’re counting Terrence Williams — who was recently arrested — and his partially guaranteed deal) is at least signed through the end of next year. It would be great for Boston if Wilcox’s contract opened up salary cap space, however, since Wilcox hasn’t been an impact player in the NBA for years that isn’t the case in Beantown.
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LOSE: Paul Pierce and Chris Wilcox
As I stated above, Wilcox is not the same player he was when he first came into the league. Wilcox’s best days are definitely behind him and the Celtics need to add an influx of youthful talent to go along with Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green.
Paul Pierce has firmly established himself as one of the all-time Celtic greats after his 14 seasons in the league. Pierce has played every season with the Celtics and instilled himself in the hearts of Celtics fans everywhere with some memorable performances. However, his career is starting to come to its end and Boston needs to start focusing more on the franchise’s future. Pierce may have a few productive seasons remaining (he had solid averages of 18.6 points and 6.3 rebounds this year), but I don’t think he’s the same player that used to carry Boston deep into the playoffs. If I were heading up the front office, I would look to trade Pierce for young assets. The Celtics are now Rondo’s team and Boston needs to find pieces to put around him in order to be successful.
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FREE AGENT TARGETS: Josh Smith and D.J. Augustin
Getting rid of Paul Pierce leaves a hole at the forward position. The best free agent forward in the 2013 class is Josh Smith. J-Smoove’s time in Atlanta has probably reached its end and a change of scenery could be coming. Smith has the ability to play either small forward or power forward in the NBA and that would fit in perfectly with Green, who is also a tweener forward. While Smith’s jump shot isn’t his greatest skill, Green has shown the ability to consistently knock down threes, shooting 38 percent. At only 27 years old, Smith would bring youth and athleticism to Boston’s frontcourt, some things they haven’t seen in years.
D.J. Augustin was selected ninth overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2008 NBA Draft and was a victim of the Michael Jordan curse — Kwame Brown is the poster child for that group of players. Augustin didn’t produce under Larry Brown in Charlotte like some expected, but eventually found a spot with the Indiana Pacers this year. Though he only averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 dimes per game, he was effective in his role as George Hill‘s backup. The one knock on this year’s Celtics roster was that they had no one to fill in for Rondo when he went down with his knee injury. Bradley can defend point guards, but he doesn’t have the offensive skills and capabilities to run an offense. Augustin could come to Boston and simply slip back into the role he has with the Pacers this year. Augustin won’t wow anyone anymore. What he can be is a serviceable stopgap player.
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DRAFT TARGETS: Ricardo Ledo, Dario Saric and Brandon Davies
Ricardo Ledo is already one of the more popular names in New England. Ledo is from Rhode Island and had signed to play at Providence, yet was deemed a partial qualifier and had to sit out his freshman year. However, even without playing a single game in the NCAA, Ledo is easily one of the most skilled and talented players in this draft. Going into the NBA Draft Combine, Ledo was thought to be on the bubble of the first round. With the Celtics sitting at the No. 16 spot, they may be in ripe position to land Ledo. Ledo has the shot, handle and moves to be effective on the offensive end as soon as he sets foot on an NBA court.
Dario Saric is the most talented international prospect in this year’s draft. Saric is a 6-10 forward who’s been getting praise and recognition in Croatia since he was 14 years old. Yet, unlike former Spanish child sensation Ricky Rubio, the early notoriety might have done some damage to Saric’s personality. Saric’s actions both on and off the court have left some questioning whether or not he is mature enough for the NBA. If Saric were playing in the NCAA this past year, he easily would’ve been one of the most talked about players in the nation and could have easily cemented himself as the marquee name in the 2013 Draft class. While his numbers overseas are not very impressive, 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds a night, Saric has been called the best Croatian product since former Nets great Drazen Petrovic.
Brandon Davies is most known for what he did off the court at BYU than the things he did on it as part of the Cougars’ basketball team. Despite that, Davies had an incredible start to the draft process after winning the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He’s 6-9 and has lanky arms that allow him to be an effective rebounder, defender and finisher in the paint. Davies isn’t necessarily a first-round prospect, but even if he’s selected in the second round, he could make an impact right away in the league. If KG does comeback to the Celtics for another season, he would serve as a great mentor to Davies.
What should Boston do this summer?
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