After a disappointing but not unexpected 25-57 season by the Celtics, the franchise entered the first full offseason of this latest rebuild with the promise from ownership for “fireworks”.
From the moment Timberwolves star Kevin Love told the team he wanted out of Minnesota, he became the focus. When he visited Boston for a weekend, that focus turned to obsession on talk radio, nightly recap shows, and social media. Once another report added the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony to the mix, the public started debating the pros and cons of the Celts’ newest Super Team.
At this point, the Celtics’ organization could do anything from trading their draft picks and an assortment of additional assets for a star or two to selecting a pair of youngsters later this month and maybe even dealing captain Rajon Rondo for more pieces. One would theoretically accelerate the rebuild while the other would prolong it.
Considering all of the local hype surrounding Love and Anthony, and the disappointment that’s followed another lackluster lottery night, should fans be discouraged if the C’s don’t make a blockbuster move this summer?
Our Boston.com panel of Celtics insiders offered their thoughts.
Gary Dzen: No. I may be in the minority here, but I believe the Celtics can and will use the No. 6 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft barring anything but a deal for Kevin Love. And I'm really OK with the Love deal not happening. In fact, I kind of prefer it, given all the possibilities building through the draft would bring.
That sounds kind of sadistic, but I think people are forgetting that the No. 6 pick -- whether it is Aaron Gordon or Marcus Smart or Noah Vonleh -- could be a really good player. He could be a franchise-alterer, not in the LeBron James sense (I've always hated that argument), but in the sense that he's a key player on a great team for years to come. I'd like to see the Celtics draft and develop a player who becomes great, and fans would, too.
The key part of the question here is "this summer." I'm not going to play semantics and say that if a move happens in the fall I win the argument, but even if the big moves happen NEXT summer, I'm cool with it. The best-case scenario -- Love, Rajon Rondo, and another good player maybe -- doesn't make the Celtics the best team in the NBA or even close to it. A proper building process, even with superstars involved, is going to take two or three years. Maybe Love plays out his deal and signs here as a free agent next summer if Gordon develops into a stud. Winning can't be rushed.
Jeremy Gottlieb: Another week, another round of rumors cooking on the NBA hot stove. The Celtics involvement in these tall tales has moved to the backburner as potential draftees like Aaron Gordon, Doug McDermott and Julius Randle all passed or will be passing through the team's workout world.
But forget about those guys for a moment. Let's turn our attention back toward names like Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony. If the Celtics have any hope of avoiding another miserable year in 2014-2015, they do indeed have to make a blockbuster deal. And if they don't and subsequently stumble through another season of mediocrity, their fans will have every right to be aggravated.
The Celtics have a tremendous fanbase, proven over and over again last year when the same hearty souls who came out for all the good times of the Big 3 era kept on coming as the team sank to the depths of the league. The C’s choosing to bypass dipping into their truckload of assets in order to get better faster in favor of taking the draft-and-develop route would be asking a lot of those great fans.
Should the Celtics stand pat and take a player like Gordon or Randle at No. 6 (and given some recent reports, let's hope it's not Randle) while also hanging onto the 17th pick, they will be putting off potentially contending for at least two or three more years, which would make little sense in the watered down, JV Eastern Conference. Celts fans are a devout bunch but if they have to wait that much longer for their team to be competitive again, their patience will be tested.
Adam Kaufman: This is a tricky one, but the short answer is no. The goal for Danny Ainge and co. isn’t to be successful next year; it’s to be a contender for the next decade. In order to achieve that, several factors come into play, not the least of which is the competition. To a certain extent, what other teams – particularly those in the East – do is just as important as how Ainge shapes his roster.
While it seems far-fetched, if the Heat are actually able to lure Carmelo Anthony from the Big Apple to South Beach, there’s no point in giving up the farm for Kevin Love and handing him a max contract because even Love, Rajon Rondo, and Mystery All-Star X wouldn’t be good enough to beat LeBron James, Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, barring a rash of injuries. If there are Super Teams, that’s a Super Duper Team.
It’s not what fans want to hear, but it would almost make sense to build for a few years from now. In other words, the Oklahoma City approach: endure a few tough years, hope to luck out in the lottery or otherwise draft well from whatever the position, develop your stars, and put pieces around them. Ainge is a good drafter, but he isn’t suddenly going to put a team together that resembles the Spurs. Obviously Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are key cogs, but the supporting pieces Gregg Popovich has at his disposal are as good as you’ll see anywhere around the NBA.
Unfortunately for Rondo fans – and I’m one of them – Ainge may have to commit to a full-scale rebuild if other teams load up, which means getting something for the All-Star by the trade deadline rather than handing him a max deal (or close to it) or letting him walk next summer. There’s no point in having a player of that caliber on a perennially losing team. It would be expensive and wouldn’t end well. Look at Love’s tenure in Minnesota. Look at Anthony’s soon to be capped career in New York. Hell, look at Paul Pierce’s time in Boston just prior to the Miracle in a Bottle summer of 2007.
Fans have to trust in Ainge, recognizing that he’s built from the bottom before, and be patient. If the “fireworks” are there, great, but it doesn’t have to be a letdown if they’re not so long as there are positive strides. It may just feel more like a walk than a sprint.
Brian Robb: On the surface, losing out on Melo, Love, or another blockbuster player would seem to be a major disappointment. Celtics fans have to keep in mind a couple things though when evaluating Boston's moves this offseason. First, Danny Ainge never does a deal just for the sake of doing one. He gives players a value and sticks to it, whether it's a price tag in free agency or in a trade. Even though the thirst for bringing in another star player now is strong among the fanbase, Ainge isn't going to let that affect any potential moves if the price isn't right. He'll bid for Love and any other star that becomes available, but he isn't going to overbid on them.
The other thing Celtics fans should remember here is patience. Prior to the 2013-14 campaign, the Celtics had a memorable six-year run with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and co. As painful as it was to watch this team last season, fans need to realize that they have had it pretty good over the past half-decade and one-year rebuilding plans are pretty rare in the NBA. Just because Boston fans are hungry to win now doesn't mean Ainge should fire off all his trade assets now to make a major deal. If the right deal is there, he'll be happy to do it, but a competitive market means he might be better off waiting and continuing to acquire assets for another season before pulling the trigger on anything big. That would give the front office another year to evaluate their young prospects as well.
Despite these factors, I still think the odds favor a major deal going down this offseason. The team has enough assets and there are plenty of trade possibilities out there. If one doesn't happen though, Celtics fans shouldn't be disappointed just yet. A big deal is coming, it just might not come until the trade deadline or next summer.
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